As ScreenAnarchy's readership is now well aware - thanks to the enthusiasm of our own associate editor, Josh Hurtado, the Indian film industry has been at a very interesting stage for the past decade, with its blooming and varied production. It is now not uncommon to get to see dark and critical films anymore, as well as blockbusters made in Bollywood (see what S.S. Rajamouli did with his epic Baahubali diptych). This of course didn't escape Netflix's gaze, which is now regularly fueling its lineup with Indian films.
Indian short films, however, have yet to receive the attention they deserve, because unless you're a hardcore festivalgoer, you don't have much opportunity to see what's going on in that specific area. And believe me, there are things that are definitely worth your time. The work of Bhargav Saikia for instance embodies another kind of emerging creativity that exists in Indian independent cinema. After having seduced the film festival circuit with Awakenings (2015), Saikia is currently developing a project that looks very promising.
The filmmaker will bring Ruskin Bond's short story The Black Cat to life, thus tackling another literary adaptation - Awakenings was loosely based upon Henry James' The Turn of the Screw. Supported by the well-known Indian author and by a very experienced crew, Saikia will tackle this fantasy story that deals with a witch. Starring Tom Alter and Shernaz Patel, the short will be shot in April in the Himalayan province of Uttarakhand. Post-production is scheduled for June.
So you might want to check the lineup of film festivals around this fall to get a chance to catch The Black Cat. For more information, the full press release is copied below.
THE BLACK CAT: BHARGAV SAIKIA'S NEW FANTASY SHORT BASED ON A STORY BY INDIAN AUTHOR, RUSKIN BOND
Filmmaker, Bhargav Saikia, has announced that his new short film is an official adaptation of a story written by celebrated Indian author, Ruskin Bond. The film, titled The Black Cat, is a fantasy adventure which revolves around a broomstick, a witch and a black cat. The original story by Ruskin Bond has appeared in multiple short story anthologies and it is also part of the curriculum of many junior schools in India. 82-year-old Ruskin Bond, an Indian author of British descent, is one of the most well-known writers in the country. He has written several short stories, novellas, poems, novels, children's books and his first novel, The Room on the Roof, was the recipient of the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize in 1957 when he was just 17 years old. He received the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1993 (highest literary honor in India) and the Padma Shri in 1999 (the fourth highest civilian award in the Republic of India). Previously, his stories have been adapted into memorable feature films by prominent Indian filmmakers, Vishal Bhardwaj (7 Khoon Maaf, 2011 & The Blue Umbrella, 2005) and Shyam Benegal (Junoon, 1979).
Saikia is happy that he has Bond's support for the film. Saikia said, "I grew up reading fantasy, horror and crime literature in boarding school. Along with authors like Roald Dahl, Agatha Christie and J.K. Rowling, Ruskin Bond was an integral part of my growing up years. I am honored and humbled that Mr. Bond has given me permission to adapt one of his popular stories into a film. It is a huge responsibility and I will do my best to make a good film."
The Black Cat stars veteran Indian actors, Tom Alter and Shernaz Patel. Shernaz Patel said, "This particular story by the master storyteller, Ruskin Bond, is wonderfully eerie and magical, and will definitely be enjoyed by all. I am looking forward to the film's shoot as my character is such that any actress would love to play." Talking about roping in Tom Alter for the film, Saikia said, "Mr. Alter's extensive acting experience in films, theatre and television, and his close friendship with Mr. Bond, will be an asset to the film."
The Black Cat will be filmed in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand in North India in April and its post-production is scheduled to be completed in June. Saikia has assembled a competent crew, having work experience in major Indian feature films. He has also roped in PhantomFX for the film's visual effects, who are currently working on the Indian epic, Baahubali 2: The Conclusion.
Saikia, who has a keen interest in fantasy, horror and sci-fi cinema, hopes to contribute to the growth of genre cinema in India. His previous horror short, Awakenings (2015), has screened at more than 190 film festivals worldwide, including the prestigious Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival, Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival, Razor Reel Flanders Film Festival, A Night of Horror International Film Festival, HollyShorts Film Festival (as part of the horror shorts program presented by Eli Roth's Crypt TV) and others. He also produced the critically acclaimed independent feature, Kaafiron Ki Namaaz (2014), while he was a film student in Mumbai, India. Saikia has completed a horror-drama screenplay for his feature directorial debut and he plans to begin working on the film immediately after wrapping up work on The Black Cat.