Women Filmmakers highlight LIFF 2016!

By Sirah Haq

One thing that is distinct about The London Indian Film Festival this year is the number of films by women filmmakers on the programme. Kick-starting with opening night film Parched; by Leena Yadav, LIFF 2016 has an eclectic mix of films which celebrate women filmmakers and their unique voice.

LIFF_Leena Yadav

Leena Yadav’s critically acclaimed Parched; opens the festival on 14th July at Cineworld Haymarket and on 15 th July in Birmingham. The film follows the journey of four rural women from Rajasthan, as they flee the controlling men in their lives and discover themselves anew. From freedom of thought to sexual liberation, Yadav makes her characters embrace freedom with a newfound spirit and almost childlike excitement. Yadav’s characters are bold, beautiful and full of chutzpah and through them she gives women all over the world the courage to fight for themselves and their individuality. Starring rising star Radhika Apte and Tannishtha Chatterjee of ‘Brick Lane’ fame, the film has also been shown at the Toronto International Film Festival and has garnered critical acclaim for its subject matter and giving South Asian women a voice.

LIFF_Parched

Another filmmaker being celebrated at LIFF this year is two time Oscar Winner, Pakistan Filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy. Catch a double bill of Chinoy’s work at Picturehouse Cinema in London on 18th July and in Birmingham on 19th July. Screenings include Oscar Winning documentary ‘A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness’; which follows the story of Saba who survived an honour killing attempt and how she fought back with the help of NGO’s and Human Rights organizations to have her voice heard. The groundbreaking film not only earned Chinoy a second Oscar but also sparked debate in Pakistani parliament on an anti-honour killing bill. The second of Chinoy’s films to be screened is the beautiful and moving Song of Lahore. A look at the classical singers of the city who are fast fading into oblivion but then reinvent themselves by playing Jazz Music on their traditional instruments and eventually making it to Lincoln Centre in New York to perform with esteemed Jazz musician Wynton Marsalis. The film is heartwarming, a beautifully told story and a feast for the eyes and ears with scenic Lahore as its backdrop and some soul-stirring music from all the performers. The films in London will be followed by a Q&A with Sharmeen herself where she’ll talk about her work as a director.

LIFF_Sharmeen

Staying with Pakistan, LIFF also brings you Meenu Gaur’s latest directorial venture ‘Jeewan Haathi’ with co-director Farjad Nabi. Made in collaboration with  Zeal for Unity, the film takes a candid look at Pakistan’s burgeoning media industry and the lengths to which channel heads will go to get ratings. Starring Naseerudin Shah this is a brilliant satirical piece and a must watch from the directors of critically acclaimed Zinda Bhaag! Screening on 17th and 19th July in London and 17th July in Birmingham.

More music awaits you in Shefali Bhushan’s musical ‘Jugni The film’, a feature which follows an upcoming music director from Mumbai and her journey to the rural areas in search of a folk singer. A quest which leads her to fall in love and a journey of self-discovery. The film is inspired by the time Bhushan spent in rural India searching for folk music talent. It has a lilting musical score featuring AR Rahman and Vishal Bhardwaj. The film will screen in London from 15th – 17th July and in Birmingham on 17th July. Screenings will also be followed by a Q&A with the director.

LIFF_Rinku Kalsy

Another film to watch out for is Rinku Kalsy’s documentary For the Love of a Man; an eye opening film revolving around the way South Indian super-star Rajinikanth is idolized by his fans and how people hero worship him. Kalsy’s film picks up on the way in which India glorifies its stars and to the extent they go, to feed that obsession- including putting the star before their work, friends and families. Kalsy’s film is bold, enlightening, entertaining and has a unique voice. The film was also an official selection at the Venice Film Festival and will be followed by a Q&A with the director whose previous work includes documentary ‘Mila Journey’. Catch it on 16th and 17th July in London.

Another film not to miss is Aparna Sen’s Bengali adaptation of Romeo and Juliet: ‘Arshinagar’. The film is a riot of colour and will stir the senses with its very varied soundtrack which consists of everything from Qawali to Rock Music. Sen adapts the story with a very local sensibility by making the film about a love affair between a Muslim and Hindu. Famous for films like ‘36 Chowringhee Lane’ and the more recent ‘Mr. and Mrs. Iyer’, Sen’s ‘Arshinagar’ promises to be a visual treat and a landmark for Bengali Cinema. Screening on 16th and 17th July in London.

