Indian director and cinematographer Jatla Siddhartha has assembled several of the biggest names in world cinema in service of “In the Belly of a Tiger.” The film has its premiere next week at the Berlin Film Festival.
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Pitched as a blend of surreal horror and selfless love, the film is a fictionalization of reportedly real events in rural India, in which a couple arranges to be eaten by a tiger in order to ensure their family’s financial security.
Co-written by Siddhartha and Amanda Mooney, the story revolves around two landless farmers, Bhagole and Prabhata, who return to their village after failing to find work in the city. The village they return to is in disarray after the death of a farmer, killed by a tiger. And, having lost their land, the family is being supported only by the wages of their son who is slaving at a brick factory. When even that remaining hope is threatened, the elderly parents decide to take drastic measures in hope of collecting a compensation payment.
Mooney was also a close collaborator on Siddhartha’s first film, “Love and Shukla,” which premiered at the Busan IFF Festival in 2017 before also playing at the Shanghai IFF, Tallinn Black Nights, Palm Springs and over 40 additional festivals, before being picked up by Netflix.
The multi-national production crew includes music composed by Japan’s Umebayashi Shigeru (The Grandmaster,” “In the Mood for Love”), sound design by multi-Oscar-winner Resul Pookutty (“Slumdog Millionaire”) and color grading at the mainland Chinese studio owned and operated by leading fantasy and action director Wuershan (“Creation of the Gods I – Kingdom of Storms”).
The film’s production process was similarly cosmopolitan. It began its journey in 2018 and received development support from Busan’s Asian Cinema Fund. It then spent several years participating in project labs and co-production markets including Less is More, Black Night’s Script Pool Tallinn, NFDC Film Bazaar – Script Lab, Hong Kong HAF and the Tokyo Gap Financing Market before appearing as a work in progress at the Industry@Tallinn & Baltic Event, NFDC Film Bazaar and Shanghai International Film Festival Project Market.
Attracting finance and partners along the way, the film finished as a production by the U.S.’s Bhairavi Films, China’s Wonder Pictures and India’s Jeevi Films. Additional co-producers are Qun Films from Indonesia, Flash Forward Entertainment from Taiwan and Myth Image from mainland China. Flash Forward is additionally handling international sales.
“Speaking to the soul of India, my film uses Indian mythology as a signal of hope to tell a deeply personal love story designed to put these invisible lives at the center of human consciousness,” Siddhartha said.
Shooting in Hindi and using mostly non-professional actors, Siddhartha previously lived in the village location in order to complete his research. There he met several families whose mounting debts had forced them to give up their land. Having lost everything, they then turned to alternative ways to help their families survive.
Watch the trailer for “In the Belly of a Tiger” here:
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