The 11th Annual New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF) which will take place from May 4 to May 8 in Manhattan, announced its complete line-up of 25 feature films.
The full line-up of features includes three previously announced films – Disney’s Do Dooni Chaar directed by Habib Faisal and starring Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh which makes its U.S. Premiere as the Opening Night selection of NYIFF, the U.S. Premiere of Rituparno Ghosh’s Nauka Dubi which is the Closing Night selection, and the New York Premiere of Aparna Sen’s Iti Mrinalini which will screen as the Centerpiece selection.
The complete list of feature films selected for the 11th Annual New York Indian Film Festival includes:
The Bengali Detective (Documentary), directed by Phil Cox. NY Premiere. Cast – Rajesh Ji, Minnie, Gaurav, Dibindu, Ramesh, Deepti. Co-produced with award-winning filmmaker Annie Sundberg from Break Thru Films, this originally styled documentary provides an entertaining yet poignant look at modern India. What happens when people lose trust in the authorities? In India – a new wave of private detective agencies are answering the call. Poisonings, adultery, fraud, bridal purity, and the occasional murder – such are the day-to-day investigations of Kolkata’s Bengali Detective – Rajesh Ji. The Bengali Detective follows the intrepid, dance-obsessed gumshoe and his motley band of helpers on unpredictable raids and corkscrew investigations, exposing the secrets, fears, and covert lives of today’s middle-class Indian society with a cheeky mix of fly-on-the-wall surveillance and Bangla-pop wiggle.
Bhopali (Documentary), directed by Max Carlson. NY Premiere. Cast – Noam Chomsky, Satinath Sarangi, Sanjay Verma, Rajan Sharma, Hazra Bee. In 1984 a Union Carbide factory gas leak contaminated and killed thousands in Bhopal, India. Their suffering continues today: a father battles to save his dying daughter; a school rehabilitates children with birth abnormalities; a 25-year-old whose 9 family members perished, copes with pain and death. Fueled by their suffering, the community fights against the American corporation responsible for the continued tragedy. BHOPALI is a feature documentary about the survivors of the world’s worst industrial disaster. Today, the suffering continues, prompting victims to fight for justice against Union Carbide, the American corporation responsible.
Daayen Ya Baayen, directed by Bela Negi. US Premiere. Cast – Deepak Dobriyal, Aditi Beri, Bharti Bhatt, Jeetendra Bisht. After an unsuccessful stint as an actor in Mumbai, Ramesh Majila returns to his small Himalayan village fresh with hope and the desire to make a new start. Seeing himself as the artistic voice of the village, he boasts of a proposal to start an Arts’ Academy in the village. However to his dismay his ostentatious city manner and quirky traits compounded with a penchant for catalyzing disaster reduce him to a joke amongst the villagers. Adding to his discomposure is a wife pestering him to go back to the city, a young son who is looking desperately for a role model in him and a nagging financial situation. In a dramatic turn of events, Ramesh shoots to heroic status overnight when a chance entry into a television contest wins him a luxury car. Now desired by women, envied and grudgingly admired by men, Ramesh becomes the focal point of the village, giving career advice, gracing functions, playing host to new found friends and relatives. But soon Ramesh finds that this new spot in the sun is treacherously tenuous. The car is completely incongruous in its surroundings and for Ramesh, who is trying to match his aspirations to it, the slide downhill begins again. When the car is stolen, he sets out on a bizarre journey to recover more than his prized possession, his lost dignity.
A Decent Arrangement, directed by Sarovar Banka. World Premiere. Cast – Shabana Azmi, Adam Laupus, Lethia Nall, Diksha Basu. ‘A Decent Arrangement’ is the story of Ashok Khosla, an Indian-American copywriter, who journeys to India seeking an arranged marriage. After he encounters an American woman traveling through India and is set up with an Indian woman who unexpectedly captivates him, Ashok must navigate the complexity of cultural traditions and the leanings of his own heart. With subtle comedy and true-to-life drama, ‘A Decent Arrangement’ shows us a side of India not commonly seen by western audiences and delivers an affecting story that resonates with those of us in search of our place in a changing world.
