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Berlinale Bloggers 2024
Indian films in the Berlinale programme

“The Fable” (India, USA 2024). Director Raam Reddy. With Manoj Bajpayee
“The Fable” (India, USA 2024). Director Raam Reddy. With Manoj Bajpayee | Photo (Detail) © Prspctvs Productions

The Indian feature films – The Fable, Kottukali and In the Belly of a Tiger – screened at Berlinale will hit the home turf sometime this year after finishing their visit to international festivals. We bring you short reviews of these films for enthusiasts curious to know what is in store with these movies.

By Prathap Nair

The Fable

Scene from “The Fable”, director: Raam Reddy

Scene from “The Fable”, director: Raam Reddy | Photo (Detail) © Prspctvs Productions

The Fable is whimsical in its approach and mystical in its execution of themes that require deeper exploration. The main question at its heart is what happened after colonialism in India – did the power structures return to the so-called native people or were there new masters in the form of rich Indians? This richly imagined story is characterised by director Raam Reddy’s style of storytelling with well-etched-out characters played out by reliable actors.

The movie starts as a seemingly straightforward tale about an orchard-owning family, deep in the hills of northern India. It quickly becomes clear the father of the house has an unusual preoccupation that involves eagle feathers and aerodynamics. But things start going downhill when he spots a burnt-up apple tree in his orchard. One burnt tree becomes a few burnt trees and sooner, an entire orchard burns down. Who’s burning them? Is it the villagers or the nomads frequenting the region with their cattle herds? He sets out on an investigation that unearths more questions than answers.

The film concerns itself with unsettling questions about nativist agency in post-colonialist societies and blends these questions with mythology. There are numerous Easter eggs in the movie – little unsolved details – that pave the way for plenty of cud-chewing for the viewer long after it has ended. With The Fable, Reddy is entrusting the audience with the power to fill the little imaginative gaps in the story with their own vision.


“Kottukkaali” (India 2024), director: Vinothraj PS, with Anna Ben

“Kottukkaali” (India 2024), director: Vinothraj PS, with Anna Ben | Photo (Detail) © Sivakarthikeyan Productions


Kottukkaali is a road trip movie unlike any other – a group of family members takes the daughter-in-law of the family, who has stopped speaking, to a seer to set her straight. The daughter-in-law has fallen in love with someone outside her marriage and her silence is a form of protest. But her family is convinced that she is possessed. A common phenomenon in rural Tamil Nadu, Vinothraj, the director, says he wanted to show the world the existence of these rituals. They are mired in superstitions, and they rob women of their agency.

The movie takes a long and hard look at how women, who don’t comply, are treated by the Indian society. Entirely shot in real-time sound without background score, the movie brings to life Tamil Nadu’s countryside, warts and all, and creates an unforgettable portrait of a family in dire straits and the angered men, bubbling with rage.

Vinothraj’s Kottukkaali makes the viewer complicit in its portrayal of misogyny. In the absence of a single sane voice of reason in the film, what Kottukkaali achieves is to make viewers uncomfortable and simmer with rage themselves – not unlike the characters in the film. What it also makes us reflect is that no matter how far along the world has progressed, there’s still some corner of the world that’s left far behind.

In the Belly of a Tiger

Scene from “In the Belly of a Tiger”. Director: Siddartha Jatla

Scene from “In the Belly of a Tiger”. Director: Siddartha Jatla | Photo (Detail): © SJeevi Films

Artistically exquisite with an empathetic gaze, Siddhartha Jatla’s second feature In the Belly of a Tiger is a slow-burn drama set in the jungles of northern India. On the periphery of the jungles is where crushing poverty and severe unemployment intersect with existential life and death conundrums among the villagers. The lack of jobs pushes people into extreme measures, one of them being elderly villagers faking their suicides as killings by tigers so their families can receive state compensation.

The simple question the film poses is rather a painful one – are the lives of animals worth more than that of humans? Jatla says he was inspired to make the movie after reading a news piece about this phenomenon many years ago. What followed was six years of production, many of which were spent as work and research in the village where the film was shot. He also employed non-professional actors by recruiting the villagers, who populate the scenes and create a visually realistic movie that heavily borrows aspects of magical realism.

In the Belly of a Tiger is a multi-country production and Jatla’s actors spoke of feeling extremely connected to their characters while shooting for the film. The result is a film that intensely captures the hardships of people on the fringes of forests by completely avoiding navel gazing, despite dealing with issues like poverty.