Sundance Institute comes to India: boost for scriptwriting

Satyen K. Bordoloi

Mumbai, March 11 (IANS) Creative filmmaking in India got a big shot in the arm as the Holy Grail of the global independent cinema movement - Sundance Institute - has walked into the cinema capital with the inaugural of Mumbai Mantra Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab 2012 Sunday.

Under this, the writers of the best final eight scripts selected from a total of 500 applications and a shortlist of 94 screenplays, will be mentored for a gruelling five days by some of the best names of international cinema - Guillermo Arriaga ("Amores Perros", "21 Grams"), Marcos Bernstein ("Central Station", "Foreign Land"), Michael Goldenberg ("Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix", "Contact") as well as India creative minds Shekhar Kapur and Anjum Rajabali.

"The Screenwriters Lab is the heart and soul of what we do at Sundance Institute. It's a rare opportunity to bring together a remarkable group of writers and filmmakers. We strongly believe that by supporting the next generation of story tellers, you are enriching the film industries and the audiences around the world. We hope to collaborate with some incredible Indian writers over a period of time," said Michelle Satter, the soft spoken founding director of the Feature Film Program at the Sundance Institute.

Michelle is the gentle but firm guiding force behind such Oscar winning filmmakers as Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson, Darren Aronofsky, amidst close to 6000 other artists Sundance Institute has touched since more than three decades of its existence.

Shonali Bose, director of the gritty but underrated "Amu", is one of the eight people whose script has been selected for the lab. Her "Margirata. With A Straw" will be mentored at the event.

"This inaugural lab I think is ground breaking for Indian cinema and hopefully we will shine in world cinema like we have since the time of Satyajit Ray," said Bose who became the first Indian filmmaker to win the prestigious 2012 Sundance Institute Mahindra Global Filmmaking award for "Margirata. With A Straw".

Another script selected is "Opium", which Anusha Rizvi of "Peepli Live" fame, has co-scripted with and Mohammad Farooqui and it is an adaptation of Amitav Ghosh's novel "The Sea of Poppies"

"Sadly the third world stories are not told. With 'Opium' we want to tell the story of India. It is the making of the modern world," said Rizvi.

The fellows selected in the initiative are as diverse as the stories.

Besides Bose and and Rizvi, there's Charudutt Acharya with his small Mumbai story in "Sonali Cable Centre" while NRI Prashant Nair goes tackling the immigration problem once again with his second screenplay "Umrica".

The others include Vikas Chandra ("Toothache"), Rajnesh Domalpalli ("Avani"), Ajitpal Singh ("Manjhi") and Kartik Singh ("Public School").

They will discuss their stories will the eclectic gang of Creative Advisors in an one-on-one sessions over the next five days.

What remains to be seen, however, is how many of these script finally end up as films that will play in your neighbourhood theatre.