Tag Archives: Festival

500 Female-Led Movies to Be Showcased at 2021 Kalakari Film Festival

Throughout the most recent years, discussions about equality have pervaded the Indian film industry. The Kalakari Film Festival is taking steps towards getting female talent recognized, particularly if they’re behind the camera. For as long as there have been movies, there have been women making them.

The 2021-22 edition of the international Kalakari Film Festival by Rishi Nikam will promote movies by 500+ women filmmakers at this year’s festival. These movies will be in English, Hindi, Marathi, and other regional Indian languages.

Kalakari Film Fest Winner – Angelena Bonet

Art is a medium through which we can pass on significant messages. Kalakari Film Fest is a stage that gives this extraordinary chance to all artists, especially women filmmakers and female films. All members will get an opportunity to feature their work of art at events around the world. 
Rishi Nikam, Founder of the Kalakari Film Fest said, “The primary target of this occasion is to give a stage to the women filmmakers of India who don’t have a medium to show their ability and workmanship.” 


Priya Yadav believes there is a treasure trove of films waiting to be discovered. She likes to keep her finger on the pulse of the growing independent cinema movement.


 

Over 25 Culturally Distinct Artists Perform in the Upcoming Mosaic Silicon Valley Festival

The Mosaic Festival in Silicon Valley announced a packed lineup of artists and performers representing culturally-distinct communities within and around San Jose and Silicon Valley for its inaugural event on October 2, 2021, at the Mexican Heritage Plaza, 1700 Alum rock Avenue, San Jose from Noon to 6 PM. The festival, presented by Mosaic America and the School of Arts & Culture, brings over 50 partners from culture-bearers to tech giants, with a mission to create more belonging through art.

The festival presents performances by Bloco Do Sol San Jose, Buu Kim Tu Lion Dancing, Calpulli Tonalehqueh Aztec Dancers, The Confederation of Ohlone Peoples, Danny Thien Le, Dunsmuir Scottish Dancers, Ensamble Folclórico Colibrí, International Performing Arts of America 神彩藝術團, LaToya Fernandez, Mary Jessie Celestin, New Ballet, New Ground Theatre Dance Company, Opera Cultura, Opera San Jose, Parangal Dance Company, Playboyz, Inc., Ramana Vieira, Ray Furuta, San Jose Jazz, San Jose Taiko, Simorgh Dance Collective, Tabia African American Theatre Ensemble, Blood Moon Orchestra, Xpressions and more!

“Our goal was to make sure that every person who comes to the festival sees their culture and community represented, seeding a sense of Belonging,” says Priya Das, Co-founder and Vice President of Programming for Mosaic America. “We are honored to present master artists who connect history, identity, and culture to Place. All of us, together, will reinforce the mosaic of Silicon Valley.”

The free event will also feature workshops, a visual art exhibit, and food trucks. Visit www.MosaicAmerica.org/Festival for more details and register for a chance to win raffle prizes.


Mosaic America is a nonprofit organization that strengthens communities, cultivates belonging, and catalyzes inclusion through inter-cultural and co-created art. Our team of artists uses inspiration from their cultures and art forms to collaborate on unique performances and expressions that highlight the common threads of our shared American story.


 

Parampara Festival: And the Flow Continues

A celebration of legacies – a festival of bhava, rasa, tala, laya – was recently hosted virtually by Sangeet Natak Akademi award recipient Srimati Aloka Kanungo and Eastern Zonal Cultural Center (EZCC), and powered by Kadambini, the popular Oriya magazine.

Parampara unfolded over twelve days like twelve gemstones, each day shining with the lustrous hues of established and promising Indian classical dancers from India and abroad. Guru Aloka Kanungo successfully visualized and conceptualized the festival with five days dedicated to the celebration of Odissi, and seven days of other classical dances such as Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Manipuri, Sattriya, Kathak, Mohiniyattam, Kathakali, and Gaudiya Nritya. Each episode was introduced by Baishali Bhuniya. The festival featured EZCC director Gouri Basu, diplomat and dancer Rajashree Chintak Behera, Media personality Sadhna Srivastav, and Dr. Sangita Gosain

The first five days presented a very commendable range of artists of Odissi, from scholars, researchers, to dancers and choreographers from various parts of the globe such as Rohini Dandavate (USA), Supradipta Dutta (USA), Kaustavi Sarkar (USA), Niharika Mohanty (USA), Rajashree Chintak (China), Supriya Nayak (Canada), Maya Devalecheruvu (USA), Maya Lochana, Pompi Mukherjee. Interesting ideas and discussions came up in the Nritya Kovid chapter where senior dancers and researchers, namely Dr. Snehaprava Samantaray, Daksha Mashruwala, Dr. Rohini Dandavate, and Niharika Mohanty, presented their choreographic or research-based works through slides and video snippets. 

Day one of Parampara started with Odissi on June 17th. There was a galaxy of promising dancers of Odissi from all over India who presented their craft quite gracefully. Rudraprasad Swain, Debashis Pattnaik, Arushi Mudgal, Panchanan Bhuniya, Paulami Chakraborty, Rudra Prasad Swain, and Saurav Samanta were among the Odissi dancers in the Parampara series who showed considerable promise. 

The sixth day celebrated Kathak and presented dances by various promising Kathak dancers of the current time namely Indrayanee Mukherjee, Shinjini Kulkarni, Sandip Mallick, Souvik Chakraborty, Paramita Moitra, and Vishal Krishna. Souvik’s elegant presentation of dhamar, Indrayanee’s nuanced ashtapadi and crisp pancham sawari deserve mention. Srimati Uma Dogra’s scintillating choreographic essence was visible clearly in Indrayanee’s presentation. Shinjini was elegant as ever in her poise and dexterity with a dignified presentation of abhinaya. Finally, Sandip’s subtle but chiseled movements left the audience asking for more. 

The seventh episode highlighted Bharatanatyam by dancers from India, and USA. The artists were Sharanya Chandran, Shweta Prachande, Anuradha Vikranth, Himanshu Srivastava, Samrat Dutta, Uttiya Barua, and Piyali Biswas. Technical precision in form and appropriate usage of bhava and rasa in the presentations of Shweta, Himanshu, Sharanya, and Anuradha was mindboggling. Piyali chose an unusual and challenging locale to show the mayura alarippu. Samrat’s dhumavati , and Himanshu’s kaalbhairav stood out for the sheer power of concept, choreography, and execution. 

The eighth segment showcased Manipuri and Sattriya. S. Karuna Devi, Paushaly Chatterjee, Sinam Basu Singh, and Sudip Ghosh presented Manipuri, while Anwesha Mahanta, Naren Baruah, And Seujpriya Borothakur presented beautiful Sattriya dances. 

On day nine, the audience witnessed Kuchipudi and Gaudiya Nritya. Srimayi Vempati, Minu Thakur, Prateeksha Kashi, Gururaju presented scintillating Kuchipudi, while Kaberi Putatunda and Ayan Mukherjee showcased traditional Gaudiya Nritya. Prateeksha kashi and Gururaju were breathtakingly sharp in their performances. 

