Ashmita Guha Neogi’s CatDog: The only Indian film in the Cannes 2020 list

Posted on August 25, 2020


A conversation with the FTII alum, whose short film was one of 13 narrative films and four animated films chosen for Cinéfondation 2020, from 1,952 works submitted by film schools from all over the world.

Spoilers ahead…

CatDog is a 20-minute film about siblings — older sister, younger brother — who face imminent separation. The title signifies how close the boy and girl are, fused at the hip like how the two words (“cat”, “dog”) are fused as one. Their mother – a teacher, who is often seen with a male colleague who may be more than just a “colleague” — is sending the boy away to a hostel, and the girl is hurt. The film plays out as a series of bizarre games between the children.

“I started at a point very distant from the film I have right now,” the director says. “At that time, I was thinking about what it would mean for two people to grow up without the rules of civilisation and to just recognise each other by their biological selves, their genders, like Adam and Eve, untamed by nature. But this idea was philosophical, and I probably wouldn’t have been able to contain it in a film. I would have had to write a book about it. And then, I came upon the idea of incest, which is not fore-grounded in the film but is still something that is socially and biologically frowned upon. Then the idea of a brother and sister — like it is in the film now — kind of became the vessel for those initial thoughts.

You said that the first idea would be very abstract, but even this was quite abstract. There’s a sense that the old woman at the beginning – the one the girl and boy play a prank on — is the colleague’s mother. 

I’ll tell you what I essentially do. I start writing scenes, scenes that I think can suggest something about what preceded it and what might follow, and that allows me to create a story where there is not a direct cause and effect. You were one of the few people who picked up on the fact that the man could possibly be the old woman’s son.

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