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An American Film Festival with an Indian Accent

By Murali Kamma Email By Murali Kamma
June 2011
An American Film Festival with an Indian Accent This film festival wasn’t in Cannes, but it didn’t lack for celebrities and glamor. It wasn’t in Sundance either, but the festival did have serious, well-crafted dramas that would please cinephiles. The New York Indian Film Festival, now 11 years old, is not like other high-profile festivals in North America. It has a different accent—or accents, to be precise, since the movies screened in New York last month were in Hindi, Bengali, Urdu, Malayalam, Marathi, English, even Tibetan. Altogether, 30 feature films and documentaries were shown over five days, along with a handful of short films.

The prize-winning films included Aparna Sen’s Iti Mrinalini (Sen won the Best Director award, while her daughter Konkona received the Best Actress award); Max Carlson’s Bhopali (Best Documentary); Mohan Raghavan’s T.D. Dasan, Std VI B (Best Screenplay); and Abhay Kumar’s Just That Sort of a Day (Best Short Film). The Best Feature Film award went to Sthaniya Sambaad (Spring in the Colony), a Bengali film directed by Arjun Gourisaria and Moinak Biswas.

Rishi Kapoor (see photo) got the Best Actor award for Do Dooni Chaar. Following its screening, director Habib Faisal participated in a discussion that featured Kapoor and co-star (not to mention wife) Neetu Singh, along with moderator Assem Chhabra, director of the film festival. The screening committee included Chhabra, executive director Aroon Shivdasani, filmmaker Parvez Sharma, and communication studies professor Satish Kolluri. The other panels focused on South Asian filmmakers and film production in South Asia.

And yes, celebrities like Salman Rushdie were in attendance, along with New York notables such as Mira Nair and Madhur Jaffrey. The U.S. premiere of Rituparno Ghosh’s Noukadubi, based on a Rabindranath Tagore novel (The Wreck), closed the festival.

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