The tenth saw the two most prominent classical dance forms of Kerala – Kathakali and Mohiniyattam. Priyadarshini Ghosh, Mom Ganguly, Smitha Ranjan, Methil Devika presented Mohiniyattam with utmost precision and nuanced expressions, While Diptangshu Paul and Ramyani Roy brought out the elements of Kathakali nicely in their presentations. Methil Devika’s sarpatatwam took the rasika to an experience of mysticism and Priyadarshini’s lasya aspect was presented beautifully. 

The pandemic has closed some doors but opened many windows into the world of art and culture. The entire event showed how the virtual windows can be used successfully to showcase the brilliance of classical art and rising artists of the various dance forms. Hope this enterprising festival reaches its goal of including more artists and audiences from around the world. 

Hats off to Aloka Kanungo and EZCC for this great enterprising event. Looking forward to more such events in the future.


Nandini Mandal is a Bharatanatyam dancer, teacher, choreographer, Founder & Artistic Director of Nandanik Dance Academy in Pittsburgh, PA. She is the host of the Facebook talkshow, Shetubondhon, and a social activist, cancer survivor, and freelance writer.


 

Of Sesame and Jaggery, A Friendly Tilgool

Arriving in a new country can burden a person with a new set of expectations. The burden of assimilating in a new culture, while maintaining old traditions comes to mind. As I began this acculturation while raising my family, I found myself trying to balance – fostering our age-old cultural traditions while shielding my children from cultural conflict. That forced me to reflect on the purpose of traditions that we blindly follow, and the different socio-political context where we now practice them. I wanted to pay attention to the pride that we felt in celebrating our beloved festivals in this foreign land. It can be hard to recreate the atmosphere, sights, and smells associated with a festival when the neighboring community does not partake in the tradition. We had to sparingly choose meaningful traditions without compromising fun.

We routinely celebrated Diwali and Ganesh Chaturthi at home, to which we added the festival of Makar Sankranti. This special holiday marks the transition of the Sun into Capricorn (Makar) on its celestial path. It generally falls on January 14th each year and was celebrated at my parents’ home with gusto. The nuances of how it is celebrated dates back hundreds of years, when farmers exchanged their crops with neighbors in the spirit of sharing and committing to friendship.

Kalpana’s grandchildren celebrating Makar Sankranti

In the Indian state of Maharashtra, sugarcane, garbanzo beans, carrots, and other crops are harvested in the winter months. Jaggery made from sugarcane is used abundantly in a variety of treats. During my childhood, on the day of Makar Sankranti, I remember filling small clay pots with a piece of sugarcane, a carrot, a few unshelled garbanzo beans, and a sweet ball-shaped ladoo made with sesame seeds and jaggery. I would then visit my friends in the neighborhood to trade these pots with them while saying, “Tilgool ghya ani goad bola,” (‘Accept these sweets and utter sweet words.’) The underlying thought is to forgive and forget the past ill-feelings, resolve conflicts, speak sweetly and remain friends. At that time, it just seemed like a good past time, but as I reflect on it, I think it is a very sweet tradition that reminds us to look beyond trivial quarrels and continue to build those bonds of friendship.

Replicating this tradition in the US presented multiple challenges, so I adopted another tradition, one I grew up with, of inviting female friends to a Haldi-kumkum (turmeric and vermillion) gathering. It was much like a high tea party. Along with tea and snacks, each woman received haldi-kumkum, a flower, tilgool ladoo, a sugar crystal candy made with sesame seed, and a gift. This gift was referred to as “a loot”. Traditionally, back home, the loot would be bangles, combs, bindis, or kitchen tools. In the US, the loot would be kitchen towels, a set of bowls, or similar items, but always included sharing the special significance of tilgool with my friends. My daughter and I enjoyed this gathering year after year.

In Gujarat where I grew up, the local Gujarati community’s tradition is to fly kites on Sankranti. To prepare for this day, children and adults would strengthen their kite’s strings with home-made starch to participate in a “Kite War”! A strong string can defend their own kite while attacking someone else’s as kites soar and glide in the sky from every direction. Early morning, families would gather on terraces, streets, and parks to launch their kites. The skies dotted with kites, the jubilant, full-throated repetitive roar of “eh kattaaaa” (cut!), would echo throughout the neighborhood. As this innocent, triumphant cry echoed all around, kids looking for free-falling kites would dash madly to grab them. Nothing could stop them from invading other people’s homes, gardens, and trees to get their freebies. Even today I remember this day with nostalgia and long to return to my childhood.

My choice to celebrate Makar Sankranti stems from the fact that humans have a natural tendency to belong, to share, to bond with others. The need was there when farmers shared their crops with each other nurturing solidarity; that demand is even stronger today, with our country bitterly divided from the lack of understanding of different cultures creating fault lines within our humanity. When these faults are under stress, seismic waves of doubts and clashes within communities produce fear and animosity. Sankranti can relieve that stress to a degree.

Pondering over my haldi-kumkum gatherings, I wish I had expanded my guest list to include non-Indian friends to share our culture, customs, and traditions. I would have done my small part to find common ground between cultures, and nurture unity among humans. We could belong to a world living under one sky traveling without boundaries, stealing each other’s kites while cheering the loot shared and received. It is not difficult to imagine the change a friendly tilgool can make.

There is a saying in my mother tongue Marathi:  If you have just one sesame seed, share it with seven others. It’s the characteristic of the sesame seed to create warmth in one’s body when consumed. On this upcoming Makar Sankranti, let’s share tilgool, and extend a warm hand of friendship.


Kalpana Gokhale is a retired Cupertino Union School District teacher. She enjoys being a grandmother to her four grandchildren, cooking their favorite foods, playing with them, while she continues to read and write for her personal growth.

SFIFF: An Asian Film Feast

A notable cultural event of the SF Bay Area, the 22nd San Francisco Independent Film Festival features poignant and evocative content. From clever gangster dramas to social dystopias to dark comedies, the myriad of Asian films presented at this event provide a stirring yet raw glimpse into the Asian identity.

The festival takes place from January 29th to February 13th at the Roxie Theater and Victoria Theater in San Francisco. The content presented is refreshing and diverse. San Francisco audiences will have the  awesome opportunity to view new independent films and digital programs from around the world, including India, China, and Japan. This year’s festival has 57 shorts and 47 features from 21 countries. Complete program information can be found at  www.sfindie.com

Regular tickets are $15 and Opening Night tickets are $25 (21up). The FestPass, good for all screenings and parties at the Festival, is $250. Advance tickets are available now at sfindie.com and at 415.552.5580. 

South Asian Literature & Art Festival: Oct 6-13

Montalvo Arts Center and Art Forum in collaboration with UC Berkeley Institute of South Asian Studies will debut a multi-disciplinary event in October 2019, as one of the largest South Asian Literary & Art Festival (SALA) in the US. 

South Asian Literature and Art Festival is one of the most contemporary reflections of the Literature & Arts from the sub-continent in the US and promises to transform the sylvan Montalvo grounds into a Megalopolis. 

Come and spend the day at Montalvo in Saratoga, California, the artist’s refuge, the artist’s atelier and the writer’s studio! And enter the South Asian Wonderland that revels in telling the stories that may find their roots on the banks of the 4000-year-old Indus River but are narrated in the twenty first century. Art that is taking the old soul of the subcontinent and is emerging with defiance, contemplation, and dignity in the modern times. 

