Acclaimed Indian actor, and past Busan visitor, Adil Hussain (“Star Trek: Discovery,” “Life of Pi”) will headline “Riding on the Moon Boat,” one of the projects being introduced at the Busan International Film Festival’s Asian Project Market. It is to be directed by first-time feature director Triparna Banerjee.
Set in rural India, the film will follow an adolescent girl who struggles to survive through drought, hardship and discrimination as her father is shunned by the majority of the village for engaging in a blasphemous act. It is an adaptation of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s classic story “Mahesh” (Drought).
“One of the first reasons probably I decided to attach myself to this project is that I am very closely associated with this story – as I grew up in Assam, my father was a big fan of Sarat Chandra, and he read out the story to me long back,” Hussain told Variety. The actor says that the characters in the story are “deeply embedded” in his subconscious. “It is a very, very contemporary story about things which are happening across the country and the world,” says Hussain.
For Banerjee too, the project harks back to a time when she used to visit her remote ancestral village in Jharkhand, a time awash with stories narrated by her grandmother, and in particular, “Mahesh,” which her father narrated at a time of personal loss. “It is a story of loss that explores the relationship of a man and his farming ox,” Banerjee told Variety. “Though I had read ‘Mahesh’ in school, when I revisited the story, I connected with it at a deeper level. Written 100 years ago the story is still so pertinent, its relevance is increasing every day. I weaved a new story out of it, with the adolescent daughter of the farmer.”
“Thematically what I am exploring is discrimination and human identity,” Banerjee said. “We are all same as humans but we constantly isolate each other on the basis of race, color, gender, religion, nationality etc.”
The script was presented at the Global Media Makers residency in 2019. Banerjee is no stranger to Busan, with her first film as associate producer, Shivajee Chandrabhushan’s “Frozen,” screening at the festival 2007 and she participated as a screenwriter at APM 2011 with Chandrabhushan’s “One More,” which released in 2012.
“Riding on the Moon Boat” is produced by Banerjee and Chandrabhushan’s White Owl Films alongside Kyoko Dan, who works as a distributor, promotor, and curator for Asian Cinema, specializing in South and West Asian cinema. Busan is where Banerjee and Chandrabhushan met Dan for the first time, a decade ago.
“The story about the girl opening up her own future with her dream is connected to everybody all over the world, especially in the current time,” Dan told Variety. “Even if she has a serious situation, she can overcome. We want to believe she can do it. I think the girl in this story will encourage the people living in this tough modern society through the film.”
Some $120,000 of the $400,000 production budget has been raised from private equity sources so far.
“For an independent filmmaker such a platform gives good eyeballs to a project,” Chandrabhushan says about the APM. “People come to know about interesting projects. In other words it creates news.”