Last but not least is Ruchika Oberoi’s ‘Island City’. Three stories revolving around characters from urban Mumbai and throwing light on how materialism has affected relationships. From a man who has to have fun when he wins a day of free shopping at a mall, to a family who happily replace the man of the house with a TV soap character. Oberoi’s take on modern India is funny, thought provoking and satirical at the same time. Oberoi won best debut director at the Venice Film Festival for the film, which makes this a must watch! Starring the amazing Vinay Pathak, the film will screen on 19th and 20th July in London.

And last but not least is a panel discussion organised by LIFF and ‘Women in Film and TV UK’ aptly titled: ‘Woman with a Movie Camera: A life less ordinary’ at BFI Southbank on 1 th July. The event will see Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, Leena Yadav and Rinku Kalsy discuss their work and the place of women filmmakers today and promises to be interesting and enlightening.

So get set to see South Asian Women filmmakers use their work as their voice and help make LIFF 2016 all about the power of a woman and her camera!

Programme. Buy your tickets here.

Shekhar Kapur at LIFF 2016!

By Sirah Haq

Screen Talks at The London Indian Film Festival are always one of the highlights of the programme and very exciting. Past years have seen the likes of superstar Irrfan Khan; talented actor, director Farhan Akhtar and creative genius Mani Ratnam take centre stage at the BFI to talk about their work. This year is no exception as we welcome charismatic and world renowned director Shekhar Kapur to LIFF.

It’s not every day that you come across a director like Shekhar Kapur. As a filmmaker he has been immensely successful in both India and Hollywood, something which is no small feat and something only he has been able to achieve. Kapur debuted as director in 1983 with Naseerudin Shah and Shabana Azmi starrer Masoom. The film is about a family on the brink of transition when a wife discovers her husband has an illegitimate child who is coming to live with them. The sensitivity and subtlety with which Kapur lays out the family drama is soul-stirring, very real and with a clear focus on human relationships rather than the melodrama so typical of Bollywood. This is something that perhaps is a hallmark of Kapur’s work, his ability to bring out the human element in stories which are often about people in extraordinary circumstances.

Bandit 1

The controversial Bandit Queen (1994) won the National Award for Best Hindi film and premiered at Cannes in the director’s fortnight as well as being featured at the Edinburgh Film Festival. The film highlighted Indian bandit Phoolan Devi’s life and brutal struggle from a very personal and perhaps for some, stark perspective. However, it was a bold film, a story told with a lot of courage and depth and one that brought the director international recognition.

Elizabeth 3

Kapur’s foray into Hollywood began with the 1998 biopic Elizabeth, which won the BAFTA for best picture and was nominated for six academy awards, picking up best actress for Cate Blanchett. It charts Queen Elizabeth I’s journey as she transitions from a young innocent woman to pledging herself to her country by ‘marrying’ her kingdom and proclaiming herself a virgin queen. The sequel Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007) looked at Elizabeth I’s journey during the latter part of her reign and her struggle to deal with the raw emotion of love in the midst of court etiquette and an impending invasion from Spain. Other films by Kapur include The Four Feathers (2002) for Hollywood and Bollywood blockbuster Sci-fi Mr. India, which was the highest grossing film of 1987 and loved by young and old alike for its memorable characters. It is also perhaps most remembered for one of Hindi Cinema’s most notorious villains, Magambo and that famous line “Magambo khush huwa”!

Kapur is a very powerful storyteller and his films are rich with layers of meaning and subtext, which gradually unravel as you connect with the characters and their very strong dilemmas. I’m really looking forward to seeing him onstage at the BFI, and hope he can reveal more about how he actually gets to the heart of a script as a director as well as more about his extraordinary journey as a filmmaker in India and Hollywood.

Volunteers Induction!

The LIFF 2016 held a very successful induction to many returning and new volunteers on Saturday 11th June, in the incredible Cineworld Haymarket cinema, just by Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square.