The Montalvo grounds will create a fair-like atmosphere with bookstores and publisher, book-reading, children’s hands on craft activities, writing programs, food stalls, and art related exhibitors, there will be something for everyone and people of all ages. 

The festival will feature highly acclaimed contemporary Indian Art collection and this exhibit will be co-exist along with panel discussions that include Art, Literature, Poetry and Cinema. Plus, local, national and international authors and artists to speak in keynotes, on-panels, and on-stage presentations. 

The Art Walk at Montalvo will feature established artists from its diaspora: 

  • Rekha Roddwittiya, a contemporary and eminent artist whose name is synonymous with a very restrained, yet resounding gaze at feminism 
  • Priyanka Mathew from Sunderlande presents the exhibition Revelations: The Evolution of Modern and Contemporary Indian Art, featuring iconic works by Jamini Roy, Sanjay Bhattacharya, Krishen Khanna, Anjolie Ela Menon, Shobha Broota, G. R. Iranna, and more. Exhibition is opens from Oct 6th to 13th
  • Dipti Mathur renown art collector and a philanthropist from South Bay in conversation with Prof Sugata Ray from UC Berkeley 
  • Elaborate encounter Deepti Naval, a legendary actor, painter and a poet, in conversation with Prof Harsha Ram from UC Berkeley 
  • Revisiting Gandhi artist Shelly Jyoti unfurls her yards of hand spun cloth 

Writers Row at Montalvo will feature established writers from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the USA: 

  • Vikram Chandra, Nayomi Munaweera, Minal Hajratwala and Shanthi Sekaran – established authors from the diaspora 
  • Vikramaditya Motwane – Director, Netflix original Sacred Game
  • Varun Grover – Scriptwriter, Netflix original Sacred Games 
  • Vikram Chandra – Author, Netflix original Sacred Games 
  • Raghu Karnad – fire side chat with journalist and the Yale Wyndham Campbell award recipient for Farthest Field in Montalvo 
  • Anurag Kashyap special event featuring highly acclaimed and award-winning director and scriptwriter is scheduled on October 18th
  • The emerging genre of “Children’s & Young Adult Writers” curated by KitaabWorld featuring the South Asian young adult writers, graphic novel writers and children’s Writers, is another festival high light. 

FESTIVAL CREDITS

The literature panels: Moazzam Sheikh

The Art Panels and Booths: Kiran Malhotra

The Content Coordination: Ambika Sahay, Mayuranki Almaula, Vikram Chandra

Presentation and Look: Dolly Parikh, Aloki Design Studio

Blog and Literary Creation: Vrushali Zulfikar

Media & Marketing: MUKTA Advertising, Canada 

Special event on Oct 18th at: Montalvo Art Center, 15400 Montalvo Road, Saratoga CA, From 12 noon to 5 pm 

Follow on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook @artforumsf #SALA2019 #artforumsf #SALAfestival www.artforumsf.org 

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Lovesick in San Jose

Check out this movie for yourself on Saturday Oct 20, 2018 in San Jose! Details here: https://indiacurrents.com/events/film-show-lovesick/

I watched Lovesick at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, which comes with the usual homey discord of diasporic film festivals. The people behind me were passing tupperware filled with aloo gobhi. The harangued IFFLA staff member was pleading people to lower their voices as he introduced the filmmakers. I was at once amused — as a film student, I’m usually surrounded by a much more reverential crowd — and admittedly irked — I would like to hear the filmmakers’ introductions and nobody passed me any aloo gobhi. Under the wafting smell of aloo gobhi, I feel at home and alien. It was under these classically clashing circumstances that I watched Lovesick, which also seemed to be trying to navigate pleasing two worlds and settling neither here nor there.

The directors of Lovesick, Ann S. Kim and Priya Giri Desai, were both working at PBS when they came across an article about Dr. Suniti Solomon, the first person to find HIV in India. In the film, we learn that Dr. Solomon is more aptly described as the first person to even look for HIV in India, which she found widespread in sex workers. She then left what she described as “her prestigious academic job” to found a clinic for people with HIV.

Here’s where it begins to get wacky. Through founding the clinic, Dr. Solomon somewhat organically created a matchmaking service to help HIV positive people find partners, a practice which the directors claim is now common in Indian HIV clinics. Ann and Priya decided Dr. Solomon’s story was too big for a throwaway article, and through a mutual connection decided to meet her in person. Eight years later, they birthed Lovesick, a longitudinal documentary on Dr. Solomon’s life and the story of a successful couple she matched.

The film is humorous, poignant and tender. Dr. Solomon matches couples because she too was madly in love for many decades. Her late husband was Christian and she is Hindu, yet, in a tale as old as time, love conquered all. I’m a sucker for a sappy love story, so I was moved when I saw Dr. Solomon read out passionate letters her husband wrote to her, which she now keeps sealed in a ziplock bag. Later, she waters the purple orchids surrounding her husband’s picture. “His favorite flower,” she remarks, standing next to a shelf of Christian and Hindu paraphernalia. We begin to understand why Dr. Solomon is such an advocate for finding love.

Through her matchmaking service, we meet Manu and Karthik, two of her “lovesick” patients. Their faces are not shown for most of the film because HIV is still so taboo in India — best evidenced by a sequence in the film where Manu’s Mother asks if she can say the word “HIV.” Both Manu and Karthik are sweet and lovable, but there is a certain emphasis placed on the fact that neither was “to blame” for contracted HIV. Karthik was given tainted blood and Manu was married to a man who never revealed to her that he was HIV positive.

In fact, the communities Indian society would like to blame for HIV, are curiously absent from the film. For example, Dr. Solomon first found HIV in sex workers, yet not a single sex worker is interviewed in the film. We know HIV to predominantly exist in the gay community, but Dr. Solomon’s matchmaking service seems to only match heterosexual, or seemingly heterosexual, couples.  

As sweet and deserving of love as Manu and Karthik are, the fact that they are able to find it is predicated on his Brahmin caste and her educated background, as Dr. Solomon’s staff giddily relay in the matchmaking process.

By the end of the film, Manu and Karthik decide to allow their faces to be shown. The couple even spoke at the screening in New York and have committed to be the public faces for HIV clinics in India.

The film is an homage to the remarkable Dr. Solomon, who passed away before the film was released. At times, she even even goaded men into coming in to receive treatment by telling them they would only find love if they took care of themselves. She understood the interconnectivity between human wellbeing and love — and all of its accoutrements, like desire and compassion — and her own love for others will always be remembered.

Urvashi Pathania is a film-maker who writes from Los Angeles, where she attends the University of Southern California. You can learn more about her at urvashipathania.com.

This review was originally published by India Currents in April, 2018. It was edited by Culture and Media Editor Geetika Pathania Jain.

 

 

Lovesick: A West Coast Premiere

After discovering the first cases of HIV in India in 1986, Dr. Suniti Solomon left a prestigious academic job to build her own clinic focusing on treating HIV/AIDS patients. Several decades and breakthroughs in treatment later, her clinic is one of the highest regarded in the country and her patients are living longer lives. While surviving, some of

HIV infected Tcell

her patients are not thriving. Being Indian, they feel immense societal and personal pressure to marry, but simultaneously face a stigma of being HIV-positive. Now in the twilight of her impressive career, Dr. Solomon takes the next step in her treatment by creating a matchmaking service for those seeking marriage. Through the service we meet Manu and Karthik, two of her patients who want to share their lives with someone but are fearful they never will. Shot over eight years and told with compassion and care, filmmakers Ann S. Kim and Priya Giri Desai give us a surprising and hopeful story about the universal healing ability of companionship and love.

