international film festival rotterdam

Ten Indian films will be screened at the International Film Festival Rotterdam this year, including Adh Chanani Raat, Gurvinder Singh’s third feature in his trilogy of Punjabi films, and Geetika Narang Abbasi’s Urf, a documentary exploring the lives of three Bollywood celebrity lookalikes. French film preservationist and filmmaker Loubna Regragui’s The Nine Lakh Stars is a documentary that questions whether the soul of Mani Kaul’s Duvidha (1973) was erased by its digital mastering, and interviews people who worked with the filmmaker to find out. 

Ahead of the fest, which runs between January 26 and February 6, here are the Indian films we’re looking forward to:

Meghdoot (The Cloud Messenger)

Section: Tiger Competition

Languages: English, Sanskrit, Malayalam

Inspired by director Rahat Mahajan’s own academic experiences, The Cloud Messenger follows a teenage boy who feels stifled by the restrictions imposed on him at boarding school, until he begins taking a photography class and falls in love with a classmate. The film, which borrows from ancient Indian folklore to tell a contemporary story, will premiere as part of the festival’s Tiger Competition segment, which showcases emerging talents.

Prappeda (Hawk’s Muffin)

Section: Bright Future

Language: Malayalam

Playing as part of the festival’s Bright Future programme, which tracks young directors showcasing their films on the international circuit for the first time, Krishnendu Kalesh’s sci-fi film takes place at an unknown location, at an unspecified date. It tells the story of a pilot forced into hiding, after which he sets up a community in a jungle, eventually finding himself caught in a power struggle.

Adh Chanani Raat (Crescent Night)

Section: Harbour

Language: Punjabi

After having served a 15-year-long prison sentence for murder, a man returns to his village in Punjab, hopeful of a fresh start but gradully struck by the realisation that he can’t outrun his past. Based on Gurdial Singh’s novel of the same name, this is Gurvinder Singh’s third film to screen at IFFR, after Anhe Ghore Da Daan (2012) and Chauthi Koot (2016). It will play as part of the Harbour section, which showcases contemporary cinema.

Thuramukham (The Harbour)

Section: Big Screen Competition

Language: Malayalam

Director Rajeev Ravi’s fourth film is a period drama set at Kochi’s Mattancherry harbour during the 1940s and 50s. It chronicles the dock labourers’ protests against the unfair work conditions imposed on them. The film will premiere as part of the festival’s Big Screen Competition section, which features a mix of popular, arthouse and classic films, from which one winner is selected by a jury comprised of audience members.

Chavittu (Stomp)

Section: Harbour

Language: Malayalam

Sibling filmmaker duo Sajas and Shinos Rahman use a blend of documentary and fiction in their feature, which explores caste hierarchies and the creative process through the lens of a theatre group rehearsing its acts ahead of a festival.


Section: Cinema Regained

Language: Hindi

Playing as part of the festival’s Cinema Regained section, which features documentaries about film culture and films examining the heritage of cinema, Urf follows three artistes who make a living working as the lookalikes of three popular Bollywood stars — Dev Anand, Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan.

Murmurs of the Jungle

Section: Short and Mid-Length

Language: Marathi

This 20-minute short, directed by Sohil Vaidya, is screening as part of the festival’s Short and Mid-Length section, which features films under 63 minutes. Centered on the inhabitants of a small village in the Western Ghats, it explores the symbiotic relationship between man and nature.


Section: Short and Mid-Length

Language: Bengali

Two childhood friends have a chance reunion at their local Durga Puja festivities, causing them to examine their feelings for each other over the course of one night. This 13-minute short film  is directed by sibling filmmaker duo Tanmay and Tanvi Chowdhary.


Section: Harbour

Language: Malayalam

Mahesh Narayanan’s non-linear narrative, loosely based on the 2009 Beemapally riot, follows a Godfather-like figure from the Indian coastal town of Ramadally who is arrested on the suspicion of having murdered his competitor. It stars Fahadh Faasil, Nimisha Sajayan and Joju George


Section: Cinema Regained

Language: Hindi

Based on Vijaydan Detha’s Rajasthani story of the same name, Mani Kaul’s acclaimed 1973 drama follows a ghost who falls in love with a new bride, and so takes the form of her husband to be with her in his absence. 

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