Returning Volunteer, Dev Joshi, even brought out his new ‘360 degree’ camera which everyone LOVED!

Stay tuned for more of this from the LIFF Volunteers Blog soon

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VOLUNTEER NOW FOR LIFF 2016!

We are very excited to be recruiting Volunteers again for the London Indian Film Festival in London and/or Birmingham. 

Please email Avneet Chauhan, Volunteers Co-Ordinator at volunteer@londonindianfilmfestival.co.uk with an up-to-date CV/ short covering note, also stating your availability across June and July. Deadline: 6th June 2016

New Volunteer training will be taking place in London and Birmingham in June, date tbc. 

The festival takes place in London from 14-21st July in London, and 15-24th July in Birmingham.

Have a read of the role description below:

1) BEFORE THE FESTIVAL

a) Attending the volunteer training sessions.

b) Distributing the programme and other promoting material.

2) DURING THE FESTIVAL

You will be assigned into teams at every screening.

a) Helping out with the opening and closing galas.

b) Handing out and collating voting slips for the Audience Award for Best Film.

c) Encouraging as many of our audiences to complete Audience Evaluation Forms. You must be willing to engage with the audiences as the friendly attitude and power of persuasion gets more of the forms completed.

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LIFF 2015 Is Here!

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It’s that time of the year again! The sun is shining down on bright and bustling London, spirits are soaring and the city is abuzz with activity. And amidst it all, comes another edition of the now hugely popular London Indian Film Festival. In its sixth year now LIFF has become renowned for bringing good quality South Asian Indie Cinema to the capital. With some great films and documentaries on the programme and many stars including Manisha Koirala, Mani Ratnam and Konkona Sen Sharma  in attendance, the festival is bigger and better than ever this year, as well as it’s also spreading its wings to the city of Birmingham to cater to the growing fan base there.

Some of the highlights to look out for this year include the UK premiere of opening night film Umrika, a story of two small time village boys who aspire to live the American dream and winner of this year’s Sundance Audience Award. Acclaimed South Asian director Mani Ratnam (Dil Se, Roja, Bombay) takes centre stage at the BFI to talk about his life and work in a very exclusive and exciting Screen Talk. Bengali film Asha Jaoar Majhe (Labour of Love) gets a special preview at LIFF and is the haunting story of a couple struggling to keep their love alive amidst the everyday turmoil of the city life. Debutant director Aditya Vikram Sengputa whose work has been compared to the likes of Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghetak will be on hand to talk about his film at a special Q&A after the screening.  There’ll also be the UK premiere of the documentary The Master: Shyam Benegal by director Khalid Mohammed, which tells of the legendary filmmaker’s journey from a schoolboy who adored cinema to the man behind 1970’s wave of parallel cinema and films like Ankur, Nishant and Bhumika as well as modern day classics such as Zubeidaa. The documentary is a must watch for avid fans of the director and that era of cinema and one I’m really looking forward to. Another must-see for me is Nawazuddin Siddiqui starrer, the much anticipated and critically acclaimed Haraamkhor, which gets its European premiere at LIFF.  A love story set in Gujarat, the film revolves around a married school teacher (Siddiqui) and the consequences of his growing closeness to one of his young school students (Shweta Tripathi).  If it’s a bit of fun and masti you’re after than comedy – spoof documentary Meet the Patels is a must watch. Revolving around American-Indian and ‘not so keen to marry’ Ravi, the documentary is about his parents’ attempts at trying to find the ‘perfect’ life partner for him desi style and the chaos that ensues. The film has won audience awards at the Hot Docs Festival and Los Angeles Film Festival and is one I can’t wait to watch!

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Volunteers Sirah Haq and Marta Schmidt with Madhur Mittal and Mark Ciardi at the UK premiere of “Million Dollar Arm”

This is my third year volunteering at LIFF and I’m really looking forward to it. It gives me a chance to not only be part of the biggest South Asian Film festival in Europe and watch some great Indian Indie Cinema, but also interact with people in the audience who are passionate about and enjoy that cinema too.  It also gives me the opportunity to work with the wonderful LIFF team who really encourage everyone volunteering to get involved and make the festival their own. So mark your diaries from 16 -23 July London and Birmingham, because the London Indian Film Festival 2015 is here!

