In the wake of the South-Asian International Film Festival which opened on October 28, 2009 at the Paris Theater, the Mahindra Indo-American Arts Council (MIAAC) Film Festival provides a venue for independent filmmakers and actors to showcase their work. At the press conference City Saheli attended last week, Council Executive Director, Aroon Shivdasani, and Festival Director, Somi Roy, gave thanks to their many sponsors in these tough economic times for affording them the funds to cull this year’s eclectic array of producers, directors, actors, and screenwriters who represent the most unique blend of contemporary East meets West cinematography.
The MIAAC opened last night with Today’s Special written by New York natives Aasif Mandvi and Jonathan Bines, and starring cinematic legends Naseeruddin Shah and Madhur Jaffrey. If you don’t recognize the name Aasif Mandvi, you will definitely recognize his face as that South-Asian guy on The Daily Show. This food comedy set in Jackson Heights, Queens, was inspired by Aasif’s Obie award-winning play, Sukina’s Restaurant.
The red carpet at the Paris Theater for the opening of this film festival was lined with celebrities. In addition to Aasif Mandvi and Madhur Jaffrey, independent Indian cinema icon, Shabana Azmi, and her famous lyricist husband, Javed Akhtar, were in attendance. Acclaimed directors, Mira Nair, Shyam Benegal and Deepti Naval; Bollywood sweetheart, Manisha Koirala, and a member of the New York South-Asian literati, Suketu Mehta also graced screening and after-party with their presence.
Fret not if you missed opening night because this festival’s centerpiece, Tahaan, as well as closing night feature, Antaheen: The Endless Wait (starring the Helen Mirren and Ellen Burstyn of Bollywood: Aparna Sen and Sharmila Tagore) offer opportunities to view fantastic films and rub elbows with established Indian filmmakers, actors andand rising stars.
These intense, independent films call you to action and compel further discussion; however, if you are seeking more light-hearted fare, the festival does not leave you wanting. City Saheli recommends a double-feature: Bollywood Beats and Bombay Summer on Friday, November 13 at Quad Cinemas on 13th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues as an alternative to the generic, Hollywood, horror flicks.
There is no shortage of selections, so check out the film festival website for a full schedule as well as show times and ticket purchases.
Sidebar: There will be discussions about the art, culture, and politics of Indian cinema presented by MIAAC in conjunction with NYU which will include experts on panels exploring issues of interest on these topics. A ticket stub to any of the films gains the general public free admission. Check out the link to the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU for more on that.