Tag Archives: Film

Dilip Kumar and Saira Banu

Dilip Kumar Rejected Hollywood to Revolutionize Indian Cinema

The legend Dilip Kumar passed away in Mumbai on July 7, 2021, at the grand old age of 98. The news not only shocked fans across the country and abroad, but left its indelible mark on the countless people who have seen him as the epitome of romance and an innate character actor, from around the world.

Septuagenarian Smita, who lives with her family in New York, still cannot believe that the veritable legend, who acted in more than 65 films over nearly five decades, is no more. Fellow Indian from her neighborhood, Balvinder too was shocked by the news. For them, Dilip Kumar was a large part of their formative years. And now, he is long gone.

Dilip Kumar

Born in 1922 Peshawar (now in Pakistan) under the name Muhammad Yusuf Khan, Dilip Kumar made his acting debut in 1944 in the film Jwar Bhata. However, it was the 1949 hit Andaz that catapulted him to fame.

Superstar Amitabh Bachchan in his tribute wrote, “An institution has gone… Whenever the history of Indian Cinema will be written, it shall always be ‘before Dilip Kumar, and after Dilip Kumar’… My duas (prayers) for peace of his soul and the strength to the family to bear this loss. Deeply saddened.”

The First Khan of Bollywood, Dilip Kumar has been described as one of the most successful film stars in the industry and is credited with bringing a distinct form of method acting to the cinema.

Dilip Kumar was a find of Devika Rani, who rechristened a young Muhammad Yusuf Khan his new name, echoing the mood of contemporary times. She took him under her wings and the method actor, who entered the industry with no formal training, rose to the heights of glory in Indian cinema. In fact, in an interview in 1970, he said that he adopted this name out of fear of his father, who never approved of his acting career.

Dilip Kumar in Ganga Jumna.

Dilip Kumar’s method-acting is perhaps best exemplified in the film Gunga-Jumna. The 1961 Nitin Bose directorial is believed to have seen Dilip Kumar run all around the studio premise, to the point of collapsing, in order to get the right look and feel for his death scene in the film.

If method acting is what defines Dilip Kumar, the actor himself tried to elaborate upon it in his autobiography Dilip Kumar: The Substance And The Shadow, released in 2015, where he wrote, “I am an actor who evolved a method, which stood me in good stead.”

In films like Shakti, Dilip Kumar used silence and stillness in a manner where he brought alive to perfection the portrayal of a tortured father unable to express love for his son. Dilip Kumar, as an actor, would seldom raise his voice. He would speak up whenever a moment in the film needed it, invariably mellowing down his voice to ooze a gamut of expressions in cinema, leaving behind his indelible mark in Indian films.

Smita recalls an incident as a teenager when she went to see Mughal-e-Azam at the theatre, where his on-screen clash with another legendary actor Prithviraj Kapoor has created a timeless classic. The two titans on the screen, where Kapoor’s thunderous oration was perfectly foiled by Kumar’s pauses, silences, and nuanced brooding glances are something that Smita says still gives her goosebumps.

Perhaps the legend that Dilip Kumar was, best finds voice in a rare clip that became viral on social media. The recording starts with Dilip Kumar reciting a shayeri during an interview. In the recording, the legend can be heard saying, “Humare baad iss mehfil mein afsane bayaan honge, bahare humko dhoondengi, Na jaane hum kahaan honge…”

In fact, such was the influence of the veritable legend that in 1962, Dilip Kumar was given the chance to star in the British film Lawrence of Arabia, which would go on to win an Oscar. The film would have been his Hollywood debut, but Dilip Kumar declined it saying that he didn’t need to act in films abroad to prove his worth.

In Dilip Kumar, Indian cinema found an actor who not only simply enacted characters on screen, but lived them. For him, it was a state of being rather than just a part, to be enacted between the ‘action’ and ‘cut’ in cinema.


Umang Sharma is a media professional, avid reader, and film buff. His interests lie in making the world a better place through the power of the written word.


 

'June' Film poster

June: A Marathi Film On Hope and Healing

The first and only exclusive Marathi OTT player, Planet Marathi Cinema, recently went live with the release of its first film June. The first-ever Marathi film to be launched on a Transactional Video On Demand basis, the film has been the talk of the town due to its star cast. Helmed by Suhrud Godbole and Vaibhav Khisti, its story is penned by critically acclaimed director Nikhil Mahajan who has previously proved his mettle with the Netflix Original horror web series Betaal

Directors – Suhrud and Vaibhav

Having been showcased at a number of film festivals, such as the International Film Festival of India 2021, the New York Indian Film Festival 2021 (Winner – Best Actor & Nomination – Best Film), and the Pune International Film Festival 2021, the film puts a spotlight on several trending real-world themes of our times, such as mental health, peer pressure, bullying, self-harm, and suicide. The makers hope that the film helps people struggling with these issues to step out and start a conversation about them, reach out to family and friends, and seek professional help. 

A young woman, Neha (played by Nehha Pendse-Bayas), leaves her husband and goes from their home in Pune to Aurangabad, where she moves into a new house in a colony. Here, she meets Neel (played by Siddharth Menon), an engineering student who has failed his exams and is in his native town with nothing to do for a year. Neel struggles to meet his parents’ expectations and longs to flee his boring hometown where “who’s related to who is more important than how a person really is.” 

As Neel begins to show Neha around the city on his bike, the two bond about their lives and anxieties. Neel confesses that he feels responsible for the suicide of his hostel roommate who was routinely teased and bullied by their classmates. Neha too shares with him the trauma of her miscarriage, which possibly became the reason for her separation from her spouse. As the two begin to sort out each other’s problems, they end up resolving their own dilemmas too. 

Through the protagonists’ stories, the film throws up many emotionally layered moments and highlights various inner frustrations of young people, their doubts, insecurities, and confusions. Along the way, it also offers several subtle messages, such as the fact that we often tend to overrate failure—whether at work or in our relationships—giving it too much importance in our lives, and that people can heal if they open their hearts to each other. At one point in the film, Neha also reminds Neel that “what you are isn’t where you are in person, it’s where you are in your mind.”

Film still from 'June'
Film still from ‘June’

Aesthetically shot, the film also captures the city of Aurangabad extremely well—its landscape, ancient monuments, sights, and sounds. Interestingly, the dialogues are not just in Marathi, but in English as well. Further, the film’s gentle background score masterminded by Shalmali Kholgade consists of some soothing guitar strums and soulful tunes, with heart-touching lyrics by Jitendra Joshi and Nikhil Mahajan. 