Priya Giri Desai’s work in print and broadcast media spans two decades and includes work for outlets such as LIFE magazine, PBS and independent film projects. Desai is a graduate of Duke University and a founding board member of The India Center Foundation, a cultural non-profit organization in New York dedicated to the study of the Indian subcontinent, the promotion of its cultural life, and the unique relationship between India and the United States. Ann S. Kim is an independent filmmaker who has reported on a range of science global health issues for public television and radio. From 2016-2017, Kim served as the first Chief Design Officer for the U.S. Surgeon General, bringing design thinking into government and urgent public health issues of addiction, opioids, and social isolation.

Lovesick had its world premiere at DOC NYC in November 2017. It will screen on April 14 at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles and again on April 29 at the International Film Festival Boston.

More info at lovesickthefilm.com

Indian Film Festival LA 2018

The festival is widely recognized as the premiere showcase of groundbreaking Indian cinema globally. IFFLA will take place April 11-15, 2018 at Regal L.A. LIVE: A Barco Innovation Center in Los Angeles. This is IFFLA’s second year in this state-of-the-art, world-class cinema in the heart of Los Angeles’ vibrant and developing downtown district. Zee Cinema is returning for a fourth year as presenting sponsor.

“This year’s lineup is a testament to the rich variety of genre, style and skill that exists within the Indian filmmaking community. We’re enormously proud to present this collection of exciting, inspiring, and challenging stories that are sure to make for a thrilling festival experience,” said Mike Dougherty, IFFLA’s Director of Programming.

The festival will open with IN THE SHADOWS, starring Manoj Bajpayee in a tour de force performance as a reclusive shopkeeper who vows to rescue his young neighbor from abuse at the hands of his father. The film premiered at the Mumbai Film Festival and features an impressive Bollywood cast that also includes Ranvir Shorey, Neeraj Kabi, Shahana Goswami and introduces Om Singh as the young boy. The film’s award-winning Los Angeles-based director Dipesh Jain – making his feature debut – will be in attendance along with star Manoj Bajpayee.

Festival will close with the Los Angeles premiere of VILLAGE ROCKSTARS, one of the most lauded Indian films on the festival circuit in the past year. The film premiered at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival and is directed by emerging Indian filmmaker Rima Das. The film, written, shot, edited and directed by Das, is a touching coming of age story of a ten-year-old girl in a remote Assamese village who dreams of buying a guitar and starting her own rock band.

This year the festival will feature four world premieres, three North American premieres, two U.S. premieres, and 14 Los Angeles premieres. The lineup represents an impressive 12 languages and a strong list of first and second time filmmakers, including 11 female filmmakers.

The festival will also hold a memorial tribute to the late, beloved Bollywood actress Sridevi. IFFLA will screen a 2K print of Sridevi’s 1989 hit CHANDNI, courtesy of Yash Raj Films.

Highlights from the lineup include the U.S. Premiere of IFFLA alum Hansal Mehta’s 2017 Toronto Film Festival selection OMERTA, featuring rising Indian star Rajkummar Rao as notorious real-life terrorist Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh as well as THE ASHRAM, directed by Ben Rekhi and starring Sam Keeley, Melissa Leo, and Kal Penn. Rekhi brings together this star-studded cast for a story of mystical intrigue in the Himalayas. The film’s screening will be preceded by the world premiere of short film FIFTEEN YEARS LATER, directed by and starring Manish Dayal (THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY, VICEROY’S HOUSE, TV’s The Resident), and co-starring recent Golden Globe winner Rachel Brosnahan of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Matt McGorry (How to Get Away with Murder, Orange is the New Black), and Tracy Mulholland (CRAZY STUPID LOVE).

Other films in the lineup include the 2017 Toronto Film Festival selection THE HUNGRY, starring Bollywood royalty Naseeruddin Shah and Tisca Chopra in a modern retelling of Shakespeare’s “Titus Andronicus”; Devashish Makhija’s festival favorite AJJI, a revenge story centered on a woman seeking justice for her 10-year-old granddaughter after a brutal assault; Nila Madhab Panda’s eco-thriller DARK WIND; and a pair of Malayalam language features: Bash Mohammed’s delightful fish-out-of-water comedy PRAKASAN and TAKE OFF, featuring South Indian superstar Parvathy in the true story of courageous Indian nurses who travel to Iraq for work and find themselves thrust into a hostage negotiation with ISIS. Parvathy has received multiple accolades for the role, including Best Female Actor at the International Film Festival of India, the first time an Indian actor has been given this honor.

On the non-fiction side, Vaishali Sinha’s ASK THE SEXPERT, about 93-year-old sex advice columnist Dr. Mahinder Watsa, headlines a progressive group of documentaries that also includes Ann S. Kim and Priya Giri Desai’s LOVESICK, about Dr. Suniti Solomon’s matchmaking service for her HIV-positive patients, and UP DOWN AND SIDEWAYS, a stunning ethnographic portrait of an indigenous community and their remarkable musical traditions.

Several of the lineup’s talented filmmakers and actors will attend the festival, including Hansal Mehta (OMERTA), Bornila Chatterjee (THE HUNGRY), Vaishali Sinha (ASK THE SEXPERT), Nila Madhab Panda (DARK WIND), AJJI lead actress Sushama Deshpande, and many more.

Competing in the shorts program are 13 films including Sundance highlight COUNTERFEIT KUNKOO, directed by Reema Sengupta, the first Indian short to be featured in Park City in 15 years, and the world premiere of AN ESSAY OF THE RAIN, directed by IFFLA Grand Jury Prize winner Nagraj Manjule (FANDRY).

OPENING NIGHT GALA:  IN THE SHADOWS (Gali Guliyaan)
Los Angeles Premiere
Director: Dipesh Jain

Logline: A reclusive shopkeeper vows to rescue his young neighbor from abuse – even if he must use his illegal network of surveillance cameras hidden around Old Delhi to do so.

Dipesh Jain’s impressive feature debut centers on Khuddoos (Manoj Bajpayee), a shopkeeper living in self-imposed isolation within the walled city of Old Delhi. In lieu of human interaction, Khuddoos monitors the people in his neighborhood via a series of hidden cameras he’s placed throughout the streets and alleys. Whether he fancies himself an amateur police officer or is a Peeping Tom is open to interpretation, but when Khuddoos hears the sounds of a young boy suffering abuse at the hands of his father – somewhere outside the view of Khuddoos’ cameras – he is spurred to take action.

Star Manoj Bajpayee delivers a tour de force, effortlessly relaying the deep wells of trauma that motivate Khuddoos’ sympathy for the unknown boy. Equally praiseworthy is 14-year-old first-time actor Om Singh as Idris, the subject of Khuddoos’ search. This young man possesses the gravitas of an actor with decades of experience, able to communicate his life’s history with one wounded look. Jain creates an intense, enthralling mystery around the shared pain of these two indelible characters, and in the process announces himself as a fiercely talented storyteller.

