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After winning hearts at Spain and Melbourne International Film Festival, now author turned filmmaker Ram Kamal Mukherjee's film Rickshawala (with Nation Next as media partner) won at the prestigious Cardiff International Film Festival 2020. Founded by Rahil Abbas Sayed, Andrea Moignard and Cheryl Ingram, Cardiff International Film Festival is an international event, which is supported by the Welsh Assembly and Cardiff Council. In 2019, it was again hosted in the historical Pierhead Building in the heart of Cardiff Bay, Wales.
This year they have decided to go virtual keeping the Covid Pandemic in mind. Festival Founder and Director, Rahil Abbas Sayed says, "Last year we premiered Ram Kamal's Season's Greetings, which received good response from our jury members and International delegates. This year we are equally delighted to have his film Rickshawala, a heartwarming story set in the bylanes of Kolkata. It is also a tribute to legendary actor Om Puri, an Indian actor who worked in maximum British cinema."
This year CIFF2020 went virtual due to COVID-19 pandemic and even then they had almost 3000 films from various parts of the world. The jury members that include British and American actors, technicians and directors, went crazy selecting 90 odd films for a weeklong screening. Finally, the jury decided upon seven winners, including Best Short Film in Foreign Language, Best Welsh Film, Best English Language Short Film, Best Documentary, Best Feature Film and Best Film with Social Message.
The award was hosted by British actor Victoria George Veale and Festival Director Rahil Abbad Saayed. In her citation Ms Veale said, "Every year our jury selects a special film that talks about culture and human relationship, a film that leaves an imprint and relevance. This year they chose a Rickshawala as it pays a beautiful homage to Indian culture and global issue about migrants." Director Ram Kamal Mukherjee received applause from all international directors and actors present at the virtual award ceremony.
The film marks the debut of Bollywood actor Avinash Dwivedi, who fetched Best Actor award for the same film at 13th Ayodhya International Film Festival early this year. "I am on cloud nine," says Avinash. "I am glad that our film will be screened for British and Welsh audiences, this is a great honour," added Avinash.
The actor hails from Bihar, and worked relentlessly to get the nuances of a Rickshawala. He stayed with rickshawpullers in Kolkata, pulled rickshaw barefoot, also learned Bengali for the character. CIFF2020 boasts of festival jury and supporters like Professor Florence Aiyisi, John Altman, Bethan Jenkins (Welsh AM), Joe Ferrera, Keith Williams, Norman J Warren, Kimberley Nixon, Jonny Owen, Maria Pride, Kai Owen and Matthew Rhys.
Director Ram Kamal Mukherjee says, "I would like to thank Rahil Abbas for this honour. Cardiff International Film Festival is one of the most prestigious festivals in the global platform. I am glad that our humble film will be screened for international delegates and film critics."
Ram Kamal Mukherjee
Produced by Aritra Das, Gaurav Daga and Shhailendra Kkumar, the film also stars Kasturi Chakraborty and Sangita Sinha. The film has been exquisitely shot by internationally acclaimed cinematographer Modhura Palit. In 2018 Dame Sian Philips received the Lifetime achievement award and Marc Zicree was presented with the Golden Dragon Award for individual excellence from Sir Dafydd Elis Thomas, Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism. In 2019, the Golden Dragon Award for individual excellence was awarded to Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Dame Judi Dench received the Lifetime Achievement award.
"It came like a big surprise for me, we had to struggle a lot to make this film. It was very challenging for my entire team because we had very limited resources and wanted to make a film that would touch the chord of audiences worldwide," says producer Aritra Das from Assorted Motion Pictures.
Incidentally Rickshawala has also been selected at Cornerstone Short Film Festival in Islamabad and short listed at many other international film festivals.
Nandita Puri, wife of late Om Puri says, "I knew that this film would travel all across the globe for it's simple and yet unnerving narrative. Ram Kamal comes with a sensibility and a style of his own. His characters are relatable and loveable. It's a perfect ode to Om."
(Photos by: Sudipta Chanda)