New York Indian Film Festival 2012

May 5 - 10, 2014

Festival Flaunts the Other Side of the Indian Film Industry
By a Staff Writer

The annual New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF) wrapped up at the Skirball Center here May 10 with the screening of Aparna Sen’s “Goynar Baksho,” followed by an awards gala. Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay’s famous tale of three generations of women and their changing position in society, seen in relation to a box of jewels, handed down from one generation to the next, “Goynar Baksho” stars Konkona Sen Sharma, Moushumi Chatterjee, Saswata Chatterjee and Paran Banerjee.

“Liar’s Dice” by Geethu Mohandas won the Best Film, while Nagraj Manjule won the award for Best Director for “Fandry.” Naseeruddin Shah won the Best Actor award for “The Coffin Maker,” and the award for Best Actress went to Geetanjali Thapa for “Liar’s Dice”; Nishtha Jain’s “Gulabi Gang” won the Best Documentary and the award for Best Short went to “Blouse” by Vijayeta Kumar.

“Liars Dice” follows Kamala, a young woman from Chitkul village and her girl child Manya, who embarks on a journey leaving their native land in search for her missing husband.

More than 34 films – 23 narratives and 11 documentaries – were screened at the festival this year, held May 5 to 10 at various locations in the city. The annual film festival, now in its 14th year, was founded by the Indo-American Arts Council, a New York-based nonprofit.

Films screened covered a wide range of South Asian films, including “Fandry,” a Marathi film about a love-struck Dalit boy; Meenu Gaur and Farjad Nabi’s “Zinda Bhaag,” notable for being Pakistan’s very first submission for the foreign language Oscar race, which follows three young men desperate to get on the fast track to success in an eye-opening glimpse of modern Pakistan; and “An American in Madras,” a documentary that chronicles director Ellis R. Dungan’s contributions to the Tamil film industry.

Six of the films selected to be part of this year’s NYIFF line-up received India’s celebrated National Film Award, in April – a few weeks after they were confirmed for the festival.

“These wins are such reaffirmations that we [NYIFF] made the right call,” festival director Aseem Chhabra told The Wall Street Journal. “There’s a lot of good luck that flows through our programming; I’m just so glad we have this space.”

Chhabra told The Film Journal that the move to the Village East allowed the festival committee to expand its offerings. “In earlier years, we had to say no to many films because we just didn’t have the space. This year, we screened about 250 submissions, including shorts,” Chhabra said. “We scout other film festivals, talk to filmmakers and directors, we do everything we can to get the best titles here. In fact, six of our films this year were honored at the National Film Awards, which are handed out by the Indian government.” Emphasizing the fact that Bollywood films are readily available for viewers, Chhabra told The Film Journal that NYIFF believes that “there is a lot more to Indian cinema.”

The festival opened with Anurag Kashyap’s “Ugly,” a psychological thriller that exposes Mumbai’s malicious underbelly. The film that starts with the disappearance of an aspiring actor’s young daughter. “Ugly” was shown at Cannes Film Festival last year and reportedly received a standing ovation. It was due to release last year, but faced a roadblock when Kashyap refused to have an anti-smoking message pop up on screen for the final, climactic shot of the film. The director has filed a complaint against the Censor Board, arguing the message isn’t necessary because the actor is seen holding an unlit cigarette and not smoking it.

His real objection is that the notification distracts the audience from a powerful moment in the film. Meanwhile, the Bombay High Court, on May 7, refused to grant any ad-interim relief to Kashyap, Daily News Analysis reported. A division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice M.S. Sanklecha, however, has allowed Kashyap to make a representation before the Central government seeking modifications in the rules, DNA said.

NYIFF also paid homage to British-Indian director, Gurinder Chadha, whose trailblazing feature “Bhaji on the Beach” celebrated its 20th anniversary this year. Also screened were a collection of her lesser-known BBC documentaries about British Asians made in the 1980s – “What Do You Call An Indian Woman Who’s Funny”, “I’m British But …”, “A Nice Arrangement” and “Acting Our Age.”

The festival also featured the premiere of “The Last Poem” by Suman Mukhopadhyay, an adaptation of a classic novel by Rabindranath Tagore, starring Konkona Sen Sharma and Rahul Bose. Other documentaries screened were “The Unseen Sequence,” by Sumantra Ghoshal, which looks at legendary Bharata Natyam dancer Malavika Sarukkai’s artistry and Jaideep Verma’s “I Am Offended,” which talks about Indian stand-up comedians with the hope of convincing audiences that comedy is not all laughter.

Other events held on the sidelines included panel discussions on The Challenges of Distribution, Casting and Shooting in New York State, as well as conversations with directors Chadha and Aparna Sen.


New York Indian Film Festival
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