CLOSING NIGHT GALA: VILLAGE ROCKSTARS
India/2017/87mins/DCP/Assamese
Los Angeles Premiere
Director: Rima Das

Logline: A ten-year-old girl in a remote Assamese village dreams of buying a guitar and starting her own rock band.

Dhunu, a free-spirited tomboy, lives with her widowed mother and older brother as they struggle to get by in their small village in Assam. One day, after seeing a band at a local event playing with Styrofoam “guitars”, she dreams of owning a real one of her own and becoming a rockstar. She saves money and forms a supporting band with the local boys, but her rockstar hopes seem impossible without magical thinking. After an epic rainfall destroys the local crops, Dhunu is caught between the fantasy life of youth and the harsh reality of adulthood. Having shot the film in her own home village of Chhaygaon, filmmaker Rima Das, who is the film’s director, writer, editor, director of photography, production designer, costume designer and casting director, shows the beauty of the landscape and people without hiding from the culture of conformity that threatens young girls. Premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival, VILLAGE ROCKSTARS has a soul and vision rare in Indian cinema today and marks Das as a major emerging filmmaker.

TRIBUTE PRESENTATION: CHANDNI
India/1989/187mins/DCP/Hindi
Director: Yash Chopra

IFFLA is honored to present this special memorial tribute to the late Sridevi, courtesy of Yash Raj Films. CHANDNI is a glorious ode to one of the finest actors of her generation at the peak of her career, beloved for her prolific work in Hindi as well as South Indian cinema. Fans of the late Vinod Khanna will also relish his performance in this film with evergreen songs, unexpected pathos and unabashed melodrama. Nearly 30 years later, the film remains one of Yash Chopra’s finest, and enshrines Sridevi with a character that arguably most closely matches her vulnerable and graceful real life persona.

Logline: After her fiancé is paralyzed in an accident, Chandni relocates to Mumbai and falls for a charming widower. When the two men become friends, Chandni must decide whom she truly loves.

When gregarious Rohit (Rishi Kapoor) meets the soft-spoken Chandni (Sridevi) at a wedding, it is love at first sight. After some dashing song-and-dance wooing in the Swiss mountains, Chandni agrees to his proposal. Tragically, Rohit is partly paralyzed in an accident and pushes her away. Chandni relocates to Mumbai where she falls for Lalit, a charming widower (Vinod Khanna). On a business trip, Lalit meets Rohit and they become fast friends; he invites Rohit to meet his fiancée. Chandni is overjoyed to see her ex rehabilitated, but is also placed on the horns of a romantic dilemma.

DOCUMENTARY FEATURES

ASK THE SEXPERT
USA/India/2017/83mins/DCP/English, Hindi
Los Angeles Premiere
Director: Vaishali Sinha

Logline: Meet Mumbai’s most popular, and controversial, newspaper columnist: 93-year-old sex expert Dr. Mahinder Watsa.

The most popular column in a daily newspaper in Mumbai is one people are hesitant to admit they read. With many states banning sex education in schools and a general taboo around any kind of public talk about sex, 93-year-old Dr. Mahinder Watsa’s column is a lifeline to millions. With humor and kindness, he addresses topics like masturbation, premature ejaculation, gender equality, and sexual pleasure in non-moralistic terms. In addition to the column, the need amongst the people for honest and factual discussion about sex leads him to answer hundreds of emails and even counsel couples and strangers who arrive at his home unannounced.

Dr. Watsa’s kindness and lifelong commitment to sex education and health has made him a willing combatant against the more conservative elements of Indian society that see his life’s work as immoral. With charm and joy, ASK THE SEXPERT shows the power of knowledge over ignorance.

LOVESICK
USA/2017/74mins/DCP/English, Tamil, Hindi
Los Angeles Premiere
Directors: Ann S. Kim and Priya Giri Desai

Logline: Realizing how damaging the fear of never being able to marry was for her HIV-positive Indian patients, one doctor sets up a matchmaking service to help them find love.

After discovering the first cases of HIV in India in 1986, Dr. Suniti Solomon left a prestigious academic job to build her own clinic focusing on treating HIV/AIDS patients. Several decades and breakthroughs in treatment later, her clinic is one of the highest regarded in the country and her patients are living longer lives. While surviving, some of her patients are not thriving. Being Indian, they feel immense societal and personal pressure to marry, but simultaneously face a stigma of being HIV-positive. Now in the twilight of her impressive career, Dr. Solomon takes the next step in her treatment by creating a matchmaking service for those seeking marriage. Through the service we meet Manu and Karthik, two of her patients who want to share their lives with someone but are fearful they never will. Shot over eight years and told with compassion and care, filmmakers Ann S. Kim and Priya Giri Desai give us a surprising and hopeful story about the universal healing ability of companionship and love.

UP DOWN AND SIDEWAYS
India/2017/83mins/DCP/Chokri
Los Angeles Premiere
Directors: Anushka Meenakshi and Iswar Srikumar

Logline: In a remote part of India, a co-operative of field workers has held off capitalism and Western pop culture by singing dazzling, polyharmonic folk songs, performed only when harvesting each other’s rice.

Directors Anushka Meenakshi and Iswar Srikumar took their camera to the farthest northeast corner of India to capture this ethnographic portrait of an indigenous community and their remarkable musical traditions. Villagers of Phet in the Nagaland region rely on rice cultivation as their primary means of subsistence. Together they form small teams called mülé, to work each other’s paddies year-round. As both men and women labor they sing lis, folk songs formally similar to the “call and response” style of African-American work music, but polyphonically more complex. The lyrics of love, friendship, strength and fatigue feel strikingly timeless and universal.

Lying on the border of Myanmar, the state of Nagaland has been fighting to preserve its cultural identity from Baptist missionaries as well as Indian government troops, permanently stationed there since a 1951 referendum on regional independence precipitated a federal crackdown. Despite the church’s efforts to divert singing to purely ecclesiastical purposes, the terraced hills around Phet are alive with the sound of mülés. This documentary should not be missed by music-loving IFFLA audiences.

NARRATIVE FEATURES

AJJI
India/2017/104mins/DCP/Hindi
North American Premiere
Director: Devashish Makhija

Logline: When a high-ranking politician’s son assaults her 10-year-old granddaughter and the police refuse to help, Ajji methodically devises a plan for revenge.

When 10-year-old Manda is brutally assaulted by Dhavle, a local politician’s violent and uncontrollable son, her family sees little hope for justice. Her parents – scraping by on meager earnings from technically illegal work – are scared into silence by a police force unwilling to hold the powerful accountable. Only Ajji, Manda’s aging grandmother, sees a path to vengeance. While Dhavle parades around town fearless of any reprisal, Ajji stealthily moves through dark alleys and butcher shops, methodically devising her plan for revenge.

Devashish Makhija’s engaging thriller casts a harsh eye on institutional corruption, inequality and above all, violence against women. In the title role, Sushma Deshpande brilliantly captures Ajji’s use of her status as an overlooked, underestimated woman to her advantage. Expected in her elder years to be docile, helpless and obedient, Ajji’s transformation into a determined avenging angel is riveting to watch, and her brutal revenge combined with Makhija’s sharp social commentary cuts deep.

