Mumbai, 3rd August 2023: Writer-director Jayant Digambar Somalkar’s debut Marathi feature film ‘Sthal (A Match) will have its World Premiere at the prestigious 48th Toronto International Film Festival 2023 held from September 7 to 17, 2023.
It’s the only Indian film to be selected in the Discovery Programme, which showcases the first and second features of emerging filmmakers from around the world.
Sthal (A Match) explores the tradition of arranged marriages in rural India, where the relentless pursuit of a girl’s marriage overshadows the very sustenance of life. It is narrated from the perspective of a young girl, Savita, highlighting patriarchy, colorism and social evil deeply rooted in society.
The film shot in Jayant’s native village, Dongargaon in the Chandrapur District of Maharashtra, features an ensemble cast of first-time actors from the village starring Nandini Chikte as the protagonist Savita alongwith Taranath Khiratkar, Sangita Sonekar, Suyog Dhawas, Sandip Somalkar, Sandip Parkhi, Swati Ulmale, Gauri Badki & Mansi Pawar.
The film is produced by Dhun, a Production Company run by Karan Grover, Shefali Bhushan, Jayant Digambar Somalkar & Riga Malhotra.
Jayant, who wrote-directed an award-winning short Iyatta: Class (2016) and also co-wrote and co-directed the Amazon Prime Original Series Guilty Minds (2022) shares his excitement about TIFF premiere, “I can say that my protagonist Savita found her first ‘match’ and that too from a foreign land! I am overwhelmed and proud that I will be able to showcase my village and my people on a global platform. People who never dreamt of facing a film camera are going to be part of one the best and most prestigious film festivals of the world, TIFF.”
The producer Shefali Bhushan, who wrote and directed Jugni and Guilty Minds says, “To be premiering ‘Sthal’ at TIFF is very exciting for me, especially since it is my first experience as a ‘Producer’ actually supervising production from the sets, in this case the village where it was shot. Being a director myself, trying to successfully keep a watch on the production and the budget of an independent film, while still enabling the director to get what he wanted was very challenging. But when the film shapes up so well and gets such appreciation, it all becomes very rewarding.”
The producer Karan Grover says, “Sthal is an ambitious journey to deliver a story which may be the true story of several young women across the country. Its realism and authenticity should drive the change that we drive. Hope it resonates and everybody can get to watch the film.”
“The Discovery section, which is curated by a brilliant team of international programers, is an integral part of TIFF,” stated Dorota Lech, TIFF Lead Programer, Discovery, & International Programer for Central, Eastern, & Southern Europe, the Caucasus, Iran, & Turkey. “It is a bold and exciting showcase of cinema and emerging talent from around the world, and we are honored to highlight new and distinctive voices from artists creating their first or second feature on our global stage. This year’s program of 26 titles includes films from 25 countries, accounting for international co-productions and local talent.”
The programmer talking about the discovery section says, “It is a bold and exciting showcase of cinema and emerging talent from around the world, and we are honored to highlight new and distinctive voices from artists creating their first or second feature on our global stage. This year’s program of 26 titles includes films from 25 countries, accounting for international co-productions and local talent.”
In a village in the Vidarbha region of India, a determined young girl, Savita, yearns for education and a brighter future. However, as her farmer parents anxiously struggle to find a suitable match for her, societal expectations place immense pressure on her to prioritize marriage over personal aspirations.
Being dark-complexioned and short in height, Savita is seen as an added ‘burden’ on her parents and ‘marrying her off’, as difficult as finding fair price for their crop. Facing countless rejections from potential suitors, she must navigate a world where the pursuit of marriage overshadows the very sustenance of life.
Shot on real locations with real people from the village, all non-actors, ‘A Match’ is the director’s debut feature film that explores the tradition of arranged marriages in rural India while highlighting patriarchy, colorism and social evil deeply rooted in society.
Born in a village in the Vidarbha region of India, Jayant Somalkar is an engineering graduate, but his creative bent of mind made him veer towards filmmaking. His debut short film, ‘Iyatta- Class,’ showed at many film festivals and won many awards. He has co-written and co-directed the critically acclaimed Amazon Prime Video Original Series ‘Guilty Minds’. ‘A Match’ marks the director’s debut feature, showcasing his talent for storytelling and commitment to presenting social issues in an authentic and compassionate manner.
Coming from a humble rural background, I have been fascinated by grassroot level stories that are socially relevant and affect the lives of common people. Sthal (A Match) is one such. Through this film, my goal as a director is to bring out the realities faced by young women like Savita, who are almost sacrificed in the urgency for getting them “married off”. The film delves into themes of patriarchy, colorism, and societal pressures.
Being the youngest of 4 siblings, I saw my sisters going through this as I grew up. The idea for this particular film crystallized when I accompanied my cousin for one such ‘Match’ meeting.
To capture the authenticity and rawness, I chose to shoot on real locations with real people from the village as cast, all non-actors. By doing so, I sought to create an immersive experience and allow viewers to connect with the characters at a more emotional level.
I was lucky to fulfill the dream of shooting in my own village, in fact in the very house where I was actually born. I could also include my extended family, some as cast and others in production roles. The pride they felt, seeing one of their own, bring a crew to the village and shoot a film, is for me, indescribable.
The visual aesthetic of the film reflects the stark reality of rural India, capturing the beauty of the landscape as also the harshness of everyday life. The use of the traditional folk music makes the viewer connect to the events in a more experiential way while the western, brings the characters’ dreams alive surrealistically.
Through this film, I hope to spark conversations around the tradition of arranged marriage, gender inequality, and the pressing need for change.
About Dhun Production Company:
‘Dhun’ also means passion and that is exactly what brought the four partners behind Dhun together. Karan Grover with his expertise in content marketing and music, Shefali Bhushan and Jayant Somalkar with their strengths as storytellers and Riga Malhotra with her love for the movies are an eclectic mix with complementary skills who are in this business because they love the art behind it. They have been putting their minds, hearts and resources together to create meaningful and thought provoking stories that make a difference to people’s lives. Together they have produced the feature film ‘Jugni’ and the shorts ‘Iyatta’ and ‘Tambur’ that have traveled to several film festivals and won awards apart from being loved by viewers and critics alike. ‘Sthal’ is their first Marathi feature film.