Nandita Das’ Busan Film “Zwigato” Depicts the Fight Against Algorithms
After its world premiere in Toronto, Nandita Das’ “Zwigato” has its Asian premiere at Busan’s A Window on Asian Cinema.
An acclaimed actor with credits such as ‘Fire’, ‘Kannathil Muthamittal’ and ‘Kamli’, Das made her directorial debut with ‘Firaaq’ (2008), which debuted in Toronto. Her next film as a director, “Manto” (2018), bowed at Cannes.
“Zwigato”, her third outing as a director, also bowed out in Toronto. It started life as a short film that was to be part of an anthology produced by Applause Entertainment in India. This project did not materialize, but Applause chief Sameer Nair convinced Das to expand the idea into a feature, which she did during India’s first two COVID-19 lockdowns. . The film, a satire on the gig economy, follows a factory manager who, after losing his job, becomes a courier for food delivery app Zwigato.
“As I started to dig deeper, I was drawn to the human aspects of this mix of high tech and the lives of the workers, who are just a cog. With the rise of the gig economy, the struggle between man and machine described by Chaplin in ‘Modern Times’ has now morphed into a struggle between man and algorithms,” said Das. . Variety.
“During the pandemic, we consumers, for our own convenience, have become increasingly dependent on gig workers and less and less aware of their struggle. The four-day sequel of a food delivery courier and his family tells the story of this new urban India. The movie is about a lot of little things that are hidden in plain sight,” Das added.
The cast includes popular talk show host Kapil Sharma, playing against type, and acclaimed actor Shahana Goswami (“A Decent Boy”), who previously starred in “Firaaq.” Goswami’s character is also forced to work to make ends meet.
“What appealed to me, besides the obvious attractions of working with Nandita again and the storyline she envisioned, was the character of Pratima who is so hopefully innocent and excited to live a new life legitimized by the conditions difficulties of his reality, despite the fact that his job requires cleaning the toilets in a shopping mall,” Goswami said. Variety.
nair said Variety“We wanted to show both lenses – so one is about these invisible people we know nothing about and the lives they lead and their gig economy, but the other is also about us as consumers. You’re so easily irritated by a delivery person bringing the wrong order or arriving late, but it’s a whole other world out there and that’s important for a higher degree of consumer empathy towards all of these services. It’s not just about big, bad business, it’s about each of us and how we approach all of this economy and all of this workforce.
Applause, a division of the $45 billion Aditya Birla Group conglomerate, is best known as one of the leading producers supplying content to major Indian streamers including Disney+ Hotstar, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. The company also produces films aimed at the theatrical market.
“It’s true that OTT [streaming] the platforms have enabled a more democratic distribution of content and have a much wider reach. But as a filmmaker, I also want people to have a more immersive theatrical experience. There is something about the simultaneity of a personal and collective experience of watching a movie in a dark room. All the nuances that we painstakingly work on, whether in story, image, sound, music, performance, etc. will be more visible. That said, more and more, the economics of releasing movies theatrically only seem achievable for big-budget movies,” Das said.
“For me, a combination of a theatrical release and OTT will of course be ideal. But increasingly, today’s audiences are independent of the media and are primarily driven by the story. “Zwigato” , despite being set in India, is a global story, and we hope the film will reach as wide an audience as possible and OTT will make sure of that,” Das added.
Nair said Applause was “very, very actively” considering releasing “Zwigato” in theaters.
Meanwhile, Busan is a happy hunting ground for Applause with the company’s first-ever film production, Aparna Sen’s “The Rapist,” which won the festival’s coveted Kim Ji-seok Award in 2021.
“It’s the right place to present cinema like this – you get the right kind of response. I think it’s a great platform,” Nair said.
“Zwigato” will premiere on October 6 in Busan.