Do Dooni Chaar, directed by Habib Faisal. US Premiere. Cast – Rishi Kapoor, Neetu Singh, Archit Krishna, Aditi Vasudev. Life is tough for Mr. Duggal who works at school as a Math teacher, lives in a government allocated two room apartment in Delhi and is coping with double digit inflation rates and single digit increments in his salary. Add to that, a teenage daughter with high living ambitions, a fast-track son and a wife who loves the good life. The life in the Duggals household passes by in care of the basics and surviving from month to month. Until one day, they decide to dream to own a car and move up in life from a two–wheeler to a four-wheeler. A dream that’s not easy by any stretch of imagination for the single income family. Mr. Duggal however, has made up his mind – and his male ego will not let him change his promise to his family. What follows is a comic journey of chaos, realizations, calculations, confrontations and bonding. Join the journey that will drive them, and you, pretty much nuts.
Geeta in Paradise, directed by Benny Mathews. NY Premiere. Cast – Parul Bhatia, Purab Kohli, Ishaan Akhtar and Zeenat Aman. A wild melange of plots and styles, ‘Geeta In Paradise’ simply cannot help but be a brazen new take on some very familiar themes. A mix of ‘Misery’ and ‘King Of Comedy’ with a degree of ‘Muriel’s Wedding’ thrown in, writer-director Benny Mathews takes what are, ultimately, some very dark and disturbing subjects, splashes color, graphics and musical/music video stylizations all over the place to somehow lighten the mood, make it goofy and serious at the same time — not that you would know how serious until digesting the film later. Geeta, well played by Parul Bhatia in an oddly nuanced performance that effectively captures the characters inner turmoil as well her mania, is a bored, stagnant housewife whose fantasy life begins to encroach on her real life when she seizes upon an opportunity to kidnap a renegade popular filmmaker who has just fled the set of his current film. Geeta sees her unnatural association with him as the way to make her dreams come true but the actions only serve to make her nightmares come closer to reality. Beneath its glossy, goofy surface imagery Geeta In Paradise’ is a complicated, film that is satisfyingly deceptively rich in subtext.
Harud (Autum), directed by Aamir Bashir. NY Premiere. Cast – Reza Naji , Shanawaz Bhat, Shamim Basharat, Salma Ashai. Rafiq and his family are struggling to come to terms with the loss of his older brother Tauqir, a tourist photographer, who is one of the thousands of young men who have disappeared, since the onset of the militant insurgency in Kashmir. After an unsuccessful attempt to cross the border into Pakistan, to become a militant, Rafiq returns home to an aimless existence. Until one day when he accidentally finds his brother’s old camera.
Holy Kitchens – Karma to Nirvana (Documentary), directed by Vikas Khanna. NY Premiere. The Holy Kitchens film series is an attempt to tie together the meaning of food in religion with the real world experience of sharing food in a spiritual context. At any given time somewhere on Earth, people are gathering to share food in the name of God. This is spiritual sustenance, meant to bring us closer together and closer to the Creator. It brings the community together into a sense of shared identity and purpose. This is the story of the Holy Kitchens.
Iti Mrinalini, directed by Aparna Sen. NY Premiere. Cast – Konkona Sen Sharma, Aparna Sen, Priyanshu Chatterjee, Rajat Kapoor, Koushik Sen. Mrinalini, an ageing actress, writes a suicide note. As a performer, the first lesson she had learnt was timing – the perfect moment for making an entrance or an exit from stage. On the stage of life, her entrance had been outside her control; but at least she wants to choose the moment of her exit. However, before taking the pills, she decides to destroy all her memorabilia – letters, photographs, newspaper cuttings, knick-knacks pertaining to the past – lest they fall into the hands of the press. She has been a victim of media attention all her life and wishes to be spared that at her death. As she looks through the old box that contains relics from her past, memories flood the night. Incidents that she had forgotten or had relinquished to the furthest corners of her mind now return to haunt her and, through these memories, an entire life is revealed – a life of loves lost and gained, friendships and betrayals, successes and failures, accidents and awards, agonies and ecstasies.
