The 11th Annual New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF) closed with a star-studded red carpet, the US premiere of Rituparno Ghosh's Noukadubi, and the award ceremony for the best films of the 4-day festival. The festival opened and closed with red carpet events that saw special guests Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh Kapoor, as well as directors Mira Nair, Aparna Sen, Habib Faisal, Aditya Bhattacharya, Bela Negi. Several other noted personalities also made an appearance, including Salman Rushdie, Madhur Jaffrey, Samrat Chakrabarti, Sarita Choudhury, Indian Ambassador Prakash Shah and many more.
Sandwiched between the opening night film, Disney's first live-action Indian venture Do Dooni Chaar and Ghosh's opulent period drama Noukadubi were over 40 narrative features, documentaries and short films, with Aparna Sen's Iti Mrinalini as the Centerpiece presentation. The platter of films on offer told diverse stories and tackled a variety of issues. Aseem Chhabra, festival director, commented, "We made the conscious decision to bring films from different parts of India - Kerala, Bengal, Mumbai, Kashmir, even a Tibetan film. The selection gave the American audience a taste of many different cinemas of India."
The festival culminated with the awards ceremony at the Asia Society in Manhattan. The winners of each category are:
Best Feature Film - Sthaniya Sambaad (Spring in the Colony), directed by Arjun Gourisaria & Moinak Biswas
A look at life in the Deshbandhu colony, a settlement of refugees from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), on the southern fringes of Kolkata. Various characters intersect and face their own issues in day-to-day life that pull them out of the colony life and into the bustle and sometimes dangers of Kolkata.
Best Director - Aparna Sen, Iti Mrinalini
- A contemplative story of an aging actress (played by Aparna Sen) who decides to end her life. As she writers her suicide note, she remembers the events from her youth (younger self played by Konkana Sen Sharma) that brought her to this point.
Best Actor - Rishi Kapoor, Do Dooni Chaar
- A spirited performance as a school teacher, with a meager income, who aspires to buy a car for his family.
Best Actress - Konkona Sen Sharma, Iti Mrinalini
- Sharma plays Mrinalini in her younger years. Sen Sharma plays a rising star actress who develops complex relationships with the various men who enter and leave her life.
Best Screenplay - Mohan Raghavan, T.D. Dasan Std. VI B
- A simple story about a boy, Dasan, who tries to contact his estranged father by sending letters to his old address. The new resident at the address, a girl named Ammu, begins writing back pretending to be the boy's father. The two develop a relationship through letters that allows Dasan to communicate with a father who is no longer around.
Best Documentary - Bhopali (Max Carlson)
- A chilling look at the continuing effects of the world's worst industrial disaster, the 1984 gas leak at the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal, India. The film tells the story of several people who are still suffering from the contaminated water supply and the activists who are still fighting to get justice.
Best Short Film - Just That Sort Of A Day (Abhay Kumar)
- An engaging multi-media experimental short looks at a day through the eyes of several characters.
Summing up the festival, Chhabra continued, "The highlights for me would be the documentaries and the shorts we selected. I was especially pleased with the shorts submitted to the festival - it was a tough call to only pick 16 out of the many more submitted." He added, "The other exciting aspect of the festival was watching the young filmmakers interact with each other and also with more senior filmmakers - we are building a community of filmmaker friends and mentors through this festival."
Stay tuned for some special features on selected films from NYIFF as well as an interview with Habib Faisal, writer/director of Do Dooni Chaar.
Photo courtesy of MichaelToolan.com.