By Sirah Haq

LIFF 2015 is looking for volunteers in Birmingham!

This year London Indian Film Festival is expanding to Birmingham! 

We are looking for a great and dedicated team to help out with our screenings there, take care of our audiences and our guests!

Volunteer’s duties: 

1) BEFORE THE FESTIVAL

a) Attending the volunteer training sessions.

b) Distributing the programme and other promoting materials.

2) DURING THE FESTIVAL

You will be assigned into teams at every screening.

a) Helping out with the opening and closing galas.

b) Handing out and collating voting slips for the Audience Award for Best Film.

c) Encouraging as many of our audiences to complete Audience Evaluation Forms. You must be willing to engage with the audiences as the friendly attitude and power of persuasion gets more of the forms completed.

If you live in Birmingham and are as excited as we are that LIFF 2015 is no longer London-centred and is reaching the amazing audiences in Birmingham – write  a short paragraph on why you would make a great LIFF volunteer* and attach your CV – please email volunteer@londonindianfilmfestival.co.uk

 

*You need to be over 18.

#LoveLIFF #LIFFTurnsSix

LIFF 2015 is looking for a Social Media Volunteer!

London Indian Film Festival is looking for a SOCIAL MEDIA VOLUNTEER to work before and during the festival. It is a perfect opportunity for a Marketing/PR/Media student who wants to gain experience and be a part in this vibrant film festival.

The Social Media Volunteer will mainly help with updating the festival’s Facebook and Twitter pages, support the ongoing social media campaigns, and might also get involved with other social media platforms (to be confirmed).

The position will also include regular volunteering duties before and during the festival. See the post here.

Training will be provided.

If you are passionate about films and social media savvy and want to gain more experience with films and marketing – get in touch with us!

Email your CV and a short paragraph on why you are the best candidate for the role to volunteer@londonindianfilmfestival.co.uk with a subject: LIFF social media volunteer application*

Deadline for the application is 24th May 2015!

The 6th edition of the festival will be running this year from Thursday 16 to Thursday 23 July 2015.

*You need to be over 18 to volunteer with us. You need to based in the UK.

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LIFF 2015 is now looking for volunteers!

GET INVOLVED WITH LIFF 2015!

LIFF is looking for a dedicated team of film-lovers to help in a variety of tasks BEFORE and DURING the festival. All our volunteers have a chance to experience the magic behind the scenes of the festival as well as the films themselves.

The festival is running from 16-23 July 2015.

VOLUNTEERS’ DUTIES

1) BEFORE THE FESTIVAL

  • Attending the volunteer training sessions.
  • Distributing the programme and other promotional materials.

2) DURING THE FESTIVAL You will be assigned into teams at every screening.

  • Helping out with the opening and closing galas and assisting with post-gala parties.
  • Handing out and collating voting slips for the Audience Award for Best Film.
  • Encouraging as many of our audiences to complete Audience Evaluation Forms.

You must be willing to engage with the audiences as the friendly attitude and power of persuasion gets more of the forms completed.

If you are a fun-loving South Asian films-buff and a team-player – email us your CV and a short paragraph on why you would make a great LIFF Volunteer!*

Email us on volunteer@londonindianfilmfestival.co.uk by 17th May 2015!

*You need to be over 18 to volunteer with us. You need to be based in the UK or be in the UK throughout July .

VOl with Nana

2014 LIFF’s ‘Sulemani Keeda’ to release in India in November

 

animaWe are very happy to announce that  2014 London Indian Film Festival alumnus is heading for the big screen in India in November. This is a big achievement for this small-budget indie film directed by Amit Masurkar, and starring Mayank Tewari and Naveen Kasturia.  The film was loved by our audiences in London and is completing its rounds at other world film festivals to be finally  watched by audiences in India.

Watch the trailer here.

Two struggling writers dare to dream big and try to peddle their screenplay in Bollywood. Perennially hungry and horny, they lie, drink, hit on unsuspecting girls in bookshops and attend poetry readings where they read their vulgar verses. Things look bright when they meet a bizarre wannabe auteur who wants to make a Tarkovsky-esque film  and commissions them to come up with a script idea. When one of the writers falls in love with a woman (Aditi Vasudev) who is leaving India in a matter of days, he is faced with a choice – whether to co-write a film he doesn’t believe in or woo the girl he has fallen in love with.