To watch the film, one can buy a ticket from the Planet Marathi Cinema app.


Neha Kirpal is a freelance writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Wanderlust for the Soul, an e-book collection of short stories based on travel in different parts of the world. 


 

Film still from 'India Sweets and Spices'.

Geeta Malik’s ‘India Sweets And Spices’ Stirs Up A Delicious Cinematic Recipe

I had been waiting to watch Geeta Malik’s India Sweets and Spices ever since it buzzed in the news that the film was being shot in my hometown of Atlanta. It premiered at the Tribeca Festival in New York on June 12, and I had the opportunity to watch a film I had been eagerly waiting for.

The Story Of India Sweets And Spices

Alia Kapur, played by Sophia Ali, finishes her freshman year at UCLA and is back home in the wealthy suburbs of New Jersey to spend her summer. Her parents Sheila and Ranjit are an integral part of the lavish weekend parties hosted within their circle of friends. For one such party at her house, Alia visits the local Indian grocery store to get biscuits. She takes an instant liking to Varun (Rish Shah), the son of the shopkeeper.  Alia invites him and his family to the party, much to the consternation of her mother who is class-conscious.

Surprises are in store for Alia as one secret after another is unraveled, and she realizes that her parents have all along been putting up a facade. A plethora of emotions engulf her as she is angry, amazed, perplexed, and hurt at the same time. 

Alia abhors the pretentious lifestyle of her parents. She wants to lead a life of authenticity and discard the superficiality which she says would make all of them so fake that they would not recognize themselves anymore. Will Alia succeed in confronting her parents with the truth and be able to carve her own identity?  

Film still from India Sweets and Spices.
Film still from India Sweets and Spices.

A beautifully penned story addresses multiple themes

From feminism and patriarchy to class difference and infidelity, Malik ventures to fit in all. The character of Alia is crafted with incredible dexterity and towers high. 

Alia is undoubtedly the mascot for feminism and equality. Right from the moment when she first appears wearing a t-shirt with the logo “Paratha rolls, not gender roles” (an echo of the 2018 Aurat March), she strikes you as the independent, free-minded youngster. While having a beer with her friend Rahul, she voices that the good thing about their generation is that they believe men and women are equal. That, she says, is progress. She beams with joy when she later learns about her mother’s leaning towards issues of women’s rights.

Is it not time for the shackles of patriarchy to be broken? Does a woman need to sacrifice her dreams in order to be a devoted wife and mother? Does any marriage that is on the rocks need to continue simply to create a good impression in front of society? These questions surface in the film.

 Although the story is set on a serious premise, the film is tension-free. The witty dialogues that come in occasionally and the tongue-in-cheek humor temper it all. 

The gossiping aunties, for instance, are referred to as “saree-wearing zombies”.  When Alia expresses her concern that her mom might have to end up in a rehab center, her friend Neha calms her by saying, “Rehab is like a spa.” Then again, there is a scene in which Alia’s mother sarcastically asks her if she was doing charity by inviting Varun’s family, who do not belong to their class. Pat comes the reply from Alia, “Aunties without borders!” These lines sure ease the seriousness.

A brilliant choice of actors keeps the narrative alive

The film primarily belongs to Sophia Ali, and she charms with her amazing performance. She fits in perfectly in her role of a hip and casual youngster who’s impatient, restless, and full of vibrant energy. 

It is a pleasure to see Manisha Koirala make her Hollywood debut with this film. As the sophisticated Sheila, she carries herself with true finesse. Adil Hussain, as always, is remarkable as Ranjit Kapur. Given the actor’s excellent track record, this comes as no surprise.

Deepti Gupta as Varun’s mother Bhairavi has a minor, yet, important role that contributes to the development of the plot. She does justice to her part and impresses.

Film still from India Sweets and Spices.
Film still from India Sweets and Spices.

The film incorporates tidbits from the director’s first-hand observations.

India Sweets and Spices is based on Geeta Malik’s own script “Dinner With Friends” which brought her the accolade of the Academy Nicholl Fellowship in screenwriting in 2016. At the core of the film are those extravagant parties where the action unfolds. There are ladies decked in fine jewelry and gorgeous sarees, men talking in loud voices, children in ethnic attire, gossip points, Bollywood music, and, of course, the wide display of mouth-watering delicacies. 

Malik brings in these elements from her own experience as she narrates in an interview: “I did grow up going to these Indian dinner parties, being dragged to them”.

The film brings the lives of Indian Americans to the fore. Geeta Malik does not show any cultural clashes that the characters face. Rather, she intelligently portrays them as identifying strongly with both Indian and American traditions and not having to choose between them. Therein lies the uniqueness of the film.

On the downside, I’d like to bring up an act without giving too many spoilers. There is a party scene towards the end which I feel is a little too stretched out and exaggerated with guests drying their dirty laundry. But I’d cut some slack and deduce that director Malik has perhaps incorporated the scene for comic relief and to hint at the immaturity adults are capable of.

Blending in with its name, India Sweets And Spices is great to watch with a treat of savory snacks. I sure did that by pairing up spicy samosas and gulab jamuns with a cup of masala chai. Or rather, I should make it sound hip and trendy by saying in the language of the new generation: I enjoyed the film with spiced tea, spicy sams, and g-jams!

 Watch the film when you get a chance!


Rashmi Bora Das is settled in the suburbs of Atlanta, GA. She has written for various platforms including Women’s Web to which she regularly contributes. You may visit her at www.rashmiwrites.com 


 

Film still from Freddie's Piano featuring Aakash Prabhakar (left) and Pranav Mylarassu (right).

‘I Have Always Been Obsessed With Telling Stories’ Aakash Prabhakar Tells IC

Aakash Prabhakar’s English-language Indian film Freddie’s Piano recently made it to the official lineup of North America’s oldest and most prestigious film festival, the New York Indian Film Festival 2021.

Actor and Director, Aakash Prabhakar
Actor and Director, Aakash Prabhakar

Shot in idyllic Pondicherry, the film’s screenplay was written by national award-winning filmmaker Batul Mukhtiar. It is produced by New Hampshire-based independent film producers Somasekhar Kovvuri and Lisa Kovvuri and co-directed by Sudharshan Narayanan who studied filmmaking at the Mindscreen Film School in Chennai.