THE ASHRAM
India/USA/2017/90mins/DCP/English
Los Angeles Premiere
Director: Ben Rekhi

Logline: Jamie travels to the Himalayas, armed with nothing but a guilty conscience, to infiltrate a mysterious monastery that may be behind the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend.

Ben Rekhi brings together a star-studded cast for a story of mystical intrigue in the Himalayas with a twisty plot and startling climax that is sure to provoke discussion.

Following the trail of his missing ex-girlfriend, Jamie (Sam Keeley) discovers a remote monastery in the mountains founded by a guru with allegedly miraculous powers. As Jamie tries to pry secrets from the guru’s devoted acolytes (played by Kal Penn, Radhika Apte, and Oscar-winner Melissa Leo) he becomes more convinced that they know more about his lover’s disappearance than they’re telling him.

While employing the conventions of the religious cult thriller, Rekhi raises philosophical and metaphysical questions about the inherent corruption of those who seek power, even to do good, and the miracles of mindfulness.

DARK WIND (Kadvi Hawa)
India/2017/99mins/DCP/Hindi
Los Angeles Premiere
Director: Nila Madhab Panda

Logline: The father of a struggling farmer clashes with his son’s vicious debt collector in this incisive portrait of climate change’s effects across India.

IFFLA regulars Sanjay Mishra (MASAAN, ANKHON DEKHI) and Ranvir Shorey (A DEATH IN THE GUNJ, TITLI) bring to life this sensitive yet pointed dramatization of climate change’s effects on a diverse cross-section of Indian society. In the Mahua region of Rajasthan, once known for flourishing farmlands, the ever-decreasing rainfall has left farmers without a crop to sell, and therefore with no money to repay their hefty bank loans. Hedu, the father of one such farmer, fears his son’s misfortune will lead him to drastic action. He pays a visit to a notorious debt collection officer, known as the “god of death” for his vicious tactics, looking to strike a bargain. But the agreement they reach might offer solutions for some, and total ruin for others.

Director Nila Madhab Panda masterfully constructs a thrilling story that – while it seeks to educate – plays more like great drama than as a didactic lecture. Through the engaging performances of his skilled cast, he makes tangible the desperation caused by an ever more unpredictable environment, and pays close attention to the deception and betrayal some must resort to in order to survive in such a harsh climate.

THE HUNGRY
UK, India/2017/100mins/DCP/Hindi
U.S. Theatrical Premiere
Director: Bornila Chatterjee

Logline: A wedding celebration between two powerful families erupts into deceit, revenge and murder in this update of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus.

In this all-star adaptation of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, the bard’s notoriously bloody tale of deceit and revenge is cleverly modernized by director Bornila Chatterjee and relocated to a sumptuous wedding celebration in Delhi. The approaching nuptials are meant to solidify a powerful union between the families of two business magnates – Tathagat (Naseeruddin Shah), the wealthy head of a corporate empire, will marry off his son to Tulsi (Tisca Chopra), the widow of his former partner. However, the sins of the father’s past have driven Tulsi to concoct a devious scheme for revenge, which threatens to set both families on an irreversible path to destruction.

Those familiar with Shakespeare’s play know that chaos is on the menu, and witnessing Chatterjee’s intricately designed re-telling unfold is a wicked delight. Though the film looks with both contempt and sympathy on its sprawling cast of characters, this is ultimately a biting, withering critique of a ruling class that’s long since abandoned any notions of selflessness or the greater good.

OMERTA
India/2017/96mins/DCP/Hindi, English, Urdu
U.S. Premiere
Director: Hansal Mehta

Logline: IFFLA alum Hansal Mehta directs rising star Rajkummar Rao in an examination of the life and crimes of notorious terrorist Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh.

Hansal Mehta returns to IFFLA with perhaps his most ambitious feature to date. Partnering once again with his muse, actor Rajkummar Rao, the two artists probe the life of British-born terrorist Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, a man believed to have, among other despicable acts, funded the events of 9/11. In order to sketch a portrait of Saeed, Mehta and Rao bring us uncomfortably close to the man, combining known biographical elements of Saeed’s life with reenactments of crimes Saeed has confessed to, or is generally believed to have committed – most notoriously, the kidnapping and murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002.

While Mehta doesn’t purport to understand, much less explain, Saeed’s motivations – nor does he pretend his actions are anything other than vile – his skillfully mounted film provides a document of a terrorist who, undoubtedly, has had a massive influence on world events in the last twenty years.

PRAKASAN
India/2017/84mins/DCP/Malayalam
Los Angeles Premiere
Director: Bash Mohammed

Logline: Against the advice of friends and family, naïve Prakasan eagerly accepts a new job offer in the big city, but when he finds out that his duties consist of educating sassy sex-workers he realizes he’s the one who has a lot to learn.

In this witty and sweet fish-out-of-water comedy, director Bash Mohammed illustrates the virtues of cinematic simplicity in a classic story told with empathy and skill.

The outrageously endearing Dinesh Prabhakar plays the titular Prakasan, a young man lucky enough to be born into a paradisiacal forest brimming with fresh fruit where he can make love to his girlfriend in luminous natural pools. Yet Prakasan is dying to see the big city, so when he receives a job offer from a World Bank program, he happily leaves his idyllic home behind.

But his arrival in town is a shocking awakening. Nobody speaks his language, and even in their native tongue people don’t mean what they say. Most importantly, he discovers his new job is to educate sex-workers about public health, leading to comic misunderstandings but also to profound lessons. The result is an uplifting, clever story that is sure to delight IFFLA audiences.

TAKE OFF
India/2017/132mins/DCP/Malayalam
Los Angeles Premiere
Director: Mahesh Narayanan

Logline: Inspired by actual events, a team of Indian nurses in Iraq finds themselves trapped behind enemy lines in the war against ISIS.

Sameera (Parvathy), a nurse in Kerala, is determined to move to Iraq in order to make more money and pay off her suffocating student loans. Her husband and his family disapprove, leading to a divorce and his taking custody of their young son. Still unwavering in her decision, she agrees to a marriage with her work colleague Shaheed (Boban) and the two move to Tikrit, Iraq in 2014. Despite assurances from Indian and Iraqi officials that things are normal, the two are quickly involved in the daily violence from ISIS forces. Soon the city falls and Sameera is trapped, forcing her and Indian diplomats into a complex negotiation for the lives of herself, the other nurses and her husband. Parvathy gives a mesmerizing and layered performance of Sameera, an independent, fierce, yet vulnerable woman, that has won her many accolades including the Best Female Actor Award at the International Film Festival of India, the first ever for an Indian actor. First-time director’s Mahesh Narayanan’s TAKE OFF is both a compelling thriller and an exciting example of contemporary Malayalam cinema.

SHORTS

ABSENT
USA/India/2017/16mins/DCP/English
Director: Sudarshan Suresh

Logline: When Zola runs into an old fling, she sees a fleeting chance to escape her mundane life of caring for her invalid mother.

Zola can barely keep her head above water between the demands of a stressful job and the heavy burden of taking care of her invalid elderly mother. When she runs into an old fling, she sees a fleeting chance to escape the mundane treadmill of her life, and just for one night indulge in some romance.

Award-winning IFFLA alum Sudarshan Suresh (“Khargosh/The Rabbit”) examines with honesty and impeccable precision complex emotions oscillating between resentment and deep affection, in this beautiful character study about the chains that bind us to those we love.

