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Alternative Viewing

Alternative Viewing

June 20, 2011

Be prepared to be shocked and stimulated at this years London Indian Film Festival.

I’ve just got off the phone with rising Bollywood star Imran Khan and am feeling psyched. From what he’s just told me about his new film, Delhi Belly, we’re in for a treat.

As the latest comedy caper from his uncle Aamir Khan’s production house, Delhi Belly has got box office hit written all over it. The movie’s charismatic young cast (Imran alongside comedian Vir Das and Rahul Roy Kapoor), popular soundtrack and original subject matter (three friends get into trouble when theyaccidentally mix up a bag containing a stool sample with another bag belonging to smugglers) have already been creating plenty of buzz in India.

Fortunately, I’ll be one of a few hundred people who will get the chance to see Delhi Belly at the world premiere on June 30, when it opens the 2011 London Indian Film Festival (LIFF). An annual showcase celebrating the rapidly growing movement of alternative Indian cinema, LIFF is set to become one of the cultural highlights in the UK’s filmi calendar.

The fact that Delhi Belly has been hand picked as part of a festival celebrating the new wave of independent cinema coming out of India is telling. On the surface the film may appear to be a typical Bollywood affair, but the fact that it’s entirely in English, has an adult rating (equivalent of a UK 18 certificate) and has a tagline of “Shit Happens” makes it unsuitable for wholesome family viewing. Instead it aims to satisfy audiences who wish to savour more experimental or risqué styles of entertainment.

Running from June 30 to July 12, the thirteen day film festival will feature a dozen new Indian features painstakingly selected by Festival Director Cary Rajinder Sawhney and programmer Naman Ramachandran. “In addition to showing great movies, we also aim to help get these films talked about and screened more broadly in cinemas in the UK, in the same way that Iranian cinema has been. London of course has a huge Asian audience for these movies, but many non-Asian Brits would also like to find out more about the 1.2 billion strong India of today, and cinema is a great way to do this” says Sawhney about his pet project.

Having made an effective debut in 2010, in its second outing the LIFF looks to build on its reputation by covering a wide range of themes and issues from family dramas, coming-of age tales to twisted, urban teen-romance. Uniting these films is a new more assured Indian cool, sexual liberality, new technology and influenced by themes both East and West. All this has helped new Indian cinema win favour with the young in-crowd in metro cities like Mumbai and Bangalore, as well as with international connoisseurs of world cinema.

Amongst the cutting edge films from some of India’s hottest independent talents are Anurag Kashyap’s That Girl in the Yellow Boots, Ketan Mehta’s Rang Rasiya and Srijit Mukerji’s Autograph. Going way beyond Bollywood, these films aim to challenge, shock, generate debate and present a more realistic view of India today. And its not just Hindi language films that get a look in. Filmmakers from the Bengali, Malayalam and Kannada industries get the well deserved opportunity of having their work exhibited in the UK.

Besides screenings, the thoughtfully put together programme also features special events, workshops and the Satyajit Ray Foundation’s Short Film Competition which aim to provide a platform for new talent and for film industry figures to mingle with aspiring screenwriters, filmmakers and distributors in the hope that fresh collaborations will be born.

So if like me you’d rather spend your spare time and hard earned cash in a cinema than a shopping mall or fancy restaurant, be sure to check out the gems on offer at this year’s LIFF. From West End venues such as the Cineworld Haymarket, Trocadero, the V&A Museum, BFI Southbank and Nehru Centre to suburban sites like Watermans, Feltham, Wood Green and Ilford, there’s plenty of places to watch the diverse and colourful range of films coming out of the homeland. And you never know, you may just catch a glimpse of the odd Bollywood star or two.

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1 Comment

  • Amar
    01.07.11 12:57 PM
    Great article. Really look forward to watchin this cracker. This article makes me more anxiois now

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