New face of Asian cinema shows Indian film outside Bollywood

In this Oct. 4, 2015 photo, Hari Viswanath, Indian director of “Radio Set” poses for a photo in front of his movie poster at the Busan International Film Festival in Busan, South Korea. The New Currents section at one of the most influential film fairs in the world has introduced first- or second-time feature movie directors who could become the next global name. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

BUSAN, South Korea (AP) — A film from outside Bollywood reflecting generational gaps in India and an image-driven Iranian movie about a grieving old man were among the works showing new trends of Asian cinema at this year’s Busan International Film Festival.

The New Currents section at one of the most influential film fairs in the world has introduced first- or second-time feature movie directors who could become the next global name. It is Busan’s only competition section and in the past has premiered early works by award-winning Chinese director Jia Zhangke.

The eight works competing this year are: “Black Horse Memories” by Iranian director Shahram Alidi; “Go Home” by Beirut, Lebanon-born director Jihane Chouaib; “Immortal” by Iranian director Hadi Mohaghegh; “West North West” by Japanese director Takuro Nakamura; “Communication & Lies” by South Korean director Lee Seung-won; “Night and Fog in Zona” by South Korean director Jung Sung-il; “Radio Set” by Indian director Hari Viswanath; and “Walnut Tree” by director Yerlan Nurmukhambetov from Kazakhstan.

The Associated Press talked to directors of “Radio Set” and “Immortal.”


Hari Viswanath, director of “Radio Set,” wanted to make a “realistic” Indian movie reflecting the current society, not the conventional Bollywood films of melodrama and dance.

Unlike many other Indian movies played at the festival, his work is in the Tamil language spoken in southern India. But Viswanath believes that the movie can resonate globally.

“Radio Set” shows an endearing old man, after losing his deeply attached old-style radio that he received from his late father, develops relationships with a neighboring kid, a colleague and an old man on the street.

While using some elements of fantasy, the work offers a glimpse into the current Indian society with generation gaps between a father and a son.

“I used to see an old man on the road who is partially deaf and alone. I used to wonder what made him isolated and why?” he said. “So once my friend and I were discussing about a hearing aid problem and each one of us were talking about our grandfather. That’s where I recollected the memories of my grandfather with his radio set.”

The 36-year-old said he represented a growing number of new Indian filmmakers who would like to show the world movies outside the Hindi-based Bollywood film industry that often feature surprise songs and dance scenes and heavy melodrama.

“There are I would say more newcomers, new generations of directors,” he said. These new Indian movies, such as his “Radio Set,” show what is “actually happening now” in India.


Hadi Mohaghegh, the Iranian director of “Immortal,” is one of the strongest contenders of the New Currents section, the winner of which will be named on the festival’s last day Saturday. His work has received great reviews and praise in Busan.

“Mohaghegh continues Iranian cinema’s tradition of doing more with less, ultimately crafting a moving and compelling drama that never strains to tell its story,” Elizabeth Kerr said in Hollywood Reporter. The work “should garner plenty of interest from broad spectrum film festivals globally.”

“Immortal” unfolds the story of an old man suffering from guilt and grief from the loss of his family. The guilt drives him to kill himself, and his constant attempts at suicides slowly destroy him. Shot at the director’s hometown in southwestern Iran, the film uses stunning landscapes to emphasize the man’s grief.

Mohaghegh said the movie’s idea came from a true story about an old woman told by a friend.

“When (my friend) finished the story … it didn’t leave me,” he said.

He changed the character to male because it was difficult to film a movie with female nudity in Iran, but the director emphasized the movie is not just about the pain of the old man.

“If a man as a human doesn’t have pain, we cannot call him a human,” he said.


Lee can be reached on Twitter:

Copyright The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.