Independent, art house and diaspora films from the Indian subcontinent are being celebrated as part of the 19th edition of the New York Indian Film Festival, which is set to screen the works of filmmakers such as Gurinder Chadha and Ritesh Batra.
The New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF), presented by leading cultural organisation Indo-American Arts Council (IAAC) and supported by the Consulate General of India in New York, began Tuesday with the screening of Rohena Gera-directed "Sir", starring Tillotama Shome and Vivek Gomber.
The screening was attended by Consul General Sandeep Chakravorty, filmmaker Mira Nair and Commissioner of the New York City Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment Anne del Castillo, members of the Indian-American community among others.
Addressing the audience at the opening night of NYIFF through video link, IAAC Chairman Nirmal Mattoo said the festival showcases films that are unique, thought-provoking and highlight the diversity of India.
Nair, whose film "Monsoon Wedding" was the closing night film at the 1st edition of the film festival, said NYIFF is the home of the "most exciting cinema" not just from India but also the region, showcasing movies and documentaries from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and other nations of the sub-continent.
She said she is "happy to be associated with people who choose to express themselves from an alternative space and question what is marginal and question what is alternative and I think of this place, not just the festival but also this city, as a home for that."
Nair's upcoming project based on Vikram Seth's path-breaking novel "A Suitable Boy" will feature Gomber, who produced the 2014 National Award-winning film "Court".
Chakravorty added that the film festival, that runs from May 7 to May 12, has a great selection of films, including Bengali, Assamese, Tamil, Punjabi and Telugu cinema, reflecting the diversity of India.
Addressing the audience at the festival, Castillo said that since its inception, the film festival has introduced new filmmakers that offer rich and nuanced stories from India, underlining the "values of inclusion that we hold in high regard at the Mayor's office."
We are all enriched when we have stories from different cultures, she said adding that the film festival's line-up of short films, features and documentaries "is a cultural celebration of the diversity" of New York City.
Festival Director Aseem Chhabra said that NYIFF's line-up this year includes 29 narrative, three documentaries and 32 short films. NYIFF will be featuring seven World Premieres along with an International Premiere and five US premieres.
The festival's centerpiece is "Photograph", directed by Batra and starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Sanya Malhotra.
Michelin-Star chef Vikas Khanna's "The Last Color" is the closing night film. In the film, actor Neena Gupta plays a widow living a life of abstinence and isolation in Indian city of Banaras. Khanna has also been named the Brand Ambassador of IAAC.
Co-inciding with Mother's Day, the closing night of the festival will feature a pink carpet and guests will be encouraged to wear pink in celebration of the significance of the colour in Khanna's film.
Chadha's new film "Blinded by the Light", which generated positive buzz at the Sundance film festival, will be making its New York debut.
"Uri: The Surgical Strike", Tony Stopperan-directed "Draupadi Unleashed", renowned stylist Sapna Bhavnani's "Sindhustan", Priyanka Chopra-produced 2018 Assamese drama film directed by Jahnu Barua "Bhoga Khidikee", Budhadev Dasgupta's "Urojahaj" and Suman Ghosh's "The Bose Family" are some of the other films being screened at NYIFF.
IAAC Vice Chairman Rakesh Kaul said the arts organisation wanted the festival to bring diversity of India to the New York audience, who will get to see the magnificence of India through the line-up.
Kaul said they have ensured that the content of the films selected for the festival is "bold stories that courageous directors stake themselves on".
"You will see how bold these stories are, what courage the directors display because these stories will move you in a manner like nothing that you have experienced in the multiplexes you go to see Bollywood or Hollywood fare," Kaul said.