Hong Kong-based international boutique sales company Asian Shadows has acquired Locarno selection “Shankar’s Fairies” by Indian filmmaker Irfana Majumdar. The film will world premiere on Aug. 13 in the Concorso Cineasti del Presente section of the Locarno Film Festival.
Set in 1962, in a recently independent India, which is class-bound and exploitative, “Shankar’s Fairies” follows Shankar, a villager, who is the indispensable butler at the mansion of the parents of the little Anjana and her brother. Anjana loves his incredible stories and follows him around. Anjana’s mother handles the servants with a tough hand and her father is an authoritarian as well. Meanwhile, back in his village, Shankar’s daughter falls ill and he would like to go home.
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The project participated at the Goa Film Bazaar in 2019 and at Film Bazaar Goes to Cannes in 2020.
Majumdar is the founding artistic director of the Nirman Theatre and Film Studio in Varanasi, India. She studied performance at the University of Chicago, and has been awarded fellowships for her commitment to themes of social justice and process of collaborative creation. She has directed three documentaries and “Shankar’s Fairies” is her debut fiction feature.
The film is produced by Nita Kumar through her Nita Kumar Productions, a company set up in 2016 with the specific agenda of giving a voice to under-represented groups of people and to do so through artistic and deeply researched films. Kumar, a professor of history and anthropology, is also the screenwriter, production designer and art designer of the film.
The story of “Shankar’s Fairies” is a fictionalized version of Kumar’s childhood memories of growing up in an elite home with a close friendship and dependence on a domestic helper from a rural background.
“We met with Irfana Majumdar and Nita Kumar at Goa Film Bazaar 2019 and followed the development of the production since then. We saw and discussed artistically with Irfana the first edits of her film,” said Maria A. Ruggieri, head of sales and acquisition, Asian Shadows. “We are delighted to see that she has taken advantage of her forced prolonged post-production (due to the pandemic) to finalize beautifully ‘Shankar’s Fairies.’ The film is an ode to the little details of the past and unfolds like a diary of a season with this little girl that discovers slowly, and us with her, the gender and social class gap of Indian society.”
“The love for details of Irfana Majumdar, the strong and very natural interpretation of the cast, make ‘Shankar’s Fairies’ very contemporary and allow us to witness the first days of a new India where old tradition are still very much in place,” Ruggieri added. “She is without any doubt an important new voice into Indian cinema who brings into it her talent of actors’ directing and as a delicate and meticulous observer of her country’s reality.”
“Shankar’s Fairies” is Asian Shadows’ fourth Indian acquisition after Rima Das’ Toronto and San Sebastian title “Village Rockstars,” which also won multiple awards, including at Cairo and Buenos Aires, and was India’s entry to the 2018 Oscars; Busan New Currents competition title “Ashwatthama” by Pushpendra Singh; and “If Only Trees Could Talk” by Bobby Sarma Baruah, which is in post-production.
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