The Legend of Rama, directed by Chetan Desai. US Premiere. Cast – Voices of Manoj Bajpai and Juhi Chawla. Rama, the handsome prince of Ayodhya, is in exile with the beautiful Sita and his valiant brother Laxman. One day Sita is kidnapped by the mighty Ravana, the demon king. Rama and Laxman begin their search for Sita with the help of the monkey-god Hanuman. The Ramayana, the most beloved of all Indian stories, gets its first 3D computer animation retelling in this production from producer Ketan Mehta.
Made In India (Documentary), directed by Rebecca Haimowitz & Vaishali Sinha. NY Premiere. ‘Made in India’ shows the physical, moral, and emotional risks that middle-class Westerners and poor Indian women take when they sign a surrogacy contract. Lisa and Brian Switzer of San Antonio are an infertile American couple who have exhausted all other expensive and painful options of getting pregnant. Still, Lisa is determined not to give up on her dream of having children. After considerable soul-searching, the Switzers contact a California-based reproductive outsourcing business. Meanwhile in Mumbai we meet Aalia, the cheerful young mother of three who is contracted to carry the Switzers’ baby for a price. The film’s two directors, American Rebecca Haimowitz and Indian Vaishali Sinha, go beyond sensationalist headlines to explore global issues of reproductive rights and social justice. Weaving together the Switzers’ and Aalia’s stories with interviews involving fertility experts and hospital administrators, they depict decisions made by families in crisis who look toward reproductive technology as a panacea. As might be expected when such divergent cultures converge, there are unforeseen complications.
Meherjaan, directed by Robaiyat Hossain. US Premiere. Cast – Jaya Bhaduri, Victor Banerjee, Omar Rahim, Humayun Faridi. During the war in 1971, Meher falls in love with a soldier from the enemy side. When her love is discovered, she is shamed and silenced by her family and society. Today 38 years after the war, Meher has a visitor she cannot turn down. Sarah—a ‘war-child,’ Meher’s cousin Neela’s daughter, who was given away for adoption has come back to piece together her past. Together, these two women must re-tell history through their stories in order to cut through the stigmas and walk into light. Meherjaan is a film about loving the Other. Meherjaan gives away with the unitary masculine narrative in order to usher in emotional multiplicity of feminine emotion and sensibility. This film critiques certain pitfalls of nationalism that create conditions to justify war, killing and violence. Finally, Meherjaan attempts to offer an aesthetic solution to war and violence by taking refuge in love and spiritual submission.
Metropolis@Kolkata, directed by Suman Mukhopadhyay. US Premiere. Cast – Arun Mukhopadhyay, Anjan Dutt, Biplab Chatterjee, Rituparna Sengupta, Chandan Roy Sanyal, Sreelekha Mitra, Kabir Suma. Megacity Kolkata hides many worlds inside it. This film explores several facets of life in the city, through three intertwining stories, documenting the loves, fears, joys, sorrows, insecurities, and confidences of people who, despite vast differences, seem to merge in one great long flow of humanity. Manmatha belongs to the upper echelons of the new, burgeoning middle class. He is spending an entire night at the emergency ward of a state hospital. It is in the hospital that Manmatha meets Jagadish, a lower middle class man, whose son, a soccer goalkeeper, is fighting a deadly stomach injury. Manmatha is completely baffled by Jagadish’s unruffled, serene attitude. A violent street gang conflict near the hospital prompts Manmatha and Jagadish to retreat to Manmatha’s car, where they see the outside world. Biren is jobless and lives in the borders of the city. Bombs are exploded and bullets fired near a construction site in the neighborhood when there is gang dispute over extortions. Biren begins to ask all and sundry: “I have nothing to fear. Do I?” He gets the same answer: “What do you have to fear?” And yet Biren cannot get over his fear. An unknown terror grips him. But, unfortunately, Biren’s worst fears come true. In the tumult of the city, it is impossible to discern when and from what source a bullet might arrive and pick a head from the crowd. Rohit and Rongili are currently separated. Rohit is a US-returned MBA who works for a multinational and makes loads of money. It was a dazzlingly packaged life that was empty at the core. But something strange happened to Rohit on the day of the lunar eclipse.
