NEW DELHI: Varun Chounal is an aspiring filmmaker and his short documentary film ‘A Tune of Devotion’ is all set to premiere at the Savannah Film Festival in October 2017.
“The will to make a movie about the Sufi (Islamic) mystics of India came when I saw that most films on India tended to highlight the rampant poverty and the deplorable living conditions of the lowest classes. I, on the other hand, wanted to draw attention to the part of the country that is rich with a history of song and dance, one which extends beyond the horizons of Bollywood,” said the 23-year-old.
The theme of the short film is in line with Chounal’s philosophy of art and his approach to cinema. He hopes to use it to give his audience a glimpse of the culture he belongs to.
Along with attempting to explore the relationship between art and Sufism, a religious strain stemming from Islam, ‘A Tune of Devotion,’ also delves into the narratives of its three distinctive protagonists – a dancer, a scholar and a qawwali-singer duo.
Currently a Masters’ student at the School of Film and Television, Loyola Marymount University (LMU), Los Angeles, Chounal recently attended the Telluride Student Symposium.
The Symposium, a significant part of the Telluride Film Festival, gives participants and attendees an opportunity to watch back to back movies and interact with filmmakers and fellow cinephiles from all over the world, along with the chance to immerse themselves in the world of cinema and its various aspects for five days.
Telluride Film Festival, one of the biggest of its kind, is a cinematic heaven of sorts, offering an escape, a parallel reality almost carnivalesque in its essence, to film aficionados.
Chounal, who graduated from Delhi University, India, in 2015, considers himself lucky to have had made it to the Symposium. Of the several thousand applications that the festival receives globally, a total of 50 make the cut. This programme is also known for having mentored Barry Jenkins, director of Moonlight.
Tucked in the beautiful mountains of Colorado, the program takes place over the Labor Day weekend and is frequented by A-list celebrities. The symposium is carefully curated to nurture the future stalwarts of cinema.
The programmers create a comprehensive schedule of diverse films which they believe would expand the participant’s vision and creative spectrum. These viewings are followed by in-depth discussions with the actual makers of these films. Through the symposium, Chounal was able to listen to and interact with visionary filmmakers like Ken Burns, Angelina Jolie, Todd Haynes, Joshua Oppenheimer and Mohammad Rasoulof.
Calling the opportunity “a dream come true,” Chounal revealed that he feels “extremely fortunate to have attended the festival. This is a dream come true for a boy from India like me and I look forward to using the knowledge I gained to polish my craft.”
“I want to make and promote cinema that represents my culture and puts India on a global map. I want the world to get a glimpse of our rich heritage and artistic capabilities which are not simply confined to the quintessential song and dance audiences in West are often used to,” concluded Chounal.