The film will be released on November 28 through PVR Director’s Rare in Mumbai, NCR-Delhi, Bangalore and Pune.

Satyajit Ray’s ‘Charulata’ graces screens of the BFI Southbank.

 

It’s been 50 years since Ray’s Charulata  was first released.The BFI has now re-released its beautifully digitally restored copy which will be shown until the 18th of September. LIFF volunteers had a small reunion watching this classic and allegedly Ray’s favourite amongst his own films.

The film is set in  the 1870s Bengal and tells a story of Charulata (Madhabi Mukherjee, also a star in Ray’s Mahanagar), a beautiful  and childless wife of a wealthy and progressive bhadralok* Bhupati (Sailen Mukherjee). Bhupati, a workaholic, claims that “politics is life” and runs a political newspaper, which keeps him away from his wife most of the time and renders her bored and neglected left to observe the streets outside the house through her opera glasses. Bhupati, much older than his wife, fails to see how his child bride has grown into a woman. He eventually recognises a natural aptitude and passion for literature in his wife, and invites his young cousin Amal (Soumitra Chatterjee, whose debut was in Ray’s The World of Apu and who collaborated with the director for many years thereafter), an aspiring poet and writer, to keep Charu’s company and perhaps subtly encourage and hone her talent. Slowly Charu realises her affection for Amal and the awakening of the feelings is simultaneously depicted alongside the political awakening of the upper-class Bengalis.

The film is an adaptation of Rabindranath Tagore’s novella Nastanirh  (1901) [Eng. The Broken Nest] which interestingly has been rumoured to be semi-biographical. Seely (2000)1 describes how Kadambari Devi, who was the child bride of  one of Tagore’s elder brother Jyotirindranath, was much closer to Rabindranath’s age (who was the fourteenth and youngest of the siblings), and the latter, according to Tagore’s most authoritative biographer, Probhat Kumar Mukhopadhyay, “[h]ad been her playmate and companion ever since her marriage” (1975, quoted in Seely 2000). Kadambari Devi committed suicide a few months after Rabindranath’s own marriage (though the causes are unknown), which he calls in his poetry  his first “great Sorrow” (ibid.).

Charulata opens up to the delicate tune of Rabindrasangeet**Momo chitte niti nritye, the instrumental version of which interweaves throughout the film alongside Fule Fule Dhole Dhole  hummed by Charu. This immediate tribute to Tagore is obvious, yet  music remains scarce, which increases the feeling of emptiness and ennui Charu feels.  Yet its presence emphasises moments when Amal brightens up Charu’s life, such as in the song Ami Chini Go Chini, sung by the legendary Kishore Kumar.  The brilliant music direction by Ray himself, as in many of his films, shows his artistry and deep understanding of the relationship of a film with music.

The sets and decorations created by Bansi Chandragupta are wonderfully captured and portray the ‘Victorian’ Bengal with intricate detail. Charu’s dress is a combination of Victorian blouses and laces with Bengali sari. Bhupati adheres to his ‘Englishness’ in his attire, whilst Amal is the opposite and remains faithful to the Bengali traditional kurta dhoti. The movement of the camera allows us to glimpse into this intimate space and fully enjoy its beauty and poetic depiction. We are granted not only the entrance into the world of Charu but we also see the world through her eyes. The beautiful swing scene is but one example.

Charulata is set in the times of the, so called, Bengal Renaissance, which is said to have begun with Raja Ram Mohan Roy (1775-1833), admired by Bhupati and his colleagues,who first started the socio-cultural reform movement which revived the pride in India’s past and began appreciating the knowledge of the West. Raychaudhuri (2002)2, for example,  shows how the familiarity of the western civilisation was not only a privilege of the few, but became a part of the bhadralok culture in Bengal in the nineteenth century. The three thinkers that shaped that era: Bhudev, Vivekandanda and, discussed in the film, Bankim, ooze a more defined nationalist consciousness. However, as is clear in the character of Bhupati, there was an emerging tension between the increasing familiarity with European culture and the evolution of nationalism. The admiration for all European, the liberal thought and scientific achievements, co-exist in Bhupati alongside his anger over the colonial policies, taxation, and the exclusion from the positions of real authority that humiliate the Bengali ‘elite’. All these thoughts are the foundation of his political newspaper ‘The Sentinel’, which he publishes in English not Bengali.

