After breaking all possible records with his directorial debut Cakewalk (VOOT) with Esha Deol and his super successful film Season’s Greetings (ZEE5) with Celina Jaitly Haag and Lillette Dubey, author turned filmmaker Ram Kamal Mukherjee created history at Cardiff International Film Festival 2020 by winning Best Film on Social Message award this year.
This year CIFF2020 went virtual due to Pandemic and even then they had almost 3000 films from various parts of the world. The jury members including British and American actors, technicians and directors, went crazy selecting 90 odd films for a weeklong screening.
Finally the jury decided upon 7 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.
Festival Director Rahil Abaas Saayed added, “Last year we had Ram Kamal’s Cakewalk and Season’s Greetings, and he comes across as a sensible filmmaker. This year the jury felt that he dealt with a much wider and global aspect. Rickshawala is a masterpiece and it deserves global attention for its treatment and narrative.”
Produced under the banner of Assorted Motion Pictures and Gee Dee Productions the film stars debutant Avinash Dwivedi, Sangita Sinha and Kasturi Chakraborty. The film has been shot by Modhura Palit. “It was 2 am in the morning and it was surreal experience for me. It took some time to register that Victoria announced our film as one of the winners. I had a lump in my throat. No one believed in me when I wanted to make this film, barring my wife Sarbani and my producer Aritra Das. We did manage to put up a team step by step, I worked without remuneration. I just wanted to make this film. Today, I don’t have any savings left, as I have not earned a single penny since eight months of lockdown. But I have earned this love and respect from International audiences,” says director Ram Kamal Mukherjee.
Ram Kamal sported traditional Rajasthani block print kurta to represent India, and thanked his entire team in the acceptance speech (link below).
Rickshawala has been travelling across globe at various prestigious festivals. Ram Kamal won Best Director at 13th Ayodhya International Film Festival, Indo Iran Film Festival and now he is nominated at Global Film and Music Festival at Virginia and also at World Film Festival Dubai 2020. The film has been selected at the prestigious Cornerstone Short Film Festival in Islamabad and Eastern Europe Film Festival 2020.
“I simply can’t believe that a journey that started with us meeting at Debina Bonnerjee’s birthday party would culminate into this massive global recognition,” says actor Avinash Dwivedi who was spotted by the director at the birthday bash in Mumbai. Incidentally, Avinash had to go through rigorous training and physical workshop in Kolkata under the guidance of Ram Kamal and his directorial team. “I asked Dada (Ram Kamal) to record the Bengali dialogues so that I could memorize them with proper accent,” says Avinash who speaks in Bhojpuri and Bengali in the film.
Producer Aritra Das worked six months on this project to make it happen. “We were looking for studios to support us. Everyone would show us the door. They would laugh at us. In fact after finishing the film we approached few established OTT platforms in Kolkata to acquire the film, but they didn’t want to pay us even the cost of production. Some wanted us to give the film for free,” says Aritra Das.
They didn’t lose hope. While Bollywood was busy with social media war on nepotism post Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, they went from one door to another. “We were searching for someone who would understand the value of this content. They would come up with weird suggestions, of dubbing the film in Hindi, editing the film to 20 minutes, release it on YouTube etc. But things opened up when internationally acclaimed film curator Uma DaCuhna asked for the film and she recommend the film at Melbourne International Film Festival, followed by Madrid Imagine India. The makers ran out of funds and couldn’t submit the film at IFFI2020. “It’s true,” laments Ram Kamal. “We didn’t have 12000 rupees to pay IFFI. We didn’t have funds to censor the film. In fact the Festival director at Madrid was so kind that they volunteered to add Spanish subtitle to the film at their own cost.”
Rickshawala, a film with right chord is getting love from all over the world. But back home, the makers are feeling neglected by the studio honchos. “We are hopeful, I am sure God will make ways, life was never a Cakewalk,” avers Ram Kamal Mukherjee.