NYIFF 2013 – Celebrating Indian Cinema

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Dekh Tamasha Dekh at NYIFF

Dekh Tamasha Dekh at NYIFF

 

NYIFF – Celebrating 100 Years of Indian Cinema

 

Few 100-year-olds are this vibrant but Indian Cinema has all the sass and punch in its centenary year and we can expect exciting things from an industry which has embraced so many different genres.  The upcoming New York Indian Film Festival (April 30- May 4, 2013), presented by Indo-American Arts Council,  promises to serve up a feast of  movies which are making waves. So here’s to a taste of cinema, past and present.

“All the film industry is going to Cannes to celebrate the 100th year of Indian cinema. We are the perfect global kick-off because in 1913 on May 4th was the first-ever Indian movie  – and that’s the date of our closing night!” said Aroon Shivdasani, the Executive Director of IAAC, who along with Aseem Chhabra, director of the festival, has selected the eclectic mix of films.

NYIFF is the oldest film festival in the US and brings film-lovers together for a feast of the expected and the unexpected – features, docs, short films celebrating different viewpoints and genres from arthouse to Diaspora. The community comes together for screenings, post-screening discussions, parties and panel discussions, and of course red carpet events where you can actually meet some reel and real life celebrities.

 

Lust and lies in 'BA Pass'

Lust and lies in ‘BA Pass’

 

Dekh Tamasha Dekh & More

It bodes well for the Indian film industry that independent movies are increasingly brave, individualistic and not tied to any formula. The opening night film at the upcoming New York Indian Film Festival is ‘Dekh Tamasha Dekh’ on April 30 at the Skirball Center for Performing Arts. Directed by Feroz Abbas Khan, the film is a social and political satire which shows you not ‘Incredible India’ but according to the filmmakers – Impossible India.

The pleasure of NYIFF  is that it explores offbeat independent films as well as spicy  Bollywood but also the 100 years of Indian Cinema, with films such as ‘Bombay Movie’  and ‘The Human Factor’ which is a documentary about that staple ingredient of Indian cinema – song and music. This movie takes you into the lives of the Lords, a family of Parsi musicians who contributed much to the Hindi film industry. To acknowledge and pay tribute to the unknown talents who gave pleasure to so many movie-goers is indeed a way to learn about the film industry in its 100th year.

 

Bipasha Basu in Atma

Bipasha Basu in Atma

Garam Hawa & Kalpana – Tributes to 100 Years of Cinema

Other tributes to Indian cinema include ‘Baavra Mann’, a documentary about the noted filmmaker Sudhir Mishra, and ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro’ – a 1983 film starring Naseerudin Shah, Om Puri and Neena Gupta. It’s also a great chance to see a rarely seen gem –  ‘Garam Hawa’ directed by M.S.Sathyu. Based on a short story by Ismat Chughtai, this gripping film about post-partition India stars Balraj Sahni, Shaukat Azmi and has lyrics by Kaifi Azmi. For lovers of Indian cinema, there is ‘Kalpana’ the film directed by Uday Shankar – a great tribute to Indian classical dance.  A delicious tribute in this 100th year as it stars Uday Shankar, Padmini, Usha Kiran, Amala Shankar and Lakshi Kanta.

NYIFF has several offbeat films which make you think and get fresh insights into life: ‘Please Don’t Beat Me Sir’ directed by Shashwati Talukdar, takes you into the world of the Chara of Ahmedabad who were labeled a ‘criminal tribe’ along with 197 other tribes. Are they ‘born criminals’ or ‘born actors’?

Another offbeat film  is ‘The Only Real Game’ directed by Mirra Bank, which takes you to Manipur in northeast India where the thoroughly American game of baseball is the salvation for a troubled community.

NYIFF  also celebrates the little known pleasures of regional cinema with several films in different languages including Bengali, Marathi and Oriya.  Some of these intriguing movies include ‘Pune 52’ , ‘Dhag’  and  ‘Anumati’ in Marathi, ‘Oonga’ in Hindi and Oriya, and ‘Akashathinte Niram’ in Malayalam. There’s also noted filmmaker Gautam Ghose’s Bengali film ‘Shunyo Awnko’ starring Priyanshu Chatterjee, Konkona Sensharma, Priyanka Bose and Soumitra Chatterjee.

 

Konkona SenSharma in Shyoawnko

Konkona Sen Sharma in Shunyoawnko

 

The Power of Regional Cinema

Many of the films are full of contemporary tales which we all can relate to such as ‘B.A.Pass’  which won the Best Actor prize for Shadab Kamal in Osian’s Cinefan Film festival.  It’s very much about sex and the city as a college boy gets enmeshed in a relationship of lust and lies with a married woman, ‘Sarika Aunty’, no less!  The director Ajay Bahl has based it on a short story ‘The Railway Aunty’ from the ‘Delhi Noir’ anthology.

The centerpiece film is  ‘Shahid’ by Hansal Mehta  which follows the life of slain human rights activist and lawyer Shahid Azmi, and stars some strong actors including Raj Kumar Yadav, Tigmanshu Dhulia and K.K. Menon.

A still from 'Filmistaan'

Filmistaan

 

Filmistaan – Cinematic Dreams

Another film which should be an entertaining watch is ‘Jadoo’, which takes on two brothers who are both chefs and have the hatchet out for each other.  Can they be reunited? This film stars Amara Khan, Harish Patel, Kulvinder Ghir, Tom Mison and Madhur Jaffrey.  It was the world premiere and closing night film, Culinary Cinema section at the 2013 Berlin International Film Festival.

For Bollywood lovers there’s also the thrills in ‘Atma’, a ghostly horror film starring the stunning Bipasha Basu – and at what better hour than midnight?

Finally, the festival closes with ‘Filmistaan’ which won the award for Best Hindi film at the 60th National Film Awards.  It follows the adventures of a wanna-be actor Sunny –  and takes us to some incredible locales and situations!  A fun film to end with in the 100th year of Indian cinema because  we never know where films – and life – will take us, and what better place to live in than colorful, surreal Filmistaan?!

NYIFF runs from April 30 – May 4 and has a full slate of films, panels, Q and As, celebrity sightings as well as a chance to party with the stars.  Check out the full schedule at NYIFF2013

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Lavina Melwani is a New York-based journalist who writes for several international publications. [email protected] & @lassiwithlavina Sign up for the free newsletter to get your dose of Lassi!

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