This ambivalence and the sense of inadequacy amongst the upper-classes of Bengalis are felt in the Bhupati’s question to Charu whether they are only “idle rich”, the colonial criticism which he wants to refute with his whole existence. However, that early tension of nationalism with the loyalty to the regime, is shown visibly when Bhupati claims he does not want to act against the British regime. He wants a government in Britain that would provide a better rule for the British India, and enthusiastically observers the elections hoping for the win of the Liberals. His character is one example of the very complex reactions that conditioned Bengali perceptions of Europe and the British rule.

Despite his kind nature and admirable sense of honesty and morality, Bhupati fails to realise his wife’s needs and the “silent revolution” (Das Gupta, 1964)3 that takes place in his household as well as inside Charu herself.   The film centres around the change which unfolds in Charu. As Biswas4 claims, at a discursive level, the film can be seen to be engaged in a dialogue with one of Bankim’s essays, ‘Women, Old and New’, published in 1879, interestingly also the time Ray chooses to set his film in. The essay was a major statement on women in the nineteenth century. Bankim argues that women should be modern in the traditional way and find their place in the re-invented patriarchy.  Chaudhuri (2004)5 analyses how Charu resists slowly the space and expectations of her role as the Prachina (Conservative Woman), embodied in her sister-in-law Manda, and turns towards the Nabina (Modern Woman) by exercising her literary talent and intellect and developing attraction towards Amal. Chaudhuri concludes that Charu never fully becomes one or the other, but in most of the narrative oscillates between the two (ibid.). The female character is pivotal here, men are only in the background of her own self-realisation. Ultimately, the change in woman is “the deepest symptom of social change and the slowest to take place in an ancient society” (Das Gupta, 1964). The irony here is that Bhupati, the aspiring reformer, notices the change in his wife too late.

The dichotomy of literature and politics becomes a strong motif in the film, and is a further development in Ray’s changes to Tagore’s original. The literature allows for Charu to grow and express herself. The political newspaper is a similar expression for Bhupati. He writes politics in English, Charu and Amal write literature in Bangla. There is a further dichotomy of the private and the public. Amal and Bhupati write for public circulation, Charu would prefer for it to remain private. Towards the end, there is a beautiful idea of reconciliation of these dichotomies – when Charu suggests that they could run a new magazine. Bhupati could write his politics in English, she would edit the literature section in Bangla. The meeting of “the public and the private, home and the world, politics and culture” (ibid.).

Charulata is a treat for any admirer of Ray and Indian cinema. Sadly, so few youngsters came to see the film when we were there. Seems like the kind of aesthetic Ray proposes eventually loses  in comparison to action-packed, six-pack packed, pointlessness that fill the mainstream nowadays. The times when eyes could express so many emotions and needed no words are a rarity.

Watch this masterpiece and breathe in its remarkable freshness and delicacy fifty years on.

 

 

By Marta Schmidt

 

* The new class of  rich upper caste and middle-class Bengalis, which arose during British colonialism.

** The songs of Rabindranath Tagore.

1. Seely, C.B (2000). Keynote Address Delivered at the Twelveth Annual Tagore Festival. Online: http://www.parabaas.com/rabindranath/articles/pClinton1.html#1

2. Raychaudhuri, T. (2002). Europe Reconsidered: Perceptions of the West in Nineteenth-century Bengal. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.  pp.1-25.

3. Das Gupta, C. (1964). Indian Film Culture.

4. Biswas, M.  Writing on the Screen: Satyajit Ray’s Adaptation of Tagore. Online: http://www.ipv.pt/forumedia/5/9.htm

 

5. Chaudhuri, N. (2004). Charulata: The Intimacies of a Broken Nest. Online: http://sensesofcinema.com/2004/cteq/charulata/#5