I-View Indian Fashion and FilmBy Lavina Melwani • Oct 7th, 2010 • Category: 24/7 Talk is Cheap - The Blog
I-View Film and Fashion in New York…
“Women in South Asia are some of the most policed in the world. Their sexuality, their bodies, their desires are constantly monitored and judged through the morality of societies in South Asia,” says Myna Mukherjee, director of Engendered. “Fashion has an incredibly popular appeal yet is considered frivolous or superfluous – both its creative roots as well as its worth are constantly questioned.”
Women’s bodies and sexuality were very much a part of ‘I-View’, the third Human Rights film festival organized by Engendered, the trans-national arts and human rights organization at Asia Society.
Film and fashion, the two reflectors of social mores were twinned together in this festival, with bold new films on issues of sexuality and gender, along with the provocative collections of designers not known to be shy about the human body, yet using traditional materials.
The film festival, curated by Mukherjee, showcased strong and controversial films which explore the world through the prism of gender, sexuality and human rights. Some of the must-see films included ‘I AM’, by award-winning director Onir, the critically-acclaimed Sundance documentary, ‘Bhutto’, the North American premiere of ‘Just Another Love Story’, and Dibankar Banerjee’s ‘Love Sex Aur Dhoka’ (LSD).
The closing night movie was the world premiere of National Award winning director Vinay Shukla’s ‘Mirch’ starring Raima Sen, Konkona Sen and Boman Irani. Audiences loved this tart, visually intriguing film about temptations from the director of ‘Godmother’ after a gap of several years.
Filmgoers got to meet many of the major players in thinking cinema today – directors like Vishal Bhardwaj, Aparna Sen, Onir, Mira Nair, Vinay Shukla and Rituparno Ghosh with wonderful actors like Rahul Bose, Konkona Sen, Raima Sen, and Monica Dogra. The panel discussions and Q and A sessions were a treat, with performers and audiences interacting freely.
It was a edgy mix of film and fashion with fashion events with an opening night showing by Pakistani designer Nomi Ansari with the collection ‘Super Devis, Virgins and Vamps’, and the closing night collection by Bina and Malini Ramani from India. The title: ‘Desiring Bodies: Celebrating expressions of Choice and Sexuality in South Asia.’ Says Mukherjee about the incongruous mix of fashion and women’s issues: “‘Desiring Bodies’ – the fashion show – was a place that uses the power and appeal of fashion to re-appropriate and celebrate women’s sexualities and their bodies.”
Bina Ramani has always designed boldy, according to her own rules, and her daughter Malini has also created her own exuberant avant-garde style.
Indeed, there was a subtle irony in seeing the beautiful heavy silks and brocades of weddings and engagement ceremonies, of traditional occasions transformed into short dresses, pant suits and kaftans; Eastern embroideries mixed with playful western styles and the staid pants which modestly cover women’s legs shout out in bold new shapes and silhouettes. It was as if women were taking on the challenge to be chameleons, changing themselves into whatever they chose to be.
Why were the particular designers chosen for this fashion/film feast?
Mukherjee points out the mother and daughter Bina and Malini Ramani are strong women who’ve always fought back against the system; Manish Malhotra’s designs have always really celebrated women’s form and, with strong ties to the film industry, he truly understands the drama and opulence of performers.
Although Malhotra wasn’t there personally, his film-inspired, incredibly beautiful collection said it all, especially when it was preceded by a dramatic video by Saqib Malik who is known for his avant garde videos in Pakistan. Malik has created several videos that use the popular mass medium to tell unusual stories about marginalized people. “His videos have been banned at times for showing depictions of alternate sexuality and found incredible popularity at others,” says Mukherjee.
She points out that there was an emphasis on using traditional music that showcased how wide and plural south Asian traditions can be, how empowering and respectful they are of women and their choices, and try to make a point about how the same traditions are sometimes misquoted to increase the policing of women’s bodies.
At the 9 day I-View festival, with plenty of provocative food for thought, New Yorkers overdosed on fashion and film, and came out thoroughly and happily drugged. Withdrawal was hard but real life came knocking soon enough.
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