Prabhakar’s maiden venture in cinema is a music lover’s delight. A young adult film, it is a story about two half-brothers Aden and Freddie. Aden wants to give Freddie a piano to fulfill their father’s dream; Freddie wants to give Aden the freedom he dreamed about when their father was alive. In the end, both brothers learn that what they really need is each other. A simple film about what Aden does to get his younger brother Freddie a grand piano for Christmas, Freddie’s Piano was screened virtually at the Scottsdale International Film Festival last year from November 6 to 15, 2020.  

In this exclusive interview, he talks to us among other things about the inspiration behind Freddie’s Piano, his theater background, and star pianist from Rahman’s music conservatory who debuts in the film.

IC: Tell us about the idea/inspiration behind your film Freddie’s Piano.

AP: I always loved listening to classical music as a kid. I started learning keyboards in my early teens. I remember asking my mother to buy me a keyboard, which was way better and expensive than the one I had. She asked me to wait for some time and eventually bought it for me. Later, she told me that she had to take on more work, put in more hours in her business, and save more to get me that keyboard. The incident really stayed with me.  

Freddie’s Piano came from there. I have always enjoyed reading O’Henry. One of his popular stories, Gift of the Magi, is one of my favorites. It was also at the back of my mind when I was writing the story for this film. That’s how this story came together. An elder brother wants to gift his younger brother a piano for Christmas when he can’t even pay for his bus fees. The film is about all that Aden does to buy Freddie a piano for Christmas.

IC: Tell us a little about Pranav Mylarassu, a star pianist from A R Rahman’s KM Music Conservatory, who makes his debut as 12-year-old Freddie in the film.

AP: I wanted a kid who can play the piano well, and the head of the Conservatory introduced me to him. When he started playing, we couldn’t take our eyes off him. He knew all the classics—Beethoven, Mozart—inside out and played them with so much poise. I sent him the script, he had his scenes memorized and was very attentive throughout the workshops and the shoot. 

This was his first time acting on camera, so he was an empty slate. He really did justice to the part, capturing the innocence and honesty I wanted in Freddie. A very intelligent kid, he loves making origami, practices yoga every day, wants to be an aerospace engineer when he grows up and hopes to make space tourism possible. 

Pranav Mylarassu in film, Freddie’s Piano.

IC: Tell us more about your theater background, and some of the plays you have written, acted in, and directed in Mumbai.

AP: I have always been obsessed with telling stories. I acted in plays in school, directed and acted in plays in college. About seven-eight years ago, I started acting in plays professionally. After doing a few workshops, a yearlong course in theater-making, performance arts as well as acting in a lot of plays in Mumbai, I started my own company, Here And Now. My company has produced Crumpled that I co-wrote, directed, and acted in; The Drum Roll that I wrote and directed; Bull by Mike Bartlett that I acted in; and Cock by Mike Bartlett. My latest was Visiting Mr. Green by Jeff Baron, in which M K Raina and I acted.

IC: Which are some of your all-time favorite films? Who or what are your biggest inspirations?

AP: The Shawshank Redemption, Children of Heaven by Majid Majidi, Life is Beautiful by Roberto Benigni, Salaam Bombay! by Mira Nair, Nayakan by Mani Ratnam, Bicycle Thieves, The Pianist, The Marriage Story, and A Separation by Asghar Farhadi.

What are you working on next?

AP: I am probably going to jump back on stage with Visiting Mr. Green and Cock by Mike Bartlett as soon as things open up. I am also working on Stephen Belber’s Tape, a really well-written script that also became a film directed by Richard Linklater.

I am constantly reading and auditioning for parts in films and web series. I am also developing a couple of film and web show projects. One explores relationships, mental health, and complicated love stories in urban cities and the other is a feature about the labor migration crisis that happened last year due to Covid.

View the film from June 4-13 here: https://www.moviesaints.com/movie/freddies-piano


Neha Kirpal is a freelance writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Wanderlust for the Soul, an e-book collection of short stories based on travel in different parts of the world. 


 

'Choices' Film Poster

Pro-Life or Pro-choice: San Jose Indian Writes a Film on Abortion

A short film about abortion written by a San Jose resident and an Indian American is an exciting prospect. Choices, a film directed by Amir Jaffer, produced by Ajit Mukundan, and written and co-acted by Puneet, is taking on the socially relevant debate surrounding abortion. The short film is about two individuals who are steadfast in their views but are forced to reckon with changed circumstances requiring them to revisit their entrenched positions on being pro-life and pro-choice, respectively. 

Though Roe v. Wade, a landmark 1973 Supreme Court case that ruled in favor of a woman’s choice to seek an abortion, felt like a positive resolution, the 50-year discourse on pro-life and pro-choice continues to be contentious. This year, 165 bills banning abortion were introduced in state legislatures. Every election cycle, hopeful candidates seek a platform built on the divisive issue in an attempt to pander to their demographic. 

According to Jackie Dallas, the female lead of Choices, “Stances on abortion have become heavily politicized, with opponents citing religion or science without a true understanding of either. However, in actuality, an individual’s decision may not be based on fear of eternal damnation or a conscience against murder at all, but something as selfish as shame or deceit. This is a story that could be told by anyone, but I appreciated how it gave a voice to Asian-American representation, and by doing so, exposes a cultural taboo that is rarely discussed in such communities.”

I could not agree more! I was ready for the Indian American and, possibly, Hindu prerogative on the subject matter. A topic that is rarely discussed in Indian households would benefit from a film written from the lens of an Indian American in the Bay Area.

“As a Muslim, I believe in projecting the benevolence of the almighty towards all,” Altaf Khan (Puneet) preaches in the first scene of Choices during a book signing on his pro-life book. 

Puneet, who does not identify as a Muslim, plays into the trope of Islamic tradition (western religion) and the discourse surrounding abortion. When Puneet was questioned about his decision-making process, he responded, “Altaf Khan could have been a conservative Christian person too…[He] can be modern and orthodox. [He] could have been anyone.”

The unique viewpoint which Puneet has to offer was overlooked for generic appeal. Religion is pivotal to the plot but cultural implications of abortion within the Islamic community are left unanswered. Much like his character, Altaf Khan, Puneet chose to pinpoint religion when it was expedient to do so. 

What I knew began with good intent, seemed derailed by the many themes it ventured to address – religion, politics, career, marriage, infidelity, AND abortion. It took a bite out of the very extensive, nuanced dialogue and presented it to the viewer in 20 minutes.

And, perhaps, that bite was much too big. The film wasn’t able to do justice to any of the motifs and touched on each one in a superficial way. 

Some elements of Choices that I did appreciate were: the interracial couple, the diverse cast in every scene, the directive to approach a heavy topic, and the willingness to underscore the hypocrisy of the male approach to the female body. 

