The Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA) today announced its 2019 lineup of narrative and documentary features, shorts, and opening night gala event. Details are available online at www.indianfilmfestival.org.
Widely recognized as the premiere global showcase for groundbreaking Indian cinema, IFFLA will take place April 11-14 at Regal L.A. LIVE: A Barco Innovation Center in Los Angeles. This is the festival’s third year in the state-of-the-art, world-class cinema in the heart of the city’s vibrant and developing downtown district. Opening and Closing Gala presentations will take place at the Ahrya Fine Arts Theater in Beverly Hills with dinner receptions to follow hosted by Indian restaurant Spice Affair.
The festival will open with a tribute and moderated discussion with legendary Indian actress Tabu, paired with a screening of her latest film ANDHADHUN directed by IFFLA alum Sriram Raghavan. Known to her millions of fans worldwide for her intense, masterful performances, Tabu is regarded as one of the most talented Indian actors of her generation, having been honored with two National Film Awards, six Filmfare Awards and notably, the Padma Shri from the Government of India in 2011. Her strong individuality and unwillingness to compromise set apart her persona—and the characters she portrays—making her beloved by Indian audiences around the world. Tabu has primarily acted in Hindi films, but has also worked extensively in the South Indian film industry and internationally as well, by doing films in English, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Marathi and Bengali.
“We have discussed honoring Tabu for a long time, and this year felt like the right time,” said Christina Marouda, IFFLA’s Executive Director. “Her work and personality embody everything that IFFLA is about — being fearless, versatile, independent in spirit, unwilling to compromise, brilliant in the range of her performances, and simply beautiful. With half of the festival’s 2019 line-up directed by female filmmakers, this couldn’t be a stronger celebration of women in Indian cinema.”
ANDHADHUN sees Tabu taking on the comedic villainess role of Simi, a desperate actress who is caught disposing of her husband’s body in front of a presumably blind pianist Akash (Ayushmann Khurrana). The film follows Simi, Akash, and Akash’s suspicious girlfriend (played by Radhika Apte) in a wicked story of ambition, romance and organ harvesting. Directed by Sriram Raghavan whose film Johnny Gaddaar played at IFFLA in 2008, Andhadhun has won rave reviews and box office success.
IFFLA 2019 will feature three world premieres, two North American premieres, two U.S. premieres, and 11 Los Angeles premiere screenings. The impressive lineup represents 9 languages, and includes a diverse collection of female and first-time filmmakers along with festival alumni returning with their latest projects.
“We’re incredibly proud of the intelligent, crowd-pleasing and adventurous films in this year’s lineup. Two of the themes that really stand out amongst all those that we’re seeing this year are intergenerational stories and stories that dive into political conflict,” said Mike Dougherty, IFFLA’s Programming Director. “With both there’s an interesting conversation to be had on how filmmakers are examining the changing world, and how that world is moving towards a bold new future. I’m excited to explore these themes further with our filmmakers and audience members.”
Highlights from this year’s lineup include a trio of Sundance and Slamdance favorites in PHOTOGRAPH from THE LUNCHBOX director Ritesh Batra, director Ronny Sen’s unforgettable feature debut CAT STICKS, and the exhilarating and imaginative real-life journey of TAKING THE HORSE TO EAT JALEBIS from theatre-turned-film director Anamika Haksar. Other highlights include the family drama LOVE GOES THROUGH YOUR MIND directed by UCLA alum Ronak Shah and the heartwarming family film CHIPPA, directed by Safdar Rahman and starring LION’s Sunny Pawar.
Films telling multigenerational stories include NAMDEV BHAU IN SEARCH OF SILENCE about a 65-year-old chauffeur who is reluctantly paired with a 12-year old boy on his cross-country journey to find solitude; the visually poetic CAT STICKS that follows several young people seeking a greater lust for life; JONAKI stars legendary Bengali actress Lolita Chatterjee as an octogenarian who, in her final moments, relives key memories from her life as her present-day 80-year-old self; and LOVE GOES THROUGH YOUR MIND, centering on a young woman’s conflict with her parents over how best to address her brother’s bipolar disorder.
