Anyone looking for access to a spectrum of Indian cinema in New York City can't complain. There are now a handful of film festivals promising a good dose of Indian filmdom in the Big Apple. The oldest of these festivals opened on Wednesday with a star-studded red carpet and a diverse lineup of films, industry panels, and Q&A’s with the filmmakers and actors in attendance. The Mahindra Indo-American Arts Council (MIAAC) Film Festival opened with the U.S. premiere of Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK’s Shor in the City (Noise) starring Sendhil Ramamurthy, Tusshar Kapoor, Nikhil Dwivedi and some promising debuts. A large Q&A panel followed the screening with the directors, lead actors, scriptwriter and producers present. Here's a preview of the festival and also a review of Shor.
In its 10th year, the MIAAC Film Festival presents an array of smaller, lesser-known films from India or about India, with only one mainstream biggie - Mani Ratnam’s Raavanan – snuck into the program. The films range from American-produced Indies, international co-productions, documentaries, classic gems and films in Bengali, Tamil, Konkani, Marathi, Manipuri and Urdu. According to Aroon Shivdasani, Executive Director of the Indo-American Arts Council (IAAC), the festival “is truly a celebration of Indian film in all its avatars,” adding that the event “epitomizes our mission to showcase, celebrate, and build an awareness of Indian artists in North America.”
One of the festival's most unique features is a retrospective of the brilliant late actress Smita Patil being held at the prestigious Film Society of Lincoln Center throughout the duration of the festival. Co-sponsored by the Smita Patil Foundation, the retrospective is titled “Bhumika: The Roles of Smita Patil” and it showcases a selection of the late actress's best films ranging from Shyam Benegal’s Manthan (1976) and Satyajit Ray’s Sadgati (1981) to Mahesh Bhatt’s Arth (1982) and Ketan Mehta’s Mirch Masala (1986). For lovers of cinema, this nine-film retrospective is a treat, especially since some of the screenings will be followed by discussions with Patil’s co-actors and directors.
The opening night film Shor in the City is inspired by various newspaper stories about incidents that give life and chaos to the city of Mumbai. The film weaves together three stories that take place during the ten-day festivities of Ganesh Chaturthi. A NRI who returns to start a business is harassed by extortionists. Meanwhile a trio of book bootleggers finds a bag of explosives and weapons that throws them into dangerous terrain. And an aspiring cricketer desperate to make it to the regional cricket team has to find the money to buy his way into a spot. The film began as an award-winning short at MIAAC 2008, and after getting the backing of Ekta Kapoor’s ALT Entertainment, a subdivision of Balaji Films, evolved into a feature. As co-director Krishna DK cheekily commented, “the original short was about these guys who find a bomb and want to have a blast. We then expanded it from there.”
The film has several deftly executed scenes and the generally newer faces combined with a gritty portrayal of Mumbai provide a realism that makes Shor in the City an interesting watch. However, films with multiple storylines always run the risk of unbalanced narrative development and unfortunately Shor in the City falls prey to this as well, albeit not too gravely. The track with the bootlegger trio with the bomb is the most engaging. Each of the three characters is well etched out and performed equally as well. The entire sequence with them trying to detonate the bomb in an open field is packed with humor, satire, suspense and thrill. It’s one of the most memorable scenes in the film providing such a rollercoaster of emotions and reactions. The NRI storyline remains relatively serious throughout and shows the predicament of a nice guy who is pushed too far. However the cricketer’s track leaves the least impact. There simply isn’t as much going on there and it often drags the rest of the film. Overall, Shor in the City is a commendable film by Nidimoru and DK who prove once again their skill in telling entertaining stories with a good dose of realism.
Click here for the full schedule of the MIAAC Film Festival.