Nauka Dubi, directed by Rituparno Ghosh. US Premiere. Cast – Raima Sen, Riya Sen, Jishu Sengupta, Priyanshu Chatterjee. ‘Nauka Dubi’ is based on the novel ‘The Wreck’ written by Rabindranath Tagore. Ramesh is in love with Hemnalini, but he agrees to marry another woman on the suggestion of his parents. But he have never met or seen his bride to be. During the marriage ceremony, the village gets flooded with water from the nearby river and it is believed that the bride and Ramesh’s father are drowned. Later Ramesh meets a girl Kamala, a widow who lost her husband immediately after her marriage. Ramesh eventually marries Hemnalini, but then realizes that Kamala’s husband is not dead.
Raakh Redux, directed by Aditya Bhattacharya. NY Premiere. Cast – Aamir Khan, Supriya Pathak, Pankaj Kapur, Jagdeep, Master Ahmed Khan, Naina Balsaver. One night in an unnamed Indian city, young Aamir Hussein is forced to watch in impotent frustration as his girlfriend Neeta is brutally gang-raped in an assault led by the scion of the Karmali mafia family. Aamir’s inability to do anything about the crime sees him leave home and sink into the city’s underbelly where he encounters the flotsam and jetsam of the decaying metropolis, chief amongst who is taciturn ex-cop P.K., who, having his own axe to grind against the Karmali clan, helps the boy Aamir become a man and exact revenge. Writer/Director Aditya Bhattacharya’s dystopian vision of modern India made Raakh an instant cult classic when released in 1989 and immediately became a benchmark film for gangster noir from which celebrated directors like Sudhir Mishra, Ram Gopal Varma and Vinod Chopra drew inspiration. The film was one of Bollywood multi-hyphenate Aamir Khan’s first starring roles and won for him a Filmfare award Best Actor nomination and a jury mention at the Indian National Awards. Pankaj Kapur won the National Award for Best Supporting Actor. The film also marked the debut of Sreekar Prasad, who won the National Award for Best Editing and ace cinematographer Santosh Sivan. The New York Indian Film Festival will be the first to see Raakh in a spanking digital copy, specially re-mastered at Reliance Media Works and struck to coincide with this 22th anniversary.
Semshook, directed By Siddhartha Anand Kumar. NY Premiere. Cast – Tenzin Youden, Tenzin Choeden. One man’s search for truth on a journey across the Himalayas. Tenzin is a Tibetan born and raised in India. Yearning to explore his true homeland, he impulsively hops on his motorcycle and embarks on a personal quest: to find his identity and discover the indescribable beauty and wonders of his magnificent homeland. But Tibet is a nation under siege from a repressive regime. While Tenzin encounters friendship, camaraderie and even love along the way, he cannot escape the horrors of a political world he wants no part of. Looking only for the way to peace, both within himself and for the land he loves, Tenzin must find the courage to pursue the truth even if it means facing terrible dangers, to find his Semshook.
Shala, directed by Sujay Dahake. World Premiere. Cast – Anshuman Joshi, Ketaki Mategaonkar, Ashwini Giri, Nandu Madhav, Snehal Ghayal. In turbulent India of the Emergency in the 1970’s, four friends on the threshold of their teenage years in a little Indian school, gather in their beloved adda to deliberate the everyday’s of school and life. Little do they know that by the end of this academic year, their lives will take a turn as they never expected it to. ‘Shala’ (School) is every person’s story. It is for every person who has been to school, and loved and lost his love. It is a story of love, of circumstance, of passion, friendship and freedom.
Shorts From Whistling Woods International Film School, directed by Rahul Prakash, Sonika Mody, Rohit Tiwari, Monalisa Banerji, Preeti Aneja, and Arati Kadav. US Premiere. A program of six award-winning shorts by the students of India’s premium film school – Whistling Woods International Film School – started by one of Bollywood’s leading directors and producers Subhash Ghai. The short films from India’s next generation of filmmakers includes Incerto, Flip, Punha, Daily Soap, Kalapaani, and Uss Paar.
