Saturday, March 12, 2011

'Maximum India' at Kennedy Center

Washington DC’s Kennedy Center opens 3-week India arts festival

The $7 million "Maximum India" festival opened March 1, 2011 and will run through March 20. With nearly 100 performances, films and events, organizers say it is one of the largest U.S. festivals ever devoted to the south Asian country of 1.2 billion people.

Exhibits opened in the Kennedy Center's main halls, including a collection of traditional saris, an installation featuring words from a historic speech by Mahatma Gandhi, and colorful crafts from various Indian streets. "I hope it gets the people who have never been to India to have a sense of what it is — to have a feeling of what it is to walk in the streets of a large urban city in India," said Adrien Gardere, who curated the art exhibits.

Beyond the visual art, the center also is offering a wide array of culinary creations. All the center's restaurants converted their menus to creations by master chefs from various regions of India,

The India festival is the latest in a series of large-scale events tracing the cultures of the Silk Road trade routes across Asia. Earlier festivals featured China, Japan and 22 Arab countries.

The film sessions at Kennedy Center comprise of the following:

Bollywood and Beyond with Nandita Das

Nandita Das,  award-winning actress and director, leads a discussion of the Indian film industry, from the big-banner studio productions of Bollywood to the more "regional" films. India’s respected actor Nandita Das will curate a film series to feature portrayals of women in Indian film since the 1960s, including the country's first portrayal of a gay relationship on a major film in 1996.  “Many different Indias exist in this one country," she said. "The American audience will get quite a treat of India, an enigmatic land that most are intrigued by but do not really know it."


The Story of Gitanjali

The Story of Gitanjali takes a look at the collection of poems by the renowned Indian polymath Rabindranath Tagore, which won him the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913, making him the first Asian Nobel laureate.

Pather Panchali: A Living Resonance

Pather Panchali: A Living Resonance explores legendary filmmaker Satyajit Ray’s film Pather Panchali. Fifty years after its release, Pather Panchali is still regarded as one of the greatest films ever made and one that solidified India’s spot on the international film map.

Also being screened are documentaries produced by the Public Diplomacy Division of the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India..

Panel Discussion:

Portrayal of Indian Women in Film

Moderator Nandita Das leads a discussion on the portrayal of Indian women in film with panelists Shabana Azmi, Sharmila Tagore, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Ketan Mehta, and Dilip Basu.


Does Gandhi Matter?

This session explores the growing interest, especially among today’s youth, in the Mahatma and his message of tolerance and non-violence. Through interviews with a wide cross-section of people, the film depicts reactions to its titular question.

Ismat & Annie

Ismat & Annie follows the lives and works of Ismat Chugtai and Qurrat-ul-Ain Haider (better known as Annie)—two writers who, in spite of turmoil and turbulence in their personal lives and the period in which they lived, contributed immeasurably to the Indian literary landscape.


Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s Four Women (2007)

This film is a searing and thought-provoking drama revolving around four elemental female characters in the south Indian state of Kerala: The Prostitute, The Virgin, The Housewife, and The Spinster.

Shyam Benegal’s  Mandi (1983)

A satirical comedy on politics and prostitution, which stars Shabana Azmi, Naseeruddin Shah, and Smita Patil, Mandi tells the story of a brothel situated in the heart of a city, an area that some politicians covet for its prime location.

Satyajit Ray’s Devi (1960)

In this Satyajit Ray classic, a young woman is deemed a goddess when her father-in-law, a rich feudal landlord, envisions her as the Goddess Kali. The woman herself starts believing that she is an avatar, and that belief soon turns to tragedy.

Literature Panel:

Celluloid Lives

This discussion moderated by Lalitha Gopalan explores film biography and autobiography as a personalized account of the evolution of film in India with panelists Girish Karnad, Sharmila Tagore, and Sadanand Menon.

Dhobi Ghat (Mumbai Diaries) (2010)

One of India's most sought-after leading men, Aamir Khan stars in wife Kiran Rao's feature film directorial debut, the story of four people from very different backgrounds, whose worlds intersect and leave them forever altered.

Deepa Mehta’s  Fire (1996)

Director Deepa Mehta's groundbreaking Fire was the first Indian film to explicitly portray homosexual relations and continues to invite conversations on homosexuality and freedom of speech.

Ketan Mehta’s Mirch Masala (1985)

Set in colonial India, Mirch Masala tells of a beautiful and confident woman whose husband is away in the city. She spurns the advances of the tax collector, who is known for demanding more than taxes, and flees to a spice factory.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Spot News from FilmIndia Worldwide

Prashant Bhargava’s The Kite to compete in 2011 Tribeca!

After its well received world premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival, Prashant Bhargava’s debut work The Kite scores again in making its North American premiere. It has been selected in competition at Tribeca International Film Festival’s World Narrative section. The 10th Tribeca Film Festival will run in New York City from April 20 to May 1.