2019 films delving into more political themes include one feature and one short – WIDOW OF SILENCE and NOOREH – that look at the effects of the Kashmir conflict on everyday people; TAKING THE HORSE TO EAT JALEBIS and its story showcasing the poor merchants, pickpockets and homeless population of Delhi; THE SWEET REQUIEM, centering on Tibetan refugees living in Delhi and the lifelong after-effects of their dangerous escape out of Tibet; and the documentary short film CIRCLE that follows a young woman confronting the other women in her family about the cycle of abuse they’ve perpetuated due to tradition.
IFFLA alumni filmmakers lead the charge on festival features ANDHADHUN (Sriram Raghavan), JONAKI (Aditya Vikram Sengupta), PHOTOGRAPH (Ritesh Batra), and THE SWEET REQUIEM (Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam), as well as the shorts CIRCLE (Jayisha Patel), and THE FIELD (Sandhya Suri). Additionally, two films – feature LOVE GOES THROUGH YOUR MIND and the short film YOUTHFUL – have stories that are based in Los Angeles.
Shorts program highlights include Jayisha Patel’s CIRCLE which previously screened in the Berlin, Toronto and at BFI London festivals, THE FIELD from director Sandhya Suri which screened for audiences in Sundance and Toronto, and Busan International Film Festival grand prize winner NOOREH from director Ashish Pandey. In addition, IFFLA 2019 will see the world premieres of the shorts YOUTHFUL from director Varun Chounal, THE SHAILA(S) directed by Neha RT and Sakshi Gulati’s NEON.
While IFFLA will continue its tradition of showcasing the best in Indian and South Asian cinema, changing distribution models have led to a variety of new and exciting content premiering on television and digital spaces. With that in mind, IFFLA will feature the TV-centric panel discussion BREAKING IN BROWN: MAKING IT TO SERIES IN TV’S GOLDEN AGE highlighting the work of South Asian actors, directors, writers and producers working in the television space. The panel is presented with support from the India Center Foundation.
Additional lineup details, including the Closing Gala and television panel participants, will be announced soon.
Tickets and Passes
Passes and Opening Gala tickets are now on sale. Individual tickets will go on sale on March 6. For more information please visit www.indianfilmfestival.org or follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (@iffla).
Now in its 17th year, the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA) is a nonprofit organization devoted to a greater appreciation of Indian cinema and culture by showcasing films and promoting the diverse perspectives of the Indian diaspora.
The four-day festival is the premiere platform for the latest in cutting-edge global Indian cinema and bridges the gap between the two largest entertainment industries in the world – Hollywood and India. The festival will showcase nearly 25 films from the Indian filmmaking community across the globe, host the highly anticipated Opening and Closing red carpet Galas, and the Closing Awards ceremony.
OPENING GALA: A TRIBUTE TO TABU
Join us for a special evening as we celebrate the award winning actress, Tabu. The program will feature an on-stage conversation with Tabu, followed by a screening of Sriram Raghavan’s Andhadhun, and a Q&A with Tabu and Raghavan. Dinner reception to follow, hosted by Spice Affair.
Tabassum Fatima Hashmi, known as Tabu, is regarded as one of the most talented Indian actors of her generation, having been honored with two National Film Awards, six Filmfare Awards and notably, the Padma Shri from the Government of India in 2011. Tabu’s strong individuality and unwillingness to compromise set apart her persona—and the characters she portrays—making her beloved by Indian audiences around the world.
Tabu has primarily acted in Hindi films, but has also worked extensively in the South Indian film industry and internationally as well, by doing films in English, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Marathi and Bengali. Her flair for languages and respect for regional cinemas mark her as unique among her peers.
