The buzz on the Red Carpet for the 2019 Indian Film Festival on opening night was unfettered by the strong April gusts of wind that threatened to blow over the backdrops and tussle the carefully coiffed hair of the many names that came to celebrate. Perhaps the energy was due to the fact that roughly half of the films screened at this year’s festival were directed by women. The IFFLA is the premiere groundbreaking event for Indian Film Makers and this year’s films were rich in content and female energy.
Here is a list of the features that were directed by women with links to the film’s pages. A wide array of subject matters graced the screen and each of these films is worthy of the honor they received by being represented in this festival:
Feature Films Directed by Women:
LOVE GOES THROUGH YOUR MIND: Directed by Ronak Shah:
NAMDEV BHAU IN SEARCH OF SILENCE: Directed by Dar Gai: (Chronicles the journey of a 65-year-old chauffeur who sets out to escape the cacophony of the Mumbai city streets by heading to a place called Silent Valley. Dar Gai leads her audience through this narrative with humor, irony, and sensitivity. )
THE ODDS: Directed by Megha Ramaswamy:
THE SWEET REQUIEM: Directed by Ritu Sarin (co-directed by Tenzing Sonam):
TAKING THE HORSE TO EAT JALEBIS: Directed by Anamika Haksar: (Received an honorable mention for director Anamika Haksar in the feature category.
The festival was also a celebration for women as a whole with many notable ladies receiving honors not just as directors, but as performers, cinematographers, and writers.
Writer, Actress Fawzi Mirza was a force on the red carpet and in a subsequent and captivating panel discussion, Breaking Brown: Making it to Series in TV’s Golden Age. Mirza is a self described brown, south Asian, queer, women fighting the odds to have her voice heard. Mirza is winning that fight for sure as her recent writing credits include The Red Line, a new TV series based on a short of the same name that premiered this April starring Noah Wyle of ER fame. The Red Line’s executive producer credits include the stunningly talented Ava DuVernay. To hear Mirza speak about her passion and the grit that it took to make it to this point was nothing short of inspirational.
The main highlight of this year’s IFFLA was the opening night gala honoring Indian Film Star Tabu (Read FF2 Media’s review of The Namesake HERE). Tabu was a striking presence as she walked amidst the reporters on the way to the Los Angeles premiere of the film festival selection, Andhadhun, directed by Sriram Raghavan and edited by Pooja Ladha Surti. Surti is a strong female force in the technical world of Indian films and also receives a writing credit for the film.
Andhadhun is a crime thriller with a definite sense of humor that follows the life of a blind piano player Akash, portrayed by Ayushmann Khurrana and the woman that changes his life, Simi, portrayed by Tabu. Akash finds himself led by Simi through a web of chaos after he is forced to report a crime that he effectively never witnessed. The film is definitely a ride, with plenty of intrigue and fine performances. Audience response to the screening was celebratory, and Tabu seemed relieved as a result. Her serious demeanor was softened by the warmth of the crowd who came to celebrate her.
While not receiving the coveted Best Feature award, Andhadhun earned director Raghavan the honor of being named Audience Favorite. The opening night screening concluded with a gala honoring Tabu’s long and decorated career. Tabu is best known to American audiences by her role as Gita Patel in 2012’s Life of Pi. Tabu has been a press darling for years, choosing to take roles in lower budget films that garner critical acclaim in favor of larger box office hits. Tabu’s has appeared mostly in Hindi films but her experience extends far beyond and she is widely regarded as one of Bollywood’s top female stars of all time.
Andhanhun fared very well in China, securing a theatrical release under the title Piano Player. Fascinating fact, is that the word Andhadhun translates to “indiscriminately” in English, making the Indian title have a flair that speaks to the theme of the film far more than the Chinese title, as the plot of Andhadhun highlights the indiscriminate nature of the violence and the chaos that the narrative portrays.
When asked how it felt to be in LA for the premiere Tabu was shyly exuberant. “It feels amazing,” she said. “One of my favorite films; one of my favorite characters that I’ve played.” Reacting to the response the film has received in China, Tabu lit up, “I just feel that really the power of cinema is something else. That it can reach people around the world, strike a chord with them, entertain them, and engage them and I am happy to be a part of a film like that.”
When asked what her favorite role has been in her long and illustrious career, Tabu chose her role as Nimmi in the 2003 film Magbool, a film based in the Shakespearean tragedy Macbeth, transposed into the Mumbai underworld. Just as Shakespeare’s work is relatable across cultures, languages, and centuries, Tabu’s artistry as an actress is accessible to audiences across the world. She is unique and vulnerable, and well deserving of the acclaim she has received.
Witnessing the IFFLA this year assured me that women have only just begun to break ground. But it is happening and it is happening here and all over the world.
Andhadhun was released in the US and Canada in October 2018 and is currently available on Netflix.
© Angela Stern (4/25/19) FF2 Media
Photo credits: Angela Stern | 2019 Indian Film Festival