Sound Of Heaven: The Story of Bal Gandharva, directed by Ravi Jadhav. World Premiere. Cast – Subodh Bhave, Vibhavari Deshpande, Kishor Kadam, Avinash Narkar, Abhijit Kelkar. Sound of Heaven: The Story of Bal Gandharva is a richly mounted, Indian musical, period film on the incredible actor-singer-female impersonator Bal Gandharva (1888-1967), set in the early years of Indian theatre. The film has historic resonances and gives remarkable insights into how today’s Indian cinema and Bollywood musicals derived their song routines, lavish spectacles and melodrama from Indian musical theatre and epics—entirely independent of Hollywood. It is an inspiring portrait of Bal Gandharva, a cross-dressing, singing icon of the sangeet natak (musical theatre) tradition. Women were not allowed to perform onstage then, and Bal Gandharva’s singing and female impersonations in beautiful saris, jewellery and mannerisms were all the rage, and his songs are sung in India even today. Born Narayan Shripad Rajhans, he was given the title ‘Bal Gandharva’ (‘Little Singer from Heaven’). Bal Gandharva led a tumultuous life that saw India’s struggle for independence from the British, his affair with a Muslim singer (he was Hindu) and fluctuating patronage from the maharajahs. Inevitably, as cinema became popular, women who played women’s roles edged him out of the business: onstage, he was little use as a man! He grew increasingly spiritual and believed, like Shakespeare, that all the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players—that life itself was one more role to play with verve.
Sthaniya Sambaad (Spring in the Colony), directed by Arjun Gourisaria & Monaik Biswas. US Premiere. Cast – Anirban Dutta, Suman Mukhopadhyay. Situated on the southern fringes of Calcutta, the bustling, sunny Deshbandhu colony, a settlement of refugees from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), has a lot going on. In the evening market, two thieves swoop on Ananya’s long plait and chop it away. Atin, the dreamy poet and Ananya’s secret admirer, is worried as he does not find her the next day. He seems oblivious of the fact that his home is facing demolition. The two poachers of Ananya’s plait want to sell it to raise money for a computer course. They are desperate to pursue higher education – by any means. Five boys on a roadside perch make desultory observations on the goings on. Two old men, original immigrants, sit at the local grocery philosophizing on commodities, life and desire. As Atin, along with his only friend Dipankar, sets out in search of Ananya, the story travels from the colony of the day to the neon districts of the night, and then to the ghostly New Town under construction, tracing out the map of a city through realism and delirium. Somewhere along the path, Dipankar tells Atin about Ananya’s family buying an apartment in the new building that is about to raze their colony tenements to the ground.
T. D. Dasan Std. VI B, directed by Mohan Raghavan. US Premiere. Cast – Biju Menon, Jagadish, Swetha Menon, Jagathy Sreekumar, Suresh Krishna. T D Dasan (Master Alexander) is a young boy who lives with his mother. His father had left them a few years back. Dasan gets his dad’s address from his mother’s old trunk box and writes him a letter. Dasan’s father had moved out of that address and the letter reaches the current resident Nandakumar Poduval (Biju Menon), an ad film maker who lives with his thirteen year old daughter Ammu (Tina Rose) in Bangalore. Nandan requests Ammu’s caretaker Madhavan (Jagadish) to find out the whereabouts of the person and deliver the letter to him. But Madhavan is not that enthusiastic and the letter ends up in the waste bin. Ammu sees this and feels bad about it. She starts writing replies to Dasan, as if they were written to him by his dad. The young boy is excited at the thought of having found his dad, and shares all his feelings and needs with his dad. Ammu promptly replies with pens and other gifts Dasan asked his father.
