New York, NY: The 16th annual New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF) held its inaugural gala May 7, at the Skirball Center for Performing Arts. Billed as the oldest, most prestigious Indian film festival in the U.S., this year’s smorgasbord of independent, art house, alternate, and diaspora films, screened over the period May 7-14, includes 40 screenings (35 narrative, 5 documentary), all seen for the first time in New York City. In addition, the festival also featured five programs of short films.
“It was a very exciting night,” Shivdasani said. “We never actually had a language film for opening night. This was a complete departure and what that means is we are getting bolder,” she laughed. Baretto is an emerging filmmaker and neither the director or the cast are well known. “Still we had a lovely opening,” Shivdasani said.
Numerous film-makers with their cast appeared on the red carpet speaking about their films. Celebrities spotted at the gala included author Salman Rushdie, filmmaker Mira Nair, author and actress Madhur Jaffrey, India’s Consul General in New York Riva Ganguly Das, and author Suketu Mehta.
The 7-day festival highlighted various cinemas of India’s different regions, all subtitled in English. Among the languages this year were Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, Telugu, Assamese, Haryanvi and Urdu.
“Each of these language films have been gems,” Shivdasani said. “And another thing different in this year’s festival is we’ve never had so many panels before,” Shivdasani noted. Panels where representatives of each of the language films discussed their experiences; an LGBT panel, a new directors panel, among others.
The festival also featured the National Film Development Corporation of India-restored first films of filmmakers, and a three-generations sidebar, films of Bimal Roy, Basu Bhattacharya and Aditya Bhattacharya. Two National Award winners, Famous in Ahmedabad and Daarvatha, were among the 40 or so shorts being screened. The lineup also included 2016 National Award winners, A Far Afternoon, Birds With Large Wings, and The River of Fables, an Assamese language feature film.
The dance troupe, Manhattan Andaaz performed. The master of ceremonies was Sree Srinivasan, chief digital officer of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Aroon Shivdasani, executive and artistic director of the Indo-American Arts Council, which puts the show together, welcomed the guests.
Nair, who is “Face of the Festival” according to Shivdasani, spoke about the growing influence of the festival and dwelt on her new film about Uganda, her second home.
The film, Nachom-ia-Kumpasar (Let’s Dance to the Rhythm) was screened, followed by a discussion with director Bardroy Baretto, producer Angelo Braganza, and actress Palomi Ghosh, moderated by NYIFF Director Aseem Chhabra. The Konkani feature film is a tribute to Goan music and musicians of the 1960s and 1970s, narrated through the emotional rollercoaster of a love story, telling the nostalgic tale of musicians who lived and died unrecognized, unappreciated and unsung.
A high-priced ticket gala benefit dinner attended by some 250 invitees rubbing shoulders with filmmakers and celebrities, concluded the evening. Ghosh, the lead character in the Konkani film, upon request, sang a few songs impromptu at the gala, bringing people to their feet to dance.
Among diaspora films was Good Ol’ Boy, a feel-good, coming-of-age story of Smith, a 10-year old growing up in small-town America in 1979, featuring some well-known actors in Samrat Chakrabarti (Midnight’s Children, The Waiting City) and Poorna Jagannathan (Delhi Belly, Nirbhaya).
Soumitra Chatterjee Bengali starrer, Peace Haven, is the story of three septuagenarian friends who embark on a journey to build their very own mortuary. Multiple award winner and fresh from the international film festival circuit, Parched, is about four ordinary women in rural Gujarat who talk unapologetically about men, sex and life as they struggle with their individual boundaries.
The highlight was the world premiere of Kagaz Ki Kashti (Paperboat), which tracks the life of a down-to-earth, small-town boy, who made it big in the Ghazal world breaking through the norms and mixing western instrumentation. to make this classical genre simple and hummable.
Filmmaker Hansal Mehta’s “Aligarh” was chosen as the closing film of the 16th annual New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF). The festival, which concluded on Saturday, screens feature, documentary and short films made from, of, and about the Indian subcontinent in the independent, art-house, alternate and diaspora genres every year.
“Aligarh” is based on the real life incident of Srinivas Ramchandra Siras, an academician at the Aligarh Muslim University who was suspended from his job because of his sexual orientation. The film stars Manoj Bajpayee and Rajkummar Rao.
Before attending the fest, Rajkummar took to Twitter on Saturday night and wrote: “Going to one of my favourite cities in the world. New York. ‘Aligarh’ has been chosen as the closing film of the prestigious New York Indian film festival.” Mehta was excited that the American city would witness their “labour of love”. “Aligarh” has been lauded at many film festivals, including Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, where it received a special mention.
The New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF) is the oldest, most prestigious film festival screening premieres of feature, documentary and short films made from, of, and about the Indian subcontinent in the Independent, arthouse, alternate and diaspora genres. Seven days of screenings, post-screening discussions, industry panels, award ceremony, special events, nightly networking parties, red carpet galas, media attention and packed audiences build an awareness of Indian cinema, entertain & educate North Americans about the real India, and add to the amazing cultural diversity of New York City. Please visit: the NYIFF website.