Today, a western audience obsessed with what it sees as 'exotic Asian kitsch', has it eyes set firmly on the World's largest Institute of the Imaginary or more familiarly Bollywood - the world's largest Film Industry in India, which is now fast becoming the most recognizable cultural export from India. Today, Andrew Lloyd Webber is proud to introduce AR Rahman to Western audiences who are dazzled by Bombay Dreams, Baz Luhrmann admits to being inspired by the Bollywood musicals while making Moulin Rouge! and even incorporates two lines of the Chama Chamma song from China Gate into his film. What's more, Lagaan makes it to the final five Academy Award Nominations for Best Foreign Film of 2001, Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding wins the Golden Lion at Venice and earns a Golden Globe nomination for Best Foreign Film,Devdas has its first screening at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. Even the Victoria and Albert Museum, London has a special exhibition on Bollywood posters. Yes, Bollywood has arrived - or has it really? While undoubtedly the flavour of the season, how much is actually understood by the West is debatable - Mainstream Hindi Cinema is still referred to as those 'Indian musicals' and that's about it.
No doubt however that Bollywood is indeed going places and November 6 - 10, 2002 sees the second Indian Diaspora Film Festival in New York. Looking at the impact of not just Bollywood but even filmmakers of Indian origin outside India in the global market (the runaway success of Gurinder Chaddha's Bend It Like Beckham or the good showing of American Desi at the American Box Office), Indian Diaspora looks at the output of Indian film directors, producers, and actors living and working outside India.
The Festival is organized by the Indo-American Arts Council (IAAC). The IAAC is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to increasing interest in Indian artistic disciplines in North America while enriching the already diverse cultural scene of New York City. A large, loyal, ethnically diverse, culturally perceptive and upscale audience regularly fills the Council's varied presentations in film, dance, theatre, music and the visual arts. The Council's Advisory Board includes luminaries such as Ismail Merchant, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Shabana Azmi, M.F. Hussain, Vijay Tendulkar, Shashi Tharoor and Deepa Mehta. Since 1998 IAAC has organized screenings of various films like Earth, Godmother, Bombay Boys; held a Festival of Indian Theatre; had a concert of Masters of Indian Music; an evening with Vijay Tendulkar with reading from his plays; a performance of Malika Sarabhai's dance performance Devi: The Mother Goddess and the reading of Shashi Tharoor's Riot among others. Besides organizing the first Indian Diaspora Film Festival last year.
The present Festival opens with the screening of Somnath Sen's debut feature film Leela. Shot almost entirely in San Diego, Leela stars popular Bollywood actress Dimple Kapadia in the title role and is described by it's director Somnath as "a Hollywood Film with the soul of Bollywood." Leela has been much appreciated at the Commonwealth Film Festival, Manchester and has also won the Special Jury Award at the Reelworld Film Festival, Toronto. The film releases all over India on November 1, 2002 and across theatres in the United States on November 8, 2002.
"It's breakthrough time for Indian films, both in and outside India," said Aroon Shivdasani, Executive Director, IAAC and the Festival's curator. "We whittled down the many entries to 12 films by asking: Were the films driven by artistic aspirations or purely commercial considerations? Did content take precedence over cash flow?"
Speaking for the filmmakers, New York-based director Mira Nair (Salaam Bombay, Monsoon Wedding) said: "Exciting new voices have emerged in the last few years. Their budding success speaks to where we are today, how we look at the world around us, and the roads we are taking. The next step is to overcome the challenge of marketability."
Some of the other films that will be screened in the festival include: Jamil Dehlavi's Immaculate Conception starring Shabana Azmi; Jagmohan Mundhra's Bawandar starring Nandita Das; Dev Benegal's Split Wide Open starring Rahul Bose, Laila Rouss and Ayesha Dharkar; Isabel Gardela's Tomandote starring Zack Qureshi; Darshan Bhagat's Karma Local starring Darshan Bhagat; Mira Nair's Hysterical Blindness produced by and starring Uma Thurman, and the 11-minute segment contributed by Ms. Nair to September 11, 2001 - 9/11/01. The films are being screened at the Clearview Cinema, New York.
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