The Kite (Patang), directed and written by Prashant Bhargava. (India, USA) is a family saga set against the colorful spectacle of the Uttarayan, India’s largest kite festival, The Kite is a kaleidoscopic whirlwind of energy, romance, and turmoil. A businessman arrives in Ahmedabad for a surprise visit to his once grand family home, bringing with him his daughter and some unexpected news for the family’s future. Amongst the flurry of preparations and the energy of the festival itself, the transformative and intersecting

Competing in Tribeca’s World Documentary Feature Competition and also making its North American premiere is another film that links with India. The documentary is Marathon Boy, directed by Gemma Atwal. (UK, USA, India). Gemma Atwal’s fascinating and dynamic epic follows Budhia, a four-year-old boy plucked from the slums of India and trained as a marathon prodigy by Biranchi Das, a larger-than-life judo coach who runs an orphanage in the eastern state of Orissa. But over the next five years and dozens of marathons, Budhia’s roller-coaster journey turns from an uplifting story of promise and opportunity to one of greed, corruption, and broken dreams.

Tribeca festival’s press release states that eighty-eight features and 61 short films from 32 different countries were selected from more than 5,600 submissions to screen at the festival. David Kwok, Director of Programming, said. “We are particularly proud that we have 12 directors returning to Tribeca with their feature films as well as the opportunity to showcase an excellent number of films that have been supported by the Tribeca Film Institute.”

The remaining feature-film lineup will be announced on March 14

News and views from the Editor, Uma da Cunha

The month of March is a good one for our filmmakers, from the new to the noteworthy among them. It calls for congratulations going out to directors whose recent work is being lauded at international film festivals and at leading art institutions across the world.

Read on …:

First-time filmmaker Aamir Bashir

The 54th San Francisco International Film Festival (April 21 – May 5) will award close to $100,000 in total prizes this year. The New Directors Prize of $15,000 is given to a narrative first feature that exhibits a unique artistic sensibility and deserves to be seen by as wide an audience as possible. Seventeen countries contributed to the production of the 11 films in this year’s competition. An independent jury will select the New Directors Prize winner, to be announced at the Golden Gate Awards Wednesday, May 4.

The Indian film selected is Aamir Bashir’s lauded debut work, Harud (Autumn). In the film, a young man who is mourning the disappearance of his older brother, tries to make a life for himself in his violence-ridden home of Kashmir. The film is a powerful depiction of the loss and psychological decay caused by 20 years of violent conflict.

Film fest veteran from Bengal, Buddhadeb Dasgupta!

Dasgupta’s film Janala has won the best film award at the recent Asia Pacific Film Festival held in Taipei. 56 films from 18 countries in the Asia Pacific region competed. Janala deals with a man's quest to return to his roots by gifting a brand new window - which acts as a metaphor - to his dilapidated school. Produced by Reliance Pictures, its stars Indraneil Sengupta, Swastika Mukherjee and Tapas Pal. The film premiered in the Masters section at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival, and has traveled to some `15 festivals since

Short filmmaker Collin D’Cunha wins Australian award

Colin Dcunha’s documentary Mumbaikar Ganesh has just been awarded the Western Union Short film Prize 2011 at the bollywood and beyond festival in Australia. The young filmmaker will be traveling to Australia to attend the awards gala on the 12th of March. Mumbaikar Ganesh is the story about two Ganesh’s from Mumbai. A young man Jai Arjun Ganesh speaks about his childhood in Mumbai and his ambitions for the future while he participates in the festival of Lord Ganesh – the beloved god of Mumbai, remover of all obstacles. The film was awarded the Best Film in the Dimensions Mumbai category at the 2001 International Film Festival, Mumbai (MAMI).Collin graduated with a specialization in Advertising from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai. He was the student representative from India at the 2005 Cannes Lions Awards and was awarded the Konig Ludwig Trophy in 2009 for his advertisement 'Take Off'. Presently he lives and makes films in Mumbai.

Dr Biju Kumar from Kerala

Dr Biju Kumar’s latest film Veettilekkulla Vazhi (The Way Home) has been selected to feature in Competition at the 10th Imagine India International film festival Madrid, Spain (May 17 to 31) The film concerns a doctor who sees his wife and five year old son die in an explosion at a market in Delhi. Now working at a Prison Hospital he is assigned the case of a woman in critical condition, a surviving suicide bomber from the ‘Indian Jihadi’ terrorist group. Despite his efforts the woman dies. But before dying she entrusts him to find her five-year-old son and unite him with his father Abdul Zuban Tariq, head of the terrorist group.
The film is a travelogue through the most beautiful landscapes of India.

First time filmmaker Janaki Viswanathan from Chennai

The Tamil feature film Om Obama directed by Janaki Viswanathan will have its US Premiere at the inaugural Palm Beach Women’s International Film Festival, Florida, April 7 – 10, 2011. This first ever edition of the women’s film festival will include 10 World Premieres and 7 US Premieres. Om Obama is a seriously funny film about a tiny village’s attempts at tackling global recession. Set in the fictitious village of Kedarapalayam in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, the film’s story unravels before a bemused American television journalist who arrives there to document Kedarapalayam’s obsession with the American President Barack Obama!