New York Indian Film Festival 2012

This Year's TIFF City To City Focus Is MUMBAI! Indian Slate Unveiled!

Gangs of WasseypurEvery year, the Toronto International Film Festival hosts a City to City program highlighting cinema from one thriving spot on the globe, this year's selection is Mumbai, which happens to be right up my alley. The TIFF Mumbai spotlight this year includes films covering everything from big budget entertainers to gritty independents, and they all form some part of India's rejuvenating film scene.

This has been a banner year for Indian film. Last year I had trouble finding an Indian film to stick onto my year end lists, but this year's bumper crop is making it hard for anyone else to compete. I've only seen one of the films in this program, but I've had my eye on many of them in the meantime and I'm excited that people at TIFF will get a balanced view of what's going on in north India these days.

Now, onto the titles!

The Bright Day Mohit Takalkar, India World Premiere
Yearning for meaning in his life, a coddled young man abandons his girlfriend and family to set out on a spiritual quest across India. Shot with sophisticated DSLR cameras and reflecting a new passion for personal filmmaking, The Bright Day finds images to chart a soul's progress.

This next pair combined are my most anticipated Indian film of 2012 (it played at Cannes as a single 5 hour feature), and there is no sign of it landing on North American shores in any kind of regular release yet, so I'm envious of you traveling for TIFF. One slight correction is that Gangs of Wasseypur Part One has already premiered in North America at the New York Indian Film Festival back in June, though Part Two hasn't played anywhere here yet and doesn't premiere in India for another week.

Gangs of Wasseypur - Part One Anurag Kashyap, India North American Premiere
Part One of Anurag Kashyap's decade-spanning gangster epic chronicles the bloody turf war between two competing criminal families during the tumultuous era of Indian independence and industrialization. Starring Manoj Bajpayee, Richa Chadda and Reema Sen.

Gangs of Wasseypur - Part Two Anurag Kashyap, India North American Premiere
Part Two of Anurag Kashyap's stylish Indian gangster epic amps up the adrenaline as the irresistibly amoral criminal clans of Wasseypur careen towards their bloody date with destiny. Starring Manoj Bajpayee, Richa Chadda and Reema Sen.

Ishaqzaade is another film whose absence from international cinema screens is something of a mystery. Why Yash Raj chose only to release it in India and the Middle East is a a question for which I don't have an answer, though I'm also eager to check it out in spite of middling reviews. Our Ishaqzaade coverage
Ishaqzaade Habib Faisal, India Canadian Premiere A love story set amidst political violence in northern India, this romance follows Hindu Parma (Arjun Kapoor) and Muslim Zoya (Parineeti Chopra) as they try to escape the restrictive demands of their families. Better known for glossy entertainments, Bollywood's Yash Raj studio delivers a surprisingly gritty reflection of the new India.

Miss Lovely Ashim Ahluwalia, India North American Premiere
Set in the lower depths of Bombay's C-grade film industry, Miss Lovely follows the devastating story of two brothers who produce sex-horror films in the mid-1980s. The film gets under the skin of the Bollywood underground -- an audacious cinema with wild cinemascope compositions, lurid art direction, rollicking background soundtracks, and gut-wrenching melodrama. Starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Niharika Singh and Anil George.

Mumbai's King Manjeet Singh, India World Premiere
Rahul roams the streets with his balloon-seller friend Arbaaz. These two kids escape the grim realities of their lives by gambling, roasting stolen potatoes, stealing an auto rickshaw for a joyride, and chasing girls. But soon Rahul has to "take care" of his violent father, who has forced him to live on streets. Starring Rahul Bairagi, Arbaaz Khan and Tejas Parvatkar.

Peddlers Vasan Bala, India North American Premiere
The lives of a rookie cop, a streetwise orphan and a beautiful young ex-teacher collide explosively in the drug underworld of Mumbai in this edgy, powerhouse thriller that exemplifies the verve and excitement of India's new independent cinema. Starring Gulshan Devaiah and Siddharth Mennon.

Shahid Hansal Mehta, India World Premiere
Shahid is the remarkable true story of slain human rights activist and lawyer Shahid Azmi, who was killed in 2010 by unidentified assailants in his office. From attempting to become a terrorist, to being wrongly imprisoned under a draconian anti-terrorism law, to becoming a champion of human rights (particularly of the Muslim minorities in India), Shahid traces the inspiring personal journey of a boy who became an unlikely messiah for human rights, while following the rise of communal violence in India. This story of an impoverished Muslim struggling to come to terms with injustice and inequality, whilerising above his circumstances is an inspiring testament to the human spirit. Starring Raj Kumar, Prabhleen Sandhu and Baljinder Kaur.
Shanghai is among my favorite mainstream Hindi films this year. This rough adaptation of Z set in a rapidly developing and expanding India is one of many recent features to tackle the pervasive corruption that plagues Indian politics at every level. Here's my review.
Shanghai Dibakar Banerjee, India North American Premiere
From the director of Love Sex aur Dhokla comes a searing political drama. Abhay Deol plays an investigator seeking the cause behind the assassination of a firebrand politician, complicated by the actions of the politician's lover, played by Kalki Koechlin.

Ship of Theseus
Anand Gandhi, India World Premiere
In the first feature film from acclaimed Indian playwright Anand Gandhi, three disparate people -- a devout monk stricken by illness, a blind woman whose sight is suddenly restored, and a stockbroker who sets out to combat the illegal international trade in human organs -- are linked by an unknown connection as they follow their individual paths through the kaleidoscopic streets of Mumbai.
Of the rest, both Peddlars and Miss Lovely found places in this year's Cannes Film Festival, and were received very well. This looks like a great program and I'm bummed I won't be there to check out the whole thing. If you're going to TIFF this year, make some room in your schedule to pick up a few of these screenings!

New York Indian Film Festival
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