Ultimately, I wish this short film had offered more than what already existed in the media space but I do think it was worth the watch. More narratives on abortion are welcome and, potentially, the film can prove to be thought-provoking for South Asians once they see themselves represented on the screen. 

Choices is now available on Amazon in the United States and in the United Kingdom. It is also available on Disney+ Hotstar (India and other geographies). 

For the trailer, pictures and details go to: https://www.pranapictures.com/movies/choices


Srishti Prabha is the Managing Editor at India Currents and has worked in low-income/affordable housing as an advocate for children, women, and people of color. She is passionate about diversifying spaces, preserving culture, and removing barriers to equity.


 

Satyajit Ray's 'Bankubabur Bandhu'

How Satyajit Ray Influenced E.T.: Remembering the Legend on His 100th Birthday

Tell A Story – a column where riveting South Asian stories are presented like never before through unique video storytelling.

May 2021 marks the 100th birth anniversary of legendary Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray. Though centenary celebrations are stalled amidst pandemic, filmmakers across the globe paid respects and remembered one of the world’s finest directors, who still remains the only Indian filmmaker to have received the renowned Academy Award.

Ray directed 36 films including feature films, documentaries, and shorts that earned international acclaim. In his lifetime, he was bestowed with many accolades – 32 national awards that include the six National Awards for the Best Director, which is the most by any filmmaker so far. 

But did you know there is an inconspicuous mystery that surrounds his illustrious career including deceit? Though Ray had laid his footprint in Hollywood in the 1960s and even grabbed an opportunity with Columbia Pictures for making a movie, he was unfortunately deceived and later got disillusioned with the project.

In the 1980s, Steven Spielberg came up with the much-acclaimed Hollywood movie E.T. the Extra Terrestrial. The movie faced plagiarism charges for having replicated an Indian Filmmaker’s script, who was none other than Satyajit Ray. 

Unknown to many, Ray had penned down the first-ever script on aliens in 1967 named ‘The Alien’. The screenplay was based on his Bengali science fiction story, Bankubabur Bandhu, published in Ray’s family magazine, Sandesh. He had envisioned a movie on aliens, discussed its pursuance with Hollywood producers, and even had talked for a US-India co-production with renowned actor Peter Sellers and Marlon Brando as leads.

The striking similarity between the Hollywood movie E.T and Ray’s alien indeed became a talk of discussion. It is believed that this was one of the main reasons for E.T underperformance at the Oscars, only receiving technical awards. Rumors also claim that it is guilt that compelled Spielberg to recommend Ray’s name for the Academy Awards.

Tell-A-Story unveils this obscure mystery through this video story detailing the facts that uncover the resemblance between E.T and Ray’s Alien. It unearths the story behind Ray’s journey to Hollywood, the talks he had, and the bare truth that he revealed in his own words. A remarkable writer cum director, an exceptional illustrator, storyteller, and music composer, Satyajit Ray’s astounding creations continue to marvel filmmakers across the globe and no wonder he is still commemorated as one of the World’s greatest filmmakers.

For more such intriguing stories, subscribe to the channel. You can also follow the stories on Facebook @tellastory2020 and Instagram @tell_a_story2020


Suchithra Pillai comes with over 15 years of experience in the field of journalism, exploring and writing about people, issues, and community stories for many leading media publications in India and the United States. Tell-A-Story is her latest venture into video storytelling that includes video narratives along with thought-provoking content in less than 5 minutes, to engage and entertain the audience.


 

Film still from 'Mukti Bhawan'

Mukti Bhawan Celebrates the Parental Bond With Delicate Sensitivity

I would say it’s a rather uncanny coincidence. Mukti Bhawan is a film that I had wanted to write about for a long time. Just as I had gathered my thoughts and was close to penning the piece, I heard about the sad demise of actor Lalit Behl, who essayed the role of patriarch Dayanand Kumar in the film. The veteran actor-filmmaker passed away due to COVID complications on April 23.

As I pray for the eternal peace of the departed soul, I take a humble step to share my thoughts on this brilliant piece of cinema. 

It was the fall of 2016. After being premiered at the Venice International Film Festival, Mukti Bhawan received a 10-minute standing ovation from the audience. The depth of the subject matter and the delicate sensitivity with which it was handled moved the viewers immensely. Over the years, Mukti Bhawan has been showered with worldwide critical acclaim and has been screened at several film festivals. Its most recent entry is into this April’s London Indian Film Festival

Glimpses of  the story

Daya (Lalit Behl) lives with his son Rajiv (Adil Hussain) and his family. A dream he sees implants the idea in his mind that his days on earth are numbered. He announces at the dinner table that he wants to attain salvation and spend the final stage of his life in the sacred ghats of Varanasi. Rajiv is at the crossroads where he needs to balance between his office work and making preparations for his daughter’s wedding. Yet, he carries out his father’s wishes and takes Daya who is relentless and stubborn and won’t hear otherwise.

‘Mukti Bhawan’ is the lodge that Daya and Rajiv check into. An establishment housing elderly people, it lays down the rule which allows a maximum of 15 days of residency. Daya is at ease, settling in comfortably. He finds companionship in Vimla, a widow who has lived there for a long stretch since her husband’s death. Rajiv performs his duties as the obedient son, but he has the constant pressure mounting over him to return home and to his work.

Within the walls of this dilapidated building come alive the differences between the father and the son that have so long remained buried. Are Daya and Rajiv able to make peace and forget the past? And does Daya attain the salvation that he so passionately desired? These are the answers to look for as the film takes us through an emotional experience layered with sensitive humane nuances. 

The film mirrors reality through a script that is top-notch

The theme of aging parents is not new in the Indian film diaspora and has been addressed earlier. But what sets Mukti Bhawan on a level of its own is its realistic dimension. The story unfolds spontaneously with the absence of overt melodrama. 

Although the film steps into a philosophical domain by talking about life and death, there are light-hearted moments sandwiched between serious happenings. These scenes allow the narrative to flow with naturalistic, unencumbered ease. There is, for instance, a scene in which Daya’s granddaughter jokingly tells him that she is glad that she would have a room all by herself when he leaves the house. Again a comic moment surfaces when Daya falls ill and a bhajan is sung in anticipation of his death. Unable to bear the cacophony, he asks the singers to sing in tune.

A stellar star cast contributes its utmost

Mukti Bhawan belongs to the duo of Lalit Behl and Adil Hussain, who deliver their masterstrokes. Their interactions and conversations elevate the father-son relationship to a point where the scenes feel like those from real life and not just reel moments.

