KOCHI: When the lewd village head Barat was killed by Ahad, the brother of a girl he raped, Tagore theatre erupted into huge applause. The reaction that the Azerbaijan film Sughra and Her Sons screened under the International Competition category garnered, made its protagonist, actor Gunash Mehdizadeh, quite happy. She represented the film at the 26th IFFK, and despite the language barrier, the artist thanked the audience wholeheartedly.
The movie, spanning 1 hour and 25 minutes, is the sole Azerbaijan film to have had an Indian premiere on Sunday. Gunash, who played Sughra, flew down to Kerala on behalf of the film’s director, Ilgar Najaf.
In an exclusive conversation with TNIE, she opened up more about the film and her IFFK days. Since she is fluent in Russian, we took help from a translater. Her face was brimming with joy as she spoke of the reception she received at IFFK.
“I have been a part of European Film Festivals earlier. But this is my first time in India. I have watched Indian films in my country, but this is my first time at an international film festival in India. I saw a French and German film but the Bangladesi movie Rehana, which was the opening movie here, inspired me. I am familiar with Indian movies, I have even seen actor Raj Kapoor when he was shooting for a film in Baku long ago. I also like Indian actresses like Aishwarya Rai,” quips the actress when asked about her acquaintance with Indian cinema. Born as the daughter of a theatre artist, films are a part of life for Gunash.
“Acting is a hobby and a serious profession for me. It enables me to give life to many personas, including a strong mother like Sughra. It is also a tool for me to address women’s issues in front of an international crowd. My husband works with sound in the movie industry, he adores my work too,” she says.
She says she is fortunate that despite being a small country, Azerbaijan offers equal treatment to women and men in its film industry and other professions.
“Rape and domestic violence against women happening across the globe disturbs me. Rape is a heinous crime in our country and punishment is very severe too,” says Gunash.
The film, Sughra and Her Sons was captured in black and white frames. It is set during World War II. Men of the village are away battling, while the women tend to their families.
“Every time I see the movie as just another audience, I feel emotional. The character was so engrossing. Sometimes I wonder if it was me who played it at all! I also have a son, like Sughra. I could relate to her maternal emotions well,” says Gunash.
“The audience here are reading the subtitles and following the scenes simultaneously, which must mean they are a very intelligent audience. Many spoke to me about how much they loved the character I portrayed, and that makes me happy,” she adds.