Indian film on sectarian violence wins Asia awards

Thu Dec 11, 2008 6:28am EST
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By Neil Chatterjee

SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - An Indian film portraying sectarian violence swept the awards at an Asian festival for first time directors, with the issue striking a chord with jurors just weeks after the deadly Mumbai attacks.

The annual Asian Festival of 1st Films, which gave out awards late on Wednesday in Singapore to debutant talent in 11 categories, saw over 600 submissions from 26 countries.

"Firaaq," told through the eyes of ordinary people after deadly communal riots in India's Gujarat in 2002, won its director Nandita Das best film, best screenplay/script and the Foreign Correspondents Association award for best film.

Das, an actress known for her roles in bold, unconventional productions, said she took three years to write a script that was continually influenced by real life events, including bombings.

"It's a film about the effects of violence on relationships and the psyche," Das told Reuters, furiously texting people about her triple win.

More than 2,000 Muslims were massacred by Hindu mobs in the Gurajat riots of 2002.

Das was in Mumbai during the militant attacks at landmark hotels and buildings in late November that killed at least 179 people. New Delhi blamed Islamic militants from Pakistan, raising tension between the nuclear-armed foes and keeping India jittery.

"There's a lot of anger now and that's the overriding feeling, which is dangerous," Das said. "The film shows the other side -- the compassion -- and that's important to see and understand."   Continued...

<p>An Indian man rides past a burning car during a riot in the city of Ahmedabad in the western state of Gujarat, May 5, 2002. REUTERS/Amit Dave</p>