Behl is extremely convincing as the cantankerous father making inconsiderate demands. Anyone dealing with aged parents can easily relate to those times when he regresses to a state of childlike obstinacy, a behavior not too uncommon and seen sometimes among the elderly.

Adil Hussain’s portrayal of Rajiv fetched him a National Award, and it’s an accolade rightfully deserved. What is distinctive about the actor is that he molds himself effortlessly into any character he plays in his films. The role of Rajiv ranks high in the list of his outstanding performances. Anger, sadness, and frustration encircle him as he has to shoulder the responsibilities of a son, a husband, and a father. Hussain displays these varied emotions with unbelievable finesse.

The female actors in the film also show promise. Geetanjali Kulkarni as Rajiv’s wife and Palomi Ghosh as the independent-minded daughter make their presence felt by contributing their fair share. Navindra Behl as Daya’s companion strikes a chord with her warmth and kind disposition.

Film still from ‘Mukti Bhawan’

The film celebrates the parental bond with a heartwarming panache

Mukti Bhawan is a testimony to the genius and maturity of director Shubhashis Bhutiani, who embarked on this project in his twenties. Life and death are the two major strands in the web of human existence, and the film delineates this truth with fine artistry. Bhutiani weaves into this reality a story of human ties that raises questions and opens a window for reflection.

Without any moralizing, the film leaves a note, and it does so rather subtly and wisely. There are those unspoken words that contribute to the uniqueness of the narrative. While celebrating the parental bond, the film focuses on a father-son relationship that is seemingly imperfect. The bumps and jolts do not make the journey a breezy ride. But there emerges a beautiful realization that even within these misunderstandings, there is still ample room to make amends, allow forgiveness, and thereby preserve the sanctity of this timeless relationship.


Rashmi Bora Das is settled in the suburbs of Atlanta, GA. She has written for various platforms including Women’s Web to which she regularly contributes. You may visit her at www.rashmiwrites.com 


 

Film still from IFFLA featured film 'Kanya'.

Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles Opens with an Expanded Virtual Lineup

The 19th edition of the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA) returns with an expanded virtual lineup of shorts, narrative, and documentary features on May 20-27. The festival boasts a total of 40 films, including 3 World, 8 North American, 5 U.S., and 17 Los Angeles premieres, spanning 17 languages, with 16 women directors. 

IFFLA will open with the Los Angeles premiere of the powerful female-centric film, Fire in the Mountains, the 2021 Sundance-selected debut feature by Ajitpal Singh that immerses audiences in the splendor of the Himalayan mountains. Academy Award-winning filmmaker Asif Kapadia will join Singh for an insightful conversation and Q&A, highlighting the journey of the making of the film. 

IFFLA’s closing film on May 27 will feature a screening of Sthalpuran (Chronicle of Space) by Akshay Indikar, the Marathi film that premiered at Berlinale 2020 and has captured the hearts of audiences at festivals around the world for its breathtaking minimalist exploration of the inner life of its protagonist, a young boy named Dighu. Long-time IFFLA alum Anurag Kashyap (Sacred Games, Gangs of Wasseypur) will join Indikar in a Q&A discussion, putting together an exciting up-and-coming independent filmmaker with one of the most celebrated independent filmmakers of our generation. 

“This is a very special year for IFFLA. Taking the festival online has given us the freedom to curate programs we would not have been able to present in a physical setting. We have expanded our reach to all California residents, doubled the shorts program with a strong representation of films from the diaspora, and curated discussions on timely and pressing topics, celebrating the independent film community from India and the Indian diaspora,” said Christina Marouda, Executive Director. 

IFFLA’s feature lineup includes a vast array of highlights from 13 regions in India, representing over seven languages, including the Los Angeles premiere of Rotterdam Tiger, the award-winning Tamil-language debut film from director PS Vinothraj Pebbles; the North American premiere of debut filmmaker Thamizh’s Seththumaan Pig, about the caste politics of food culture in rural Tamil Nadu; IFFLA alum Bhaskar Hazarika’s romance-thriller Aamis (Ravening); the powerful Bengali ensemble film Debris of Desire; and the North American premiere of National Award-winning filmmaker Farida Pacha’s disarmingly intimate documentary Watch Over Me.

The shorts competition lineup will spotlight notable films directed by women, including the 2021 Academy Award shortlisted film, Bittu by Karishma Dube and Sushma Khadepaun’s 2020 Venice Biennale selected Anita.

For more information and passes visit www.indianfilmfestival.org

Opening Night

FIRE IN THE MOUNTAINS

Film still from 'Fire In The Mountains'
Film still from ‘Fire In The Mountains’

India | 2021 | 104 mins | Hindi

Director/Screenwriter: Ajitpal Singh

Chandra single-handedly manages her family’s homestay in a Himalayan village, struggling to save for her son’s medical treatment, while her alcoholic husband spends their money on shamanic rituals, pitting desperate pragmatism against entrenched superstition. 

Closing Night  

STHALPURAN (CHRONICLE OF SPACE)

'Sthalpuran' film poster
‘Sthalpuran’ film poster

India | 2020 | 86 mins | Marathi

Director: Akshay Indikar

When eight-year-old Dighu’s father mysteriously disappears, he is forced to relocate with his mother and sister from their Pune home to his grandparent’s coastal village, turning his life upside down. 

BRIDGE

Film still from 'Bridge'
Film still from ‘Bridge’

India | 2020 | 88 mins | Assamese

Director/Screenwriter: Kripal Kalita

Drawn from real-life incidents, the story follows the unusual struggle and the accompanying empowerment of a teenage girl residing at the bank of a tributary of the mighty, overflowing Brahmaputra river in Assam.

THE TENANT

Film still from 'Tenant'
Film still from ‘Tenant’

India/USA | 2020 | 112 mins | English, Hindi

Director/Screenwriter: Sushrut Jain

A conservative Mumbai suburb is bestirred by the arrival of an alluring cosmopolitan woman in their midst. When a wide-eyed 13-year-old boy pursues a friendship with her, he stumbles upon her secret past and is thrust headlong into adulthood.

VANAJA

Film still from 'Vanaja'
Film still from ‘Vanaja’

India | 2006 | 111 mins | Telugu 

Director/Screenwriter: Rajnesh Domalpalli

After seeing 14-year-old Vanaja’s prowess, the reigning local landlady decides to teach her Kuchipudi dance. The initial chemistry between Vanaja and the landlady’s son turns ugly, pitching Vanaja into a battle of caste and hostility. 