THE CAREGIVER
Israel/2018/12mins/DCP/Hebrew, English, Gujarati
Los Angeles Premiere
Director: Ruthy Pribar

Logline: Following a short trip to visit his family back in India, Raj returns to his job in Israel as caregiver to an elderly man, only to discover that a Filipino woman has taken his place.

Following a short trip to visit his family back in India, Raj returns to Israel and his work as caregiver to an elderly man, only to be greeted by a Filipino woman who seems to have taken over his job. When it becomes clear that the old man prefers a female presence around the house, Raj must find a way to reclaim what he feels is rightfully his.

With a humanistic lens that equally honors the complex realities of all three characters, this perceptive and sharply directed film sheds light onto the harsh realities of immigrant workers struggling to survive in an increasingly ruthless world.

COUNTERFEIT KUNKOO
India/2017/15mins/DCP/Hindi, Marathi
Los Angeles Premiere
Director: Reema Sengupta

Logline: Having escaped an abusive marriage, Smita is looking to rent an apartment in Mumbai, and she would be the perfect candidate if not for her one glaring flaw: she is a single woman without a husband to vouch for her.

Having escaped an abusive marriage, Smita is looking to rent an apartment in Mumbai. She is hardworking, financially independent and reliable, and would make the perfect tenant, if not for a single, unpardonable flaw—she is a single woman with no husband to vouch for her.

Boldly punctuated by an unsettling visual design, this nuanced and haunting portrait of an uncompromising woman determined to claim her rightful space, rises into a powerful outcry against a patriarchal society’s deep-rooted system of discrimination and misogyny. The film premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.

AN ESSAY OF THE RAIN
India/2017/26mins/DCP/Marathi
World Premiere
Director: Nagraj Manjule

Logline: A ten-year-old boy leading a harsh daily existence in a Maharashtra village blessed and cursed by merciless downpours, is given the homework assignment to write an essay in praise of rain.

Ten-year-old Raja leads a harsh daily existence in a Maharashtra village blessed and cursed by merciless downpours. Drenched and drained after an arduous day helping his drunken father and his mother with strenuous household chores, he must tend to his homework assignment and write an essay about the poetry and beauty of rain. But lush green mountains, flowing rivers, and magical rainbows are not what comes to mind for young Raja. His is another kind of essay on the rain.

Evocative cinematography and an unnerving soundscape make the pounding rain an unforgettable character in this film–omnipresent and unconquerable. Mixing raw realism with a dash of poetry and a gentle touch of humor, masterful storyteller Nagraj Manjule (FANDRY) delicately crafts a visceral and deeply moving tale about the disparities and ironies of life, and nature’s daunting reign.

FIFTEEN YEARS LATER
USA/2017/18mins/DCP/English
World Premiere
Director: Manish Dayal

Logline: Two young men independently deteriorate psychologically in post-9/11 America. Their lives come face to face fifteen years later.

Sam and Jason, two young men who have absorbed the psychological effects of post-9/11 America in ways they may not fully understand, find their buried issues and resentments bubbling to the surface when their lives intersect during a police traffic stop. Starring Manish Dayal (THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY, VICEROY’S HOUSE), Matt McGorry (TV’s How To Get Away With Murder, Orange Is The New Black), Rachel Brosnahan (TV’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, House Of Cards), and Tracy Mulholland (CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE, GRACE NOTE). Music from the Swet Shop Boys.

THE FISH CURRY (Maacher Jhol)
India/2017/12mins/DCP/Hindi
Los Angeles Premiere
Director: Abhishek Verma

Logline: A reticent young man takes the leap to come out to his father over a lavish fish curry meal that he has lovingly prepared for him.

Lalit, a reserved young man, has decided to take the leap and come out to his family. He gets a haircut and invites his father over for dinner, having painstakingly prepared his favorite Bengali fish curry dish. As Lalit braces for the momentous occasion, his dad arrives armed with photos of eligible future wives.

A touching animated tale that examines delicate emotions with sensitivity and a fine eye for detail.

FISHERWOMAN AND TUK TUK
India/2015/15mins/DCP/N/A
North American Premiere
Director: Suresh Eriyat

Logline: When she discovers a pearl in the belly of a fish, a Konkani fisherwoman abandons her trade and indulges in her wildest fantasies.

When she discovers a pearl in the belly of a fish, a Konkani fisherwoman resigned to a mundane life of daily struggle, abandons her trade and indulges in her wildest fantasy. She buys herself a brightly colored rickshaw (“tuk tuk”) and starts to cruise at lightning speed through the winding roads of her coastal village, with her cats in tow. Finally released from her daily drudgery, ecstatic at her newly found sense of power and freedom, she is the talk of the town and her own greatest hero, when, suddenly, an accident threatens to thwart her indomitable spirit.

An exuberant, wild and joyous tale about a woman’s awakening of dormant desires, that celebrates the thrill of adventure and the triumph of dreaming big and pursuing even our most wacky, psychedelic fantasies against all odds. Soulfully told in loud color and trippy animation, the film has won India’s National Award for Animation.

KHOL (Open)
USA/2018/12mins/DCP/English
Director: Faroukh Virani

Logline: When his father passes away, a gay Gujarati American man must return to his small hometown to confront his estranged family.

When his father passes away, Vijay, a gay Gujarati American man must return to his small hometown to confront his estranged family. Tightly holding onto his armor of detachment, after years of alienation and bitter feelings of hurt and disappointment, Vijay sees any connection with his mother as utterly impossible. However, it may just be that the death of the patriarch may finally allow the seeds of acceptance to take root.

A poignant tale about the destructive force of parental rejection and the unexpected paths to forgiveness that may reveal themselves if we stay open to the possibility.

LAKSH
UK/India/2017/25mins/DCP/Hindi, Rajasthani dialect, Italian
World Premiere
Director: Jennifer Rosen

Logline: Sameer returns home to Delhi to visit his young son and confront the life he left behind since forging a new path in Italy.

Married, with a son and a decent job in Italy, Sameer has come to Delhi to spend time with his other wife from an arranged marriage, a Rajasthani woman, and their young son, Laksh. On the eve of his departure from India, much is discussed and even more is left unfinished. Under the questioning gaze of his beloved son who faces an uncertain future in a disintegrating slum, Sameer struggles to come to terms with the consequences of his decisions that leave him painfully torn between two distant but profoundly beloved homes.

Delicate emotions resonate with formidable power in this intimate portrait of a family profoundly disrupted by a man’s hope to liberate himself from the chains of poverty, a noble aim that harbors some unanticipated and harrowing consequences.

PASHI
India/2017/30mins/Blu-ray/Pahari, Hindi
Los Angeles Premiere
Director: Siddharth Chauhan

Logline: In a remote Himachali village, a teenage boy experiences a sexual awakening when a handsome visitor passes through the area.

When his mom’s handsome friend unexpectedly shows up in the village, a teenage boy living in a remote area of Himachal Pradesh, is swept in a whirlwind of desire and vivid fantasy. As he struggles to rein in his strong impulses, he learns about “pashi”, an ancient technique of trapping birds, and begins to practice it.

Immersing us into a startling world of raw emotion and fierce imagination, this gripping exploration of young lust and its precarious impulses reveals a bold and razor sharp emerging storyteller.