10ml love, directed by Sharat Katariya. World Premiere. Cast – Rajat Kapoor, Tisca Chopra, Purab Kohli, Tara Sharma, Koel Purie, Neel Bhoopalam, Manu Rishi. One wedding, three couples, a whole lot of love, lust and desire make for a heady mix, but add to that a dash of magic potion and an enthralling rendition of the Ramlila and you have a revelation on your hands! Mini loves Neel who loves Shweta who loves Peter. Enter the quintessential druid-Ghalib with a concoction that promises to solve all their problems. But what happens when Ghalib’s secret potion falls in to the wrong hands… Set against the backdrop of your everyday world, ‘10ml love’ – a contemporary adaptation of William Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ is a light hearted romantic comedy concerning the tribulations of a love quadrangle during a night of madness. Their various emotional, intellectual and sexual entanglements are brought to the surface by Ghalib’s misguided meddling! ’10ml love’ attempts to put forth some honest and sincere expressions of love, dreams, and the stuff of both.
The Way Home (Veettilekulla Vazhi), directed by Dr Biju Kumar. US Premiere. Cast – Prithviraj, Indrajith, Govardhan. The plot for ‘The Way Home’ revolves around a doctor with a haunting past. He witnessed his wife and five year old son die in an explosion at a market in Delhi. Now working at a Prison Hospital, the Doctor is assigned the case of a woman in critical condition, a surviving member from a suicide squad of the Indian Jihadi the notorious terrorist group. Despite the doctor’s best efforts, the woman dies. But before dying she entrusts him to find her five-year-old son and unite him with his father. The father is revealed to be Abdul Zuban Tariq, head of the terrorist group. Finding the boy in Kerala, the Doctor and child set out on a journey to find his father. The journey is happening through the contemporary and mysterious path of the terrorist network in the vast country through various Indian states and with many unexpected incidents. ‘The Way Home’ is a film about survival, innocence and humanity, exploring a bloodstained facet of contemporary terrorism in India. The film is a travelogue through the most beautiful landscapes of India.
Yeh Saali Zindagi, directed by Sudhir Mishra. US Premiere. Cast – Irrfan Khan, Arunoday Singh, Chitrangda Singh, Aditi Rao, Saurabh Shukla, Sushant Singh, Yashpal Sharma, Prashant Narayanan. Arun (Irrfan Khan) has to save Priti (Chitrangda Singh) the woman he loves, but for that he first has to save the man Priti loves- Shyam, the future son in law of a powerful Minister. Meanwhile, time is running out for Kuldeep (Arunoday Singh), the young gangster who is on his last job as his wife is threatening to walk out on him completely, and he begins to suspect she is leaving him to go into the arms of another man. The job has gone haywire for it is still unknown to Kuldeep that the Ministers daughter’s engagement with Shyam is off and now she doesn’t care whether Shyam lives or dies and more importantly neither does the Minister who Kuldeep hoped would pay the ransom! Priti finds herself inextricably caught in this mess and Arun has to save her life. But for that he has to risk everything, and put his own life at stake, he wonders why he should do it at all, if she still loves another man. He’s torn, but love knows no reason. Meanwhile Shyam is trying to make deals in captivity, and his goodness only seems superficial and as Kuldeep tries desperately to save his situation, there are dons coming from Bangkok, who have their own plans.
You Don’t Belong (Documentary), directed by Spandan Banerjee. US Premiere. Cast – Arun Chakraborty. Paban Das is a baul singer living in France singing songs of wandering minstrels. Arun Chakraborty is a poet living a quietly content life in a hamlet of West Bengal. Bhoomi is a band from Kolkata, popular for their renditions of folk tunes. Prabuddha Banerjee is a musician with a history of protest music. Paraspathor is an erstwhile band left with memories of their popular songs and lost fame. Disparate characters who are bound together by a filmmaker’s search for the elusive author of a song, popular in collective memory as a traditional folk song. What follows is a long self-reflexive journey into the world of folk, a journey, which nudges established ideas of home, nostalgia, belonging, and authorship as the film explores deeper into the song that serves for a metaphor of the contemporary fragmented times. Travelling across remembered lands and forgotten histories following the unseen path of migration that music takes, You Don’t Belong asks some important questions about the encounter between art and mass production, creation and ownership in a country rich with myriad folk and oral traditions.