KANYA

'Kanya' film poster
‘Kanya’ film poster

India | 2020 | 15 mins | Tamil 

Director: Apoorva Satish

An adolescent girl growing up in a traditional Tamil household aspires to become a competitive swimmer, but her life takes an unexpected turn when she gets her first period.

RAMMAT-GAMMAT

Film still from 'Rammat-Gammat'
Film still from ‘Rammat-Gammat’

India | 2018 | 18 mins | Gujarati 

Director/Screenwriter: Ajitpal Singh

Their different socioeconomic backgrounds have not stopped two schoolboys from being best buddies, but a brand-new pair of soccer shoes will put their friendship to the test.

PEBBLES (KOOZHANGAL)

Still from film 'Pebbles'
Still from film ‘Pebbles’

India | 2021 | 74 mins | Tamil

An irascible drunkard drags his reticent boy to a distant village to get his estranged wife to return, but when the encounter turns ugly, the journey home through unforgiving Tamil Nadu barrens transforms the father and son’s parched relationship. 

SETHTHUMAAN (PIG)

Film still from 'Seththumaan'
Film still from ‘Seththumaan’

India | 2020 | 112 mins | Tamil

Director/Screenwriter: Thamizh

A basket seller with big dreams for his grandson is asked by his bellicose landlord to prep a pig for a victory meal. The ensuing affair reveals the fraught caste politics surrounding forbidden meats in rural Tamil Nadu.  

WATCH OVER ME

Film still from 'Watch Over Me'
Film still from ‘Watch Over Me’

Switzerland/Germany/India | 2021 | 92 mins | Hindi, Malayalam

Director/Screenwriter: Farida Pacha

A palliative care team in New Delhi helps terminally ill patients and their families come to terms with the inevitability of death.

Short Films:

BITTU

India/USA | 2020 | 17 mins | Hindi 

Director/Screenwriter: Karishma Dev Dube

When adversity strikes, the future may depend on Bittu, a defiant young girl with a brilliantly foul tongue.

ANITA

India/USA | 2020 | 18 mins | Gujarati, English

Director/Screenwriter: Sushma Khadepaun

Anita returns to India for her sister’s wedding, eager to share some news about her exciting, independent life in America. But her pride quickly turns to disillusionment when the deep-rooted force of patriarchy rears its ugly head.


Mona Shah is a multi-platform storyteller with expertise in digital communications, social media strategy, and content curation for Twitter and LinkedIn for C-suite executives. A journalist and editor, her experience spans television, cable news, and magazines. An avid traveler and foodie, she loves artisan food and finding hidden gems: restaurants, recipes, destinations. She can be reached at: mona@indiacurrents.com


 

CAAMfest film, Americanish

CAAMFest 2021 Celebrates Asian American Heritage

In an apt marking of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, and in a year when Asian Americans have been targeted for widespread violence, The Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) brings us a film festival celebrating the richness and diversity of the Asian and Asian American experience. “Now, more than ever, the power of storytelling is vital to the health and happiness of our diverse communities,” says Stephen Gong, executive director of CAAM.

Slated for May 13-23, the 11-day festival brings us a robust array of live, virtual and on-demand film screenings, continuing its trajectory of storytelling and conversation with a schedule of over 50 events, including screenings, panels, and live performances. 

“The world may have paused due to the pandemic, but our filmmakers didn’t,” says Masashi Niwano, festival and exhibitions director at CAAM. “The vibrancy and energy of this year’s programming are unmatched with our filmmakers bravely telling their unique and vital stories.”

This year, South Asian directors take center stage at the festival with provocative, bold new works. 

The powerful Closing Night film:

Americanish

Film: Americanish
Film: Americanish

Directed by Iman Zawahry 

Sunday, May 23, 5:00 p.m.

Welcome to America: Where dreams come true…ish. In Jackson Heights, Queens, New York, two career-driven sisters (Maryam and Sam) and their newly-immigrated cousin (Ameera) must navigate the consistent — and sometimes conflicting — demands of romance, culture, work, and family. Serving both as a lighthearted reimagination of and critical divergence from the classic romantic comedy, Americanish tackles and celebrates the complex intersectionality of womanhood by welcoming us into the world — with all its joys and tribulations — of these three marriage-aged women. Americanish meditates on the sometimes inevitable tension that arises between competing societal and cultural norms, or between personal obligations and ambitions, with a fresh perspective, weaving from it a story that is unconventional, funny, and heartwarming.

White Elephant 

Film: White Elephant
Film: White Elephant

Directed by Andrew Chung

On demand

Pooja is an Indian Canadian teenager trapped between two worlds and doesn’t have anyone she can rely on. She’s from a minority neighborhood and struggles to fit in her high school where everybody’s idea of fun is limited to one eatery. Pooja finds escape through movies, and fantasizes about love and along comes Trevor, a White heartthrob she instantly falls for. Her infatuation doesn’t last when conflicts arise from a clash of cultures. Undeterred from her pitfalls, Pooja manages to find renewed confidence through adversity.

This coming-of-age story deals with the angst and frustrations of high school and blends it with the immigrant experience with a 90’s flair. 

Because We Are Girls

Film: Because We Are Girls

Directed by Baljit Sangra

On demand

A heartbreaking secret emerges for an Indo-Candian family: a relative sexually abused three of the sisters for years.   

After nearly two decades of silence, we meet sisters Jeeti, Kira, and Salakshana Pooni, now adults, at the end of their court case against their abuser. Director Baljit Sangra deftly captures the emotional journey the women face not just navigating the justice system but confronting their family for standing by while the abuse happened.        

The film explores the impact of the sexual abuse of three sisters in a traditional Punjabi family and shines a light on the nuances of gendered violence and the cultural systems that reinforce and perpetuate the trauma of abuse.

Have You Forgotten Me (short accompanying Because We Are Girls)

Film: Have You Forgotten Me?
Film: Have You Forgotten Me?

Directed by Baljit Sangra

On demand

This emotionally compelling short shines a light on North American’s oldest running Sikh Temple and the struggle it represents.

With offerings for everyone from media makers to film lovers to those interested in Asian and Asian American representation, the festival brings us unique voices highlighting the intersections of community. 

***

Check out the full lineup at: CAAMFest.com

General admission tickets for virtual screenings and panels range from complimentary to $15. Drive-In Experience ranges from $45-$50. 