Tabu is best known for playing often intense and individualistic protagonists in films that garner more critical appreciation than substantial box office, such as Maachis, Virasat, Kandukondain Kandukondain, Astitva, Chandni Bar, Meenaxi, Haider and Maqbool. However, her mass appeal can’t be discounted either, given the box office success of Border, Golmaal Again, Vijaypath, Ninne Pelladatha, Hum Saath Saath Hain and Saajan Chale Sasural. Internationally, she has gained laurels for her leading role in Mira Nair’s The Namesake, as well as for her supporting role in Ang Lee’s Oscar-winning Life of Pi.
Her recent release, Andhadhun, directed by Sriram Raghavan and co-starring Ayushmann Khurrana, has won her rave reviews and box office success. Her next release De De Pyaar De, where she will be reunited with Ajay Devgan, is directed by Akiv Ali. Tabu will also be seen in Bharat directed by Ali Abbas Zafar.
Director: Sriram Raghavan
Producers: Sanjay Routray, Viacom18 Motion Pictures
Screenwriters: Sriram Raghavan, Arijit Biswas, Pooja Ladha Surti, Yogesh Chandekar & Hemant Rao
Cinematographer: K U Mohanan
Editor: Pooja Ladha Surti
Cast: Tabu, Ayushmann Khurrana, Radhika Apte
In Andhadhun, Tabu again takes on a comedic role, albeit still playing the kind of villainess that her audiences adore. Tabu is Simi, a desperate actress who is caught disposing of her husband’s body in front of pianist Akash (Ayushmann Khurrana). Fortunately it’s not a problem – he’s blind. Or is he? Simi and Akash find themselves bound together (literally) in this wicked story of ambition, romance and organ harvesting. Co-starring the delightful Radhika Apte as Akash’s suspicious, sassy girlfriend.
Los Angeles Premiere
Director: Ronny Sen
Producers: Theodore Indu Shivdasani, Soumyak Kanti De Biswas, Tanaji Dasgupta
Screenwriters: Ronny Sen, Soumyak Kanti De Biswas
Cinematographer: Shreya Dev Dube
Editor: Nikon (Rajarshi Basu)
Cast: Tanmay Dhanania, Sumeet Thakur, Saurabh Saraswat, Joyraj Bhattacharya, Rahul Dutta
Logline: On one rain-soaked night in Kolkata, several young people seek greater lust and life in their relentless pursuit of “brown sugar” and its unsustainable high.
Synopsis: One rain-soaked night in Kolkata, in the city’s hidden corners and forgotten pathways, the aimless lives of several young people crystallize into a sympathetic portrait of addiction in Ronny Sen’s unforgettable feature debut. Together with cinematographer Shreya Dev Dube, who lenses each breathtaking, black-and-white shot with an artist’s eye, Sen evokes another world hiding in plain sight. The city’s nearly empty streets create a stage for the petty crime, meandering conversations, and surreal encounters that accompany each of his characters’ search for the unsustainable high of “brown sugar”. The result is visual poetry that gives these lost souls a necessary spotlight without beautifying their struggle.
Anchored by brave, committed performances by a sterling young cast, Sen’s film won an Honorable Mention award in the 2019 Slamdance Film Festival’s feature competition.
North American Premiere
Director: Safdar Rahman
Producer: Celine Loop
Screenwriter: Safdar Rahman
Cinematographer: Ramanuj Dutta
Editor: Manas Mittal
Cast: Sunny Pawar
Logline: On the eve of his tenth birthday Chippa is given a mysterious letter written to him by his long-absent father, and embarks on an enchanting journey through the streets of Kolkata to find answers.
Synopsis: Sunny Pawar, the star of 2016’s Oscar-nominated LION, proves his movie star mettle as the delightful title character in Safdar Rahman’s directorial debut. Chippa is a spirited young boy living with his street vendor auntie, a relationship that creates more arguments than tenderness. On the eve of Chippa’s tenth birthday, he’s given a letter written to him by his long-absent father. The letter is written in Urdu, which neither Chippa nor any of the adults in his life can read. Spurred on by yet another shouting match with his auntie, he sets off for one eventful night through the streets of Kolkata in search of answers.
