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An India Beyond Slumdog Millionaires

 

While there is no question that the Danny Boyle film SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE did much to rivet attention in the West on the cinema of India and southern Asia, the various film industries in the second largest country on earth has been a staple of moviegoing in Asia, South America, Africa and even Europe for many decades. Very few of the quality films from the region are given big screen time in North America but that represents both an obstacle and a challenge for the New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF) which opens its 11th edition tonight.

 

  The  Indo-American Arts Council (IAAC), the not-for-profit agency that serves as a liaison between North America and the Indian sub-continent in terms of the arts and culture, is hosting the 11th annual NYIFF, which will take place in Manhattan from May 4 to 8.  A total of 25 feature films will screen over the five-day affair, including 15 World and U.S. Premieres. The Festival is the oldest and most prestigious in North America and has been instrumental in introducing films from the region and from the Indian diaspora to critics, distributors, film professionals, educators and curious audiences.   

The Festival is full of highly anticipated events. Legendary actress Shabana Azmi stars in the cross-cultural love story A DECENT ARRANGEMENT, which will have its world premiere at the Festival. Making its U.S. Premiere will be Sudhir Mishra's acclaimed romantic crime drama YEH SAALI ZINDAGI starring Irrfan Khan (SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE). Lovers of classic Bollywood extravaganzas will also be intrigued by the New York Premiere of RAAKH REDUX, a digitally remastered version of one of the earliest hits of Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan in a film that won three National Film Awards.

Festivities begin tonight at the Paris Theater, one of New York’s most prestigious venues, with the North American premiere of the Walt Disney Company's critically acclaimed family comedy DO DOONI CHAAR, starring the legendary husband-wife acting couple Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh. Directed by Habib Faisal, the film marks the Hollywood studio's first live-action production in India and earned some of the best reviews of any Hindi film in recent years. It is a heart-warming comedy about the dreams and challenges of a middle-class family who take a chaotic journey to fulfill their dream of owning a car and then discover the true meaning of family. Special guests Kapoor, Singh, and Faisal will all be attending the red carpet premiere. The Closing Night selection is Rituparno Ghosh’s NOUKADUBI, an adaptation of Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore’s acclaimed novel, which stars sisters Riya and Raima Sen. Following the May 8 screening will be a special tribute to Tagore who was born 150 years ago on that day. Aparna Sen’s ITI MRINALINI will premiere as the Centerpiece selection. The Bengali film features Sen and her daughter, award-winning actress Konkona Sen Sharma, both playing the same title role at different ages. 

Among the diverse array of films screening this week will be a lineup of powerful documentaries from and about India. THE BENGALI DETECTIVE, an acclaimed hit on the film festival circuit, chronicles the life of Kolkata's dance-obsessed private eye Rajesh Ji. Making its New York Premiere following its enthusiastic reception at the Sundance Film Festival, the film is one that may eventually find its way into North American distribution. Also screening in the documentary strand are the films MADE IN INDIA, which examines both sides of the surrogacy issue with an infertile American couple and a young mother in India contracted to carry their baby, and BHOPALI, which looks at the suffering that still exists today after the 1984 Union Carbide gas leak which was one of the world's worst industrial disasters.

"I am thrilled to present this year’s superb line up for the 11th Annual IAAC New York Indian Film Festival," NYIFF Director Aseem Chhabra said in a prepared statement. "From May 4-8, film lovers in the greater New York area will see an array of unique stories and meet and interact with the filmmakers. We are presenting a wonderful mix of films from India and other parts of the subcontinent as well as the Diaspora - a blend of works by young independent filmmakers and a few masters.” For more information on the films and to purchase tickets online, visit: http://www.iaac.us/nyiff2011

Sandy Mandelberger, Festival Circuit Editor  

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Mandelberger Sandy
(International Media Resources)

Coverage of the world of film festivals on the international film festival circuit.


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