Mona Shah is a multi-platform storyteller with expertise in digital communications, social media strategy, and content curation for Twitter and LinkedIn for C-suite executives. A journalist and editor, her experience spans television, cable news, and magazines. An avid traveler and foodie, she loves artisan food and finding hidden gems: restaurants, recipes, destinations. She can be reached at: mona@indiacurrents.com


 

'Looking For A Lady With Fangs and A Moustache' Film Poster.

Searching For a Dakini on a Motorcycle in the Himalayas 

Looking For a Lady With Fangs and a Moustache, released on April 9, 2021, was directed & written by Khyentse Norbu and produced by Max Dipesh Khatri and Olivia Harrison.  

This is the story of Tenzin (Tsering Tashi Gyalthang), a forward-thinking Tibetan young man who has a dream of creating Kathmandu’s best coffee shop. It would be lovely to sip a chai and bite into a croissant on the mall road overlooking the Himalayas.

But there’s a proverbial fly in the ointment. Tenzin is afflicted by a recurring prescient nightmare. He has a modern mindset and is not superstitious like some of his townsfolk. However, the recurrent dream of his incumbent death drives him to seek out ancient Buddhist monks for guidance. The monk gives him a black thread with six knots and a cryptic message to seek out a dakini and ask her for a life-saving boon. Now starts an incomprehensible and somewhat shady trek of the protagonist. Armed with a red ladies slipper, he follows many young women down the hills, on busy streets, in long skirts, ankle bells, and kohled eyes. On his own personal quest, Tenzin also tries to help his friend in his romantic aspirations to woo a Tibetan singer. His journey takes the viewer on a motorcycle ride from dawn to dusk, through winding roads, misty mountains, elaborately carved ancient temples, and waterfalls. This part is quite picturesque and effortlessly crafted by the executive cinematographer, Mark Lee Ping-bing.

 The film has English subtitles, and snippets of Hindi prayers, chants, and also lines of a popular Bollywood song…Kabhi kabhi mere dil mein. But most of the conversations are in the local dialect.

The end was a bit jarring considering that the narrative was about mystical feminine spirits – dakinis. We were in search of these mythical tantric beings possessing supernatural powers on the human destiny that are rooted in the Himalayan Buddhist tradition but I failed to experience a climactic moment where the protagonist comes face to face with the mysterious feminine energy. And yet, everyone seems content in the parting celebration.

The initial angst is replaced by warmth and camaraderie. Perhaps pigeons randomly crossing paths or a flock of flying birds in the sky are symbolic of resolution. This film explores the esoteric belief of Tibetans in mystical life forms in a sort of “ show” and not “tell” genre and I was somewhat underwhelmed. I was intrigued and left with more questions. Perhaps that was intended? Regardless, I made a mental note to go and check out the cafes in Kathmandu! 


Monita Soni, MD has one foot in Huntsville, Alabama, the other in her birth home India, and a heart steeped in humanity. Monita has published many poems, essays, and two books, My Light Reflections and Flow Through My Heart. You can hear her commentaries on Sundial Writers Corner WLRH 89.3FM.


 

Agni Whips You Into the Environmental Crisis Overtaking Bay Area Landscapes

The world premiere of Bay Area Based Chitresh Das Institute’s (CDI) short Kathak film, “Agni” is on Earth Day, April 22, 2021, at 7:30 pm PDT. The video premiere will be followed by a Q&A panel discussion moderated by India Currents.

The short film is directed and voiced by Filmmaker – Alka Raghuram, choreographed by CDI’s Artistic Director – Charlotte Moraga, composed by musician – Alam Khan, and shot by cinematographer – Anjali Sundaram.

To purchase tickets for the event, head on over to ODC Dance website:

Tickets are $10 before the day of the event

https://t.co/Yw2IfPqjYH?amp=1

Be sure not to miss the event this Thursday!

Here are some sneak peeks about the film when we spoke to the director and producer, Alka Raghuram. 

What was the inspiration to make this film?

Before getting into that, I want to give some context of my association with Chitresh Das Institute. I had worked with Pandit Chitresh Das for his last performance for a live Kathak Flamenco production named “Yatra,” where I was doing the audiovisual element part of it. Initially, Charlotte wanted to create a live show called “Mantram” based on Panchabhoota, five basic elements of cosmic creation. Due to pandemics, live performances are not happening.

We tried to bring out a collaborative effort for “Agni,” the element that brings out the fire’s force or ferocity. Fire is a destructive force but also creates fertile ground for rejuvenation. This film was very much a response to the wildfire burning in California and the social and political wildfires of social injustice in the spring and summer of 2020. Earth’s perspective on fire and what our role is to play in it. It is a collaborative effort to tell the story through different mediums. Charlotte tells the story through dance, and me through film, poem, paintings, and Alam through music. It is the plant’s seed, i.e., the actual live show coming up in the near future. We are going to do a series of short films like this in each of the elements. 

How is watching this film different from a live dance show (watching from the front)?

Projecting a painting is usually static. Watching a show as an audience is a different experience altogether but watching a movie is dynamic. I filmed the dancers from various angles so that they are dancing in other ways. That helps viewers to witness as an insider. Even the side wings of the auditorium stage have the same three-dimensional visual effects. We took a creative decision to make this film distinct that way from watching a show from the front. 

Can you tell us about the poem used in the film?

I wrote the poem to highlight the environmental aspect of the story. The artistic process is iterative by nature. Your vision evolves and gets refined as the work progresses. The first cut of the film was eye-catching and beautiful but we were missing the allusion to the wildfires of the last couple of years. Which led us to experiment with text that would complement the visuals and bring out that dimension without sensationalizing it in any way. We wanted the whole piece to be cut from the same cloth

The poem in the film is complimenting what is already there rather than underlying it. The poem is also another culpable way here to ask whose fault it is. Dance and visuals say whose fault is this, and the verse is also saying that through words. It is giving a hint to the audience about what is going to come. I recited it as well. 

Music is one of the critical elements of this production. We noticed no particular raaga or taala associated with it, like traditional Indian Classical performances. Can you give some background about the creation of this unique music?

Alam Khan created the music piece, and Charlotte made the bols and rhythmic composition. The taal is a complex five and half-beat taal. Charlotte Moraga notes that it’s like fire, it is quick, exciting, and unpredictable! Alam adds that the music is not based on any particular raga. The music is a continuation of Alam’s contemporary approach in blending Indian classical instruments with other instrument types. He has been doing this for many years now and feels his style in this vein continues to grow. We wanted to do something musically out of the box for Kathak and push the limits of what we are accustomed to. 