TARA VERSUS
India/2017/21mins/DCP/English
World Premiere
Director: Ayesha Anna Ninan

Logline: When her best friend lands a high profile talent-booking job, Tara, an ambitious young comedian, loses all sense of humor.

Tara, an ambitious but struggling young comedian, loses all sense of humor when she finds out that her best friend has landed a high-profile talent booking job in Delhi. Unable to cope with intense feelings of jealousy and low self-esteem, she jeopardizes the friendship.

Framed by an enchanting performance by Aditi Vasudev (“Devi”), this heartfelt and spirited tale sheds light onto Mumbai’s urban youth and its competitive stand-up scene, where burgeoning ambition, a wavering sense of identity and heightened emotions are no funny matter.

TV IN THE FISH TAIL
USA/2017/13mins/DCP/Hindi
Director: Iesh Thapar

Logline: As electricity and the miracle of television first arrive in a remote Himalayan village, the friendship of two teenage boys is put to the test.

In an isolated Himalayan village, two teenage boys, Tinley and Kobai, witness the arrival of the first TV sets. The hydro power plant that has recently been installed in the area is seen by the local community with a mixture of marvel and apprehension, and equally divides the two best friends. Tinley’s wealthier family has already bought a TV set and is eagerly awaiting electricity to kick in, whereas Kobai is skeptical about how these monumental intrusions will affect the order of the universe.

A brooding sense of dread lurks underneath the peaceful scenery of this isolated world in this atmospheric tale where the supernatural and the real soon start to merge.

WHAT IS YOUR BROWN NUMBER?
India/2016/5mins/Blu-ray/English
North American Premiere
Director: Vinnie Ann Bose

Logline: An animated satirical look at India’s obsession with fair skin.

Outside a hospital delivery room, a large family eagerly awaits the arrival of a newborn baby. News of a healthy baby boy soon arrives, but joy turns to horror when they baby’s skin tone is announced: Brown Number 80 on the fairness scale.

An irreverent animated look at India’s obsession with fair skin, that is at once humorous and chilling.

YAMAN
India/2017/24mins/DCP/Hindi
Los Angeles Premiere
Director: Raghuvir Joshi

Logline: Delicate threads of a tender but impossible relationship unravel, as a young couple waits in court for their divorce to be finalized.

We meet Vishal and Nitya in a courtroom, waiting to tend to their divorce. As we cut back and forth between cold court proceedings and snippets of their tender partnership in life and in art, an intimate portrait emerges of a complex relationship between two soulmates who although keenly attuned to each other, cannot give each other the kind of love they need.

Formidably performed by Sayani Gupta (MARGARITA WITH A STRAW) and Priyanshu Painyuli (ONCE AGAIN) and laced with evocative classical Indian musical interludes, this sensitive directorial debut paints a visceral picture of the wondrous beauty of human connection and the fathomless pain of unrequited love.

Hindustani High in San Francisco

Hindustani High in San Francisco

San Francisco International Arts Festival (SFIAF) this year has a lineup coming up soon that pays homage to the collaborative performing spirit, with artists from India, China, and non-Indians playing Hindustani music sharing the stage. (Browse through this issue to read more about the dance events at the festival.)

Festival director Andrew Wood underscored why international collaboration was a conscious choice, saying, “Some people in other parts of the country may want to cloak themselves in a veil of intolerance, but we are different. San Francisco will lead by example and continue to embrace the people of the world. We invite all those who want to share in these sentiments and who still believe in America’s multicultural promise to join us for an occasion that is powerful, provocative, and beautiful.”

Melody of China, comprising musicians of Chinese-origin, views a collaboration with Indian-origin Swapan Chaudhuri as an opportunity to strengthen its contemporary arts focus while branching out to include other forms of traditional music. “Indian music has increasable rhythm, beautiful melody, and is very spiritual,” said Artistic Director Yangqin Zhao, who plays the hammered dulcimer.

Chaudhuri has always been struck by the similarities between other Asian melodies to Indian ones. “I first noticed it in 2000, when I was accompanying Pandit Ravi Shankar, and then again last year, when I was playing in Japan. During rehearsals, they kept coming back to a scale that I realized was very similar to the Indian raag Bhupali.” He played it for them and there were astonished conversations after that. He experimented with the newly crafted Indo-Japanese sound with the ensemble at the School of Music where he teaches at the California Institute of Arts in Valencia.

The collaboration with Melody of China at SFIAF seemed like a perfect opportunity to extend musically into China and shape new tonal harmonies. While Chaudhuri will be playing an original composition, he cannot quite describe it, since it will come together as an improvised piece onstage. “The music will take care of you once you surrender to it,” he describes, “much like riyaaz (practice). I always tell my students, don’t “use” it, give it love, and you will get a lot back. There is no start and end. It’s never-ending. Once you surrender, you sense a special power.”

The multicultural, harmonizing vibe of the festival this year is not new to Chaudhuri; he remembers fondly the time he worked with Stevie Wonder on the album A Time to Love. The album has some brilliant percussion from all over the world, with the table rhythms being clearly discernible.

The presentation aims at bridging the gap between contemporary arts and traditional music as well. Artists also include Melody of China’s own Gangqin Zhao on Guzheng (zither, vocal), Wanpeng Guo on Sheng (mouth organ), Shenshen Zhang on Pipa (lute) and Xian Lu on Dizi (bamboo flutes). The concert will also feature the world premiere of a new piece, “Opera 4 x 4” in the style of Beijing Opera by Gang Situ with Melody of China and guest cellist Kevin Yu.

SFIAF has another event featuring Indian music with Matthew Montfort (known for his scalloped fretboard guitar) and Habib Khan (on the sitar). They too, are planning to surrender to music onstage. Montfort explains, “I really don’t know exactly what we will be playing yet as that will be determined by the muse. Pandit Habib Khan and I have quite a bit of repertoire that we have performed over the years, but we tend to make up new material onstage. I love working that way because it keeps things fresh!”

The scalloped fretboard guitar was constructed by Montfort and is influenced by both the veena and the sitar. He uses string bending techniques that are similar to those used on the sitar. But the guitar has the ability to play up chords of up to six notes. A guitar-sitar jugalbandi is exciting because it expands the territory of each instrument. For example, the sitarist has the opportunity to explore playing chords if so inspired, and for the guitarist, the challenge will be in matching them. The two artists have recorded five albums together. Ferhan Qureshi will accompany them on the tabla at the festival.

Montfort sees this performance as poignant in the context of Hindustani music tradition and the political climate today. He believes that some of the greatest successes in world fusion music right now are outgrowths of Hindustani music. He thinks the tradition is future-proofed internationally; but also in part by the fact that it accepts performers who were not born into it, such as himself.

However, he says, “Society’s commitment to support the arts has continued to erode, and so the future of virtuoso level music is in jeopardy. This is exacerbated by the current political environment, which is more toxic than anything I’ve seen in my lifetime. World fusion music can be part of the solution to humanity’s problems. There is a lot of work to do to get things on a better path.”

8 p.m. Thursday, June 1
Ancient Future Guitar-Sitar jugalbandi
7 p.m. Sunday, June 4
Melody of China www. sfiaf.org
Priya Das is an enthusiastic follower of world music and avidly tracks intersecting points between folk, classical, jazz and other genres.