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Hellaro, A Gujarati Film About Women Defying Oppression Through Dance, Will Be Showcased At The Cannes Film Festival. Yay!

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If you think your plans being cancelled due to COVID-19 hurts, think about all the Gujaratis, who’re looking at their favourite dance festival, Navratri and wondering if they will get a chance to twirl around while vibrantly dressed. And now, it’s not just a dance festival but also a form of protest, as shown in the movie Hellaro, a Gujarati film that came out in 2019. And now, it’s getting it’s due recognition. The highly acclaimed, national award-winning film has been selected as Indian Ministry of Information and Broadcasting’s official entry to the Marché Du Film (Production Market) at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival! Garba at Cannes, who would’ve thunk it, right?

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ઠેક્યા મેં થોરિયા, ને ઠેકી મેં વાડ ઠેક્યા તેં દીધેલા ઊંચેરા પ્હાડ ઠેકી મેં ઠોકર, ને ઠેકી મેં ઢીંક ઠેકી તેં દીધેલી ઊંડેરી બીક ઠેકી-ઠેકીને હવે પહોંચી છું ઠેઠ, મારા હૈયાનાં ઝાડવાની હેઠ. . . . Official Posters of Hellaro. Releasing on 8th November. If you haven't watched the trailer yet, the link is in our bio. . . . . #hellaro #hellarothefilm #gujarat #gujarati #gujaratifilm #gujaraticinema #gujaratimovie #gujaratifilmindustry #upcomingmovie #upcomingujaratifilm #ahmedabad #surat #rajkot #vadodara #gandhinagar #saurashtra #mumbaistagram #filmcommunity #dhollywood

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On Monday, Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar virtually inaugurated the India Pavilion at the Cannes Film Market. The Marché Du Film gives film funds and film boards a platform to showcase their films for international visibility and further business opportunities. Along with Hellaro, Ananth Mahadevan’s National Award-winning Marathi film Mai Ghat: Crime No 103/2005, starring actor Usha Jadhav will also be screened here.

The film’s official Instagram account shared the news as well.

Speaking to TOI, director Abhishek Shah said, “It is a great feeling to know that our film will be screened at Cannes. Not being able to go to the festival physically is surely a huge miss. Just being part of something like this, meeting people you have idolised for years as a filmmaker and interacting with the global audience is an experience that can enrich you as a professional and I am going to miss it. But I am happy that my film has made it on its own.”

“We didn’t register for the festival, it was a unanimous choice by the members of the I&B Ministry, which makes it even more special.”

Hellaro has been raising a storm for a while now. The Gujarati period drama film, directed by Abhishek Shah and co-written by Shah, Prateek Gupta and Saumya Joshi (dialogues and lyrics) won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film at the 66th National Film Awards. It was the opening film at Indian Panorama, at the 50th International Film Festival of India (IFFI), where it was nominated for Best Debut Film of a Director. It ended up winning a Special Mention Jury Award for it. It was released in theatres to positive reviews for its direction, camerawork (Tribhuvan Babu Sadineni), performances, production design (Sheel Thakore and Ravi Popat), music (Mehul Surti) and choreography (Arsh and Samir Tanna).

But all of these aspects of the film come together only to amplify the message of the film, which is the most important achievement amongst all. Hellaro is a story set during the time of Emergency, of women in a remote village defying patriarchal oppression and superstition through dance. These women have no agency, and are denied the joy of art, which included dancing to please goddesses during festivals. Here, the men perform garba instead, while the women aren’t even allowed to watch it. Ironic, isn’t it, that they’re praying to a female deity to bless them with rain but are suppressing the lives of real women?

However, Manjhri, a newly-wedded educated city girl arrives on the scene, and is the spark that lights the fire of change. The women, on their way to fill water from a lake in the desert, chance upon a jobless dholi. Manjhri requests him to play for them so they can all dance. At first alone and then joined by all the other women, they dance to their heart’s content and take back their agency. The film’s ending is a moment that will force you to rethink what you know. And the performances of its cast—Jayesh More, Shraddha Dangar, Maulik Nayak, Brinda Trivedi Nayak, Shachi Joshi, Neelam Panchal, Tejal Panchasara and Kausambi Bhatt and Aarjav Trivedi—bring this story to life.

This moment of pride is not lost on me, especially because I loved Hellaro and its message. But I can’t help but imagine if there was no virus, no travel restrictions, then garba would be playing in France, of all places! Would the Gujaratis have probably made the trip to Cannes, doing a mini garba themselves on the French Riviera? Damn you, coronavirus, for depriving us of this possibility!

Anyway, let’s celebrate!

Also Read: The Number Of Child Marriages Has Gone Up Significantly. Girls Are Being Married Off Due To Poverty And Because They’re Seen As Liabilities

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