Can you tell us about the artwork and paintings used in the film? it is an integral part of this film. Is it digital? Can you tell us a little more background of it?

Those are hand-painted, and I used ink. I am a painter too, and the idea was to use those paintings projected in the auditorium during the performance. In the film, the backdrop is not so much focused. I painted blue woods and redwoods and took pictures of tree barks and fire. I needed to rearrange, superimpose, and layered all of these during editing in such a three-dimensional way, telling a dynamic cinematic story altogether. Paintings are also done in a way to interpret it globally, not so region-specific. I used a blue color tone in paintings overall. Blue represents the hottest and the most intense part of the fire’s flames. Blue is also the calm part of it before the fire starts. 

What is the concluding message of this production from the environmental aspect? Can you tell our audience about it a little more? 

The film communicates from the perspective of the Earth and speaks about who is culpable for it. It asks the question and includes everyone. Towards the end, the dancers stare at viewers and say whose fault it is. Then there is smoke, and the Earth’s mouth is filled with ash. Earth speaks with grief. Then there is ash in the landscape, and birds are disappearing. It is like Earth’s lament through the poem, dancer’s expressions, and visuals – Why is this happening? Who is to blame? Our deeds are recorded in the time ledger how we acted so far caused us to come to this point. Agni is raging and destroying. It brought us to think brink for our deeds. This film visually takes us on the journey from sparks to the raging fire. 


Piyali Biswas De is an accomplished Bharatnatyam and Non-classical dance exponent, guru, and well-known choreographer in the Greater Seattle region. When she is not dancing, Piyali works as an IT professional in Seattle and spends time with two beautiful daughters who seem eager to follow in her footsteps. 


 

Bay-Area Based Filmmaker Alka Raghuram Documents Muslim Women Boxers’ Fight for Liberation

How far would you go for freedom? A choice between survival and social acceptance.

For girls of Kiddirpur, a small Muslim neighborhood in West Bengal, the path they chose was something no one even dreamt of; a path less trodden. To be women boxers, carving out a space of their own in a male-dominated sport, that too in a patriarchal society. Burqa Boxers, an internationally acclaimed documentary portrays the incredible life story of these Muslim women boxers, how they shatter the preconceived notions incredulously and stand up for their fight for survival. 

Written and Directed by California-based Indian American Alka Raghuram, the documentary is currently premiered on Cinemapreneur – an OTT platform for independent filmmakers, and has already received rave reviews from across the world.

“When I heard about this unusual story of girls from a traditional community stepping out of their comfort zone to do something unique, it just inspired me right away. One of my photographer friends had shot these women in action and seeing those photographs gave me a massive adrenaline rush, and then and there, I decided that I want to tell this incredible story to the world,” said Alka Raghuram, who is also the producer of the film along with Deann Borshay Liem, 24 Images from France and Premlatha Durham.

With three women boxers belonging to different age groups as main protagonists, trained under Razia Shabnam, one of the first Indian women to become a boxing coach and an international referee, the documentary sheds light on their life trajectory amidst societal acceptance, financial conditions, aspirations, and dreams. Smitten by poverty, for these girls, boxing is not just their passion, but a path to attain financial independence. Being an earning member of the family empowers them to take their own decisions. The only way to break free, or else they are married off.

“Kolkata has a long history of boxing with many public boxing rings around and these girls have seen their brother or father in the field and that gave them the exposure. Coming from underprivileged communities and boxing being a cheap sport compared to others, they saw this practical opportunity and grabbed it right away. Boxing gives them financial independence and also the confidence to defend and stay strong when needed,” adds Alka, who spent nearly a year for research, building relations with the conservative community, and understanding the intricacies of complicated dynamics of the society. 

The movie explores the emotions of not just the three boxers but people around who influence them and how boxing acts as a catalyst in life-changing decisions. For Ajmira Khatoon, an aspiring boxer from the neighborhood, boxing is her future and leaves no stone unturned to attain the goal, even if it means regular beatings from father and family fights. To be financially independent is boxer Parveen Sajda’s dream, who is already a state champion but still struggles to get a job amidst societal marital pressure. And for Taslima Khatoon, who resides at a hostel for kids of impoverished communities like sex workers, run by New Light NGO, boxing has opened up new avenues to flourish. 

Apart from these main protagonists, the documentary also brings to fore many alarming issues like the rise in the number of rape cases in India, an upsurge in fear, and how girls discover the need to rise, fight, and conquer their fears. Through the eyes of coach Razia Shabnam and her son, it also delves into prejudiced notions of society that perpetuate unknowingly and engulfs even the educated minds. 

Funded by Independent Television Service (ITVS), Diversity Development Fund, Centre national du cinema et de l’image animee (CNC France), and Visions Sud Est, Burqa Boxers has already many accolades to its credit. Screened at the Locarno Film Festival co-production market, it received the top honor and the team also exhibited a compilation of photo, video and art installation based on the project at the venue.  

California Filmmaker, Alka Raghuram

“Even though the setting of the movie is a poor neighborhood in West Bengal, people from across the world could resonate and relate to it during the screenings, which I consider as most rewarding. To be able to convey a story crossing all cultural boundaries was fulfilling as a visual storyteller. I would love to take Burqa Boxers further ahead to many more public platforms where it reaches a wider audience, especially educational screenings that initiate a conversation on women empowerment and the need for change. We need more stories like these for people to step out of their comfort zone and discover their dreams,” states Alka, who is all set to embark on a new project – fiction feature film ‘Ayna’ starring acclaimed actress Mithila Palkar, a psychological thriller with cinematography by Gurgaon fame director Shanker Raman

Alka also collaborates with other artists for different projects and is currently working on five short films based on choreography by Charlotte Moraga, artistic director at Chitresh Das Institute that encompasses the theme of five elements of life. She is also working on advocacy videos profiling mothers of kids with serious mental illness. 

Dreaming high with her best-laid projects ahead, Alka contemplates the proclaimed theme of Burqa Boxers, women need to step out of their comfort zone to discover their true self. Raised in a small town of Indore, Madhya Pradesh, filmmaking was never her childhood dream but it was her hidden passion that she unraveled while living in the US, returning to school after having kids. “We must always continue to explore ourselves. Nobody comes on the world stage with everything in hand. The only thing required is to be able to ask questions without any hesitation. You just have to ask, to learn, to empower, and to discover yourselves!” concludes Alka. 


Suchithra Pillai comes with over 15 years of experience in the field of journalism, exploring and writing about people, issues, and community stories for many leading media publications in India and the United States.