Chaitanya Tamhane's Court isn't India's only representative at the 2016 Academy Awards for the Best Foreign Language Film. Among the 81 films vying for the Oscar, to be reduced to five nominees come January 14, 2016, is the work of another Indian. At least, of a director of Indian origin.
Titled 7 Letters, the film has seven directors from Singapore celebrating the country’s 50th year of Independence by writing a cine love letter that evokes memories of Singapore as home. Sharing the responsibility with six other filmmakers is K Rajagopal, who also turns 50. He considers the connection lucky for him.
Rajagopal has won the Singapore International Film Festival’s Special Jury Prize for three consecutive years for his short films I Can’t Sleep Tonight (1995), The Glare (1996) and Absence (1997). His other short films are Brother (1997), The New World (2007) and Timeless (2010).
In 2010, a retrospective of his short films was shown at the Singapore Short Cuts event curated by the National Museum of Singapore. Rajagopal is currently working on his first full-length feature titled A Yellow Bird.
Rajagopal’s segment in 7 Letters is named The Flame. It revolves around a Indian family in Singapore in 1971, the year the British military forces withdrew. Critics have called The Flame a rare vignette of Singapore Indians’ cultural history. Rajagopal has said he wanted to make a film focussed on Indians in Singapore and this was the perfect opportunity. You can watch one of his short films here.