New York Indian Film Festival 2015

May 4 - 9, 2015

Women hold centre-stage
May 21, 2015


Indian women find their feet in reel and real life.

Both in real and reel life Indian women are claiming major roles. This was obvious during the 15th New York Indian Film Festival. After the opening film “Margarita with a Straw” was screened, three women and a man ascended the stage. Then the three women spoke for most of the time and the gentleman uttered a sentence or two when was asked to comment.

Women power was visible throughout the film and during subsequent discussion that followed. “Margarita with a Straw” was screened at the opening night gala of the annual New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF) that has now entered its 15th year. The director Shonali Bose, lead actor Kalki Koechlin, actor Sayani Gupta and Nilesh were explaining the making of the film, development of the story, the challenges and finally the outcome. The message was loud and clear. Indian women are out of closet and ready to take on the world on their own terms. Also that they wished to develop their own idioms, storylines and narratives for all the times to come.

In the month of May if you are in New York you can’t miss the NYIFF. It has become a flagship event and is must for Indophiles. Its President and Executive Director Aroon Shivdasani is a dynamic and energetic woman who has brought this festival to its present height. Members of the audience are mostly the mainstream American and Indian American. Her organisation India America Arts Council is on the forefront of promoting and building awareness about Indian arts and has immensely succeeded in its mission. She, however, complains of inadequate funding and adds, “Success apart I am still trying to persuade people to buy my flowers.” But these difficulties won’t stop her mission of introducing best of Indian art heritage and documentaries to the U.S.

The best documentary award was bagged by Vibha Bakshi’s “The Daughters of Mother India”. Its screening and the discussion were attended by a large number of women. Vibha argued how it was important that Indian women represented issues like rapes in India in the context if ‘Nirbhaya’ and banned ‘Daughter of India’ by BBC’s Udwin. The documentary’s strength comes from the fact that it does highlight efforts of Indian government and people in tackling the complex issue that needs a sensitive handling by all stake holders.

At a macro level such a successful festival of independent movies signals that world recognizes Indian talent. The confidence of our young filmmakers is amazing. They are comfortable handling sensitive subjects like sexual desires, homosexuality, assault on women, infidelity and even violence.

By the way, Indian women too are surging ahead in mainstream American entertainment industry. One aspect of it is more offers and opportunities for India-based actors like Priyanka Chopra, Deepika Padukone, Frieda Pinto and others. But the astounding success of the of Indian Americans in the industry is also making news here. Presence of directors like Ashok Amritraj and Manoj Night Shyamalan has arguably helped Indians gain confidence in Hollywood.

The crowning glory of this week was the New York state’s appointment of Raj Rajeswari as a judge. She is the first woman of Indian origin to hold the post in New York. Way to go!


New York Indian Film Festival
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