Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles Making Their Grand Debut

By Chetna Purohit

Rapidly speeding with success down the highways of Bollywood, Indian films are getting ready to make a screeching turn into North America. With such crossover successes as “Bend it Like Beckham” and “Monsoon Wedding” and an Oscar nomination for “Lagaan” for Best Foreign Language film, it becomes apparent that Indians have a knack for telling visually sumptuous and electrifyingly engaging stories. Such hits have permeated cultural barriers, and have kept the Bollywood saga going for so long, indicating that there is no slowing down for India.

Despite the pearls of wisdom gained since the production of their first film in 1913 and the expertise it takes to shell out up to 800 titles a year, India’s cinematic triumphs have been dramatically understated for quite some time. Nothing, however, is written in stone, and neither is Bollywood’s destiny. Actively penetrating their films, fashions, art, and physical and spiritual exercises through our globalizing community, India is making a big splash in the North American market and proving that there is more to this culture than computer geniuses, Quick-E-Marts, and the “red dot.”

One organization dedicated to paving the way for a greater appreciation of India’s cinema and diverse culture is The Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA). From April 23-27, this non-profit organization will be hosting the first U.S. festival entirely dedicated to showcasing a combination of features, documentaries and shorts with Indian themes coming from Indian as well as international filmmakers.

According to advisory board member and producer Ms. Rana Joy Glickman, “Indian Cinema and the emergence of films from Indian filmmakers residing in America is an example of the cross cultural magic our festival aspires to.”

Festival director Christina Marouda expressed her passion for Indian cinema by saying, “When I was a little girl in Crete, my sister’s friends from India would send us tapes of their favorite films…we would invite all our friends for a half-day celebration of drama, dance, songs…I loved it and it grew in me deeply.”

This year the IFFLA will premiere at ArcLight Cinemas, Los Angeles’ magnificent cinema complex in Hollywood. Christopher S. Forman, CEO of ArcLight Cinemas, said, “We are proud of our relationship with IFFLA and excited to be the first home of its inaugural outing. When we opened the doors of ArcLight, we made a commitment to provide a broad range of programming representing all walks of life that furthers and enhances the movie-going experience. This is a perfect relationship for us because it deepens that commitment and makes good on our promise to enlighten and entertain.”

With the blockbuster successes of “Moulin Rouge” and “Chicago,” it is clearly evident that musicals are the “in” thing. This song-and-dance driven attribute of Bollywood epics may find success in filling this niche for a while, but the question of concern remains: can they break their typecast mold and evolve into something bigger than the stereotype? Or maybe the glory of Indian cinema lies in the untouched arena of musicals, which they have seemingly conquered.


Clips from Anand Patwardhan’s “War and Peace”
Courtesy of brightlightsfilm.com

Either way, with such scheduled films as “Aftershocks – A Guide to Democracy,” “War and Peace,” and “A Very, Very Silent Film,” South Asian cinema puts to rest any potential criticisms of Indian films as being too frivolous by valuing style over content. Attempting to tackle serious issues -- government corruption exploiting vulnerable impoverished Indians, the possibility of peace activism in the face of global militarism, and exploring the plight of destitute women on the streets of India where they are the hapless sexual prey of wealthy predators -- solidifies that filmmakers are using the medium to portray India in a very different light. More precisely, festivals such as IFFLA are shedding light on the harsh reality of conditions in the South Asian continent. Whether they come out of the festival with the bragging rights of being a winner or not, these films have all succeeded in highlighting the often bleak realities that musicals are so good in veiling.

Director of “A Very, Very Silent Film,” Manish Jha,
winner for his short film at Cannes film festival 2002
Courtesy of www.industelegraph.com

And for those of you that relish in the fantasy of beautiful actresses dancing and singing in a carefree manner with 50 backup dancers across the Himalayan mountains, the IFFLA also has something for you. Rajiv Menon’s “Kandukondain, Kandukondain” transposes Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility” to Indian shores and ethos, with leading actors Aishwaria Rai, Tabu, and Ajit.


clip from Rajiv Menon’s “Kandukondain, Kandukondain”
Courtesy of Geocities

So if you’re into the entertaining as well as inspirational effects of film, you’ll definitely be in store for an eye full at the first-ever IFFLA. Not only will you see a lot, more importantly you’ll learn a lot. Be sure to check back with Asia Pacific Arts for an in depth overview of the festival and see if Indian cinema and its culture will ever be more than just a Western exploited fad.

For further info check out IFFLA’s website www.indianfilmfestival.org or contact Christina Marouda at (310) 364-4403 or email cmarouda@indianfilmfestival.org. Tickets available at ArcLight Cinemas Box Office or online at www.arclightcinemas.com.