Chippa’s journey brings him into contact with several colorful characters along the way — some who have lessons to impart, some who could learn a thing or two from the outspoken kid. As Chippa gets closer to unraveling the mystery of his father’s letter, we realize we’ve been hooked into a story of intergenerational connections and how we can grow from the mistakes of those who have come before us. CHIPPA is a pure crowd-pleasing family film sure to send you out of the theater with a smile.
India, Singapore, France/2018/95 mins/DCP/Bengali
Director: Aditya Vikram Sengupta
Producer: Samir Sarkar
Screenwriter: Aditya Vikram Sengupta
Cinematographers: Mahendra Shetty, Aditya Vikram Sengupta
Editor: Aditya Vikram Sengupta
Cast: Lolita Chatterjee, Jim Sarbh, Ratnabali Bhattacharjee, Sumanto Chottopadhyay
Logline: While Jonaki, an 80-year-old woman, searches for love in a strange land of decaying memories, her former lover, now old and grey, returns to the world she is leaving behind.
Synopsis: 80-year-old Jonaki, the heroine of visionary director Aditya Vikram Sengupta’s astonishing second feature, has come to the end of a life filled with love interrupted, dreams deferred and disappointments regretfully accepted. Portrayed by legendary Bengali actress Lolita Chatterjee, Jonaki recounts the bittersweet moments of her life, which are rendered as surreal, breathtaking dreamscapes that cast the octogenarian actress as Jonaki’s younger self. We experience her first true love with a dashing Christian man, and the subsequent clash with her traditionalist family over her wishes for marriage.
Wholly delivering on the promise of his first film (IFFLA 2015 award winner LABOUR OF LOVE), Sengupta shows a confidence and artistry in his visuals that mark the growth of a new auteur. His film is inspired by the bedside stories his own grandmother would tell him in his childhood, and with JONAKI, he has both honored her memory, and given her long-silenced voice its richly deserved pulpit.
LOVE GOES THROUGH YOUR MIND
Los Angeles Premiere
Director: Ronak Shah
Producer: Masaya Tajika
Screenwriters: Shruti Swaminathan, Ronak Shah
Cinematographer: Jason Knutzen
Editors: Marcus Chan, William Rubenstein, Ronak Shah
Cast: Ariela Barer, Azim Rizk, Sunil Narkar, Nandini Minocha
Logline: An affluent Indian American family implodes under the pressures of a family member’s untreated mental illness.
Synopsis: Nina Sharma is a promising high school student, a budding artist, and the daughter of two affluent Indian American parents in Los Angeles. From the outside, her family life looks perfect, but complications arise when her brother Bharat returns home from college unexpectedly. After exhibiting erratic behavior, a doctor’s visit reveals that Bharat is struggling with bipolar disorder. Nina jumps at the chance to help her brother through his illness, but her parents refuse to face the reality of Bharat’s diagnosis.
Stars Ariela Barer and Azim Rizk portray a fierce brother-sister bond that brims with authenticity, especially when Nina goes to dangerous lengths to protect Bharat. The frank and clear-eyed direction of first-time director Ronak Shah, along with the script by co-writer Shruti Swaminathan, admirably confronts and challenges the stigma surrounding mental illness, while understanding the all-too-common fear of talking about it openly.
NAMDEV BHAU IN SEARCH OF SILENCE
Los Angeles Premiere
Director: Dar Gai
Producer: Dheer Momaya
Screenwriter: Dar Gai
Cinematographer: Aditya Varma
Editor: Shounok Ghosh
Cast: Namdeo Gurav, Aarya Dave, Zoya Hussain
Logline: A 65-year-old chauffeur, tired of the endless noise in Mumbai, decides to leave everything behind in search of blissful peace and quiet. But his plans are complicated by the arrival of an exasperating 12-year-old boy.
