The 17th New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF) opened up today at Village East Cinema, in Manhattan, New York City. The opening night was attended by several Indian celebrities: Rahul Bose (actor, writer, director with a film POORNA at the festival); Alankrita Shrivastava (director of LIPSTICK UNDER MY BURKHA); Aahna Kumra (actress from LIPSTICK UNDER MY BURKHA); Salman Rushdie (author & filmmaker); Tanushree Dutta (Miss India Universe & Bollywood Actress); and many others.
The opening night film LIPSTICK UNDER MY BURKHA had its New York premiere at the festival. The film is a wonderful story of 4 women at different ages and stages of their lives, who are just trying to live a free life, in a very conservative male dominant society. Buaji (wonderfully played by Ratna Pathak) is a complex owner shielding several of her renters from a new builder trying to force-relocate them. She reads adult story books, and fantasizes about young hot men. In that complex lives 3 other girls: Shirin (Konkona Sen Sharma), Leela (Aahana Kumra), Rehana (Plabita Borthakur). Shirin is an enterprising mom of 3, whose husband doesn't really care to stays her in any way. Leela is a budding beautician, who wants to start a business of honeymoon photography with her boyfriend. But she is being forced in to an arranged marriage. Rehana just wants to be able to dress up, sing and have fun in college. But she also likes to shoplift.
All the characters have their flaws. And they all have their goals. It's not just there flaws that get in their way, but it's also the society, the norms and other people's sexist expectations that block their way. The film deals with multiple generations, and issues that are specific to them. Which probably helps the film connect with a wider audience through different characters. It does portal a fair picture of sexism that still exists in many parts of India, and probably can be reflected in many parts of this world.
Even though ealing with a heavy subject like that, the film is still able to keep comedy in its spirit. You may call it a real "dramedy", where drama takes over at several instances, but comedy keep things funny, light, but still on the point. The film is beautifully written with wonderful dialogue as well. It may seem too bold or vulgar to certain audience, but the story and the wonderful actors carry that dialogue and every scene really well. The film is cast really well, and all the actors do justice to their roles. It's a very well made film, and the director Alankrita deserves applause, along with her editor, cinematographer and rest of the team.
Starting tomorrow, there are several wonderful films that will be screening at the festival. More details can be found at the link below, along with purchase of the ticket as well. The closing night on May 7th would also be followed by an after-party with Indian music & Indian food. All the tickets can be purchased before they are sold out. So do it ASAP.
NYIFF is the oldest, most prestigious Indian film festival in the United States, screening premieres of feature, documentary and short films made from, of, and about the countries in the Indian subcontinent (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Afghanistan) in the Independent, arthouse, alternate and diaspora genres. Eight days of screenings, post-screening discussions, industry panels, an award ceremony, special events, nightly networking parties, red carpet galas, media attention and packed audiences build an awareness of Indian cinema, entertain & educate North Americans about the realities of the lives and people in the Indian Sub-Continent, and add to the amazing cultural diversity of New York City. NYIFF is the flagship event of the Indo-American Arts Council.