Synopsis: Namdev Bhau, a 65-year-old chauffeur in Mumbai, yearns to escape the endless noise of his city life – the complaints of his clients, the cacophony on the street, the bickering at home. When he hears about a place called Silent Valley — reported to be one of the quietest places on Earth — he decides to leave everything and journey there to attain blissful peace and quiet. However, as he sets out on the road, each of his attempts for solitude are comically foiled. The last straw arrives in the form of a precocious 12-year-old boy, who selects Namdev Bhau as the perfect companion for his own journey.
The title role of Namdev is played to perfection by Namdeo Gurav, a first-time actor whose deadpan reactions are worthy of a Buster Keaton comparison. Beneath his cranky exterior lies a sympathetic heart, and as the two road companions learn more about each other’s pasts, Dar Gai’s wonderfully heart-warming feature (a bona fide hit on the festival circuit) deepens and radiates with humanity.
Los Angeles Premiere
Director: Ritesh Batra
Producers: Vincent Savino, Anish Savjani, Neil Kopp
Screenwriter: Ritesh Batra
Cinematographers: Ben Kutchins, Tim Gillis
Editor: John F. Lyons
Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Sanya Malhotra
Logline: When a street photographer, pressured by his grandmother to marry, convinces a quiet student to pose as his fiancée the two develop an unlikely relationship, but the divides between them might be too big to make it real.
Synopsis: Rafi’s grandmother in the village will not stop asking him to get married. One day while making his living as a photographer of tourists at the iconic Gateway of India in Mumbai, Rafi takes a picture of Miloni, a local young accountant student who has stolen a moment alone from her family. When she leaves before he can give her the photograph, he decides to make use of it by sending it to his grandmother as a picture of his future bride. The ruse works too well when grandma announces she’s coming to town to meet her.
What starts for the two as a performance for the benefit of one person slowly becomes something else. As their tender relationship grows, the stark class and age differences between them loom so large as to make a shared future impossible to imagine. Following up on his widely celebrated debut feature THE LUNCHBOX, writer/director Ritesh Batra again delicately crafts a bittersweet love story of people searching to be truly seen in a city where separation and longing are the only constants.
THE SWEET REQUIEM
Los Angeles Premiere
Directors: Ritu Sarin, Tenzing Sonam
Producers: Ritu Sarin, Shrihari Sathe
Screenwriter: Tenzing Sonam
Cinematographer: David McFarland
Editor: Jabeen Merchant
Cast: Tenzin Dolker, Jampa Kalsang
Logline: A young Tibetan woman living in exile faces her long repressed past and seeks retribution against the man who betrayed her.
Synopsis: Escaping nearly 15 years ago from Tibet, Dolkar (Tenzin Dolker) is a young woman living in exile in Delhi. Her seemingly contented life is completely unmoored when she meets Gompo (Tenzin Dechen), a new arrival to their Tibetan community, who she recognizes as the man who guided her group through the unforgiving and treacherous path to India. As Gompol deals with his own story of heartache and peril, long-repressed memories return to Dolkar, and she resolves to confront him for his betrayal.
Acclaimed filmmakers Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam return to IFFLA with a haunting personal story of one of the longest running, and some would argue forgotten, refugee communities in the world. Featuring stunning photography from high in the Himalayas, Sarin and Sonam transport us not only to the precarious path to freedom so many Tibetans have taken, but also the ongoing trauma of surviving despite all that has been lost.
TAKING THE HORSE TO EAT JALEBIS
Los Angeles Premiere
Director: Anamika Haksar
Producer: Anamika Haksar
Screenwriters: Anamika Haksar, Lokesh Jain
Cinematographer: Saumyananda Sahi
Editor: Paresh Kamdar
Cast: Ravindra Sahu, Raghubir Yadav, K Gopalan, Lokesh Jain
Logline: An exhilarating and imaginative journey into the real lives of the residents of Shahjanabad, Old Delhi.
Synopsis: For centuries the Shahjanabad area of Old Delhi has been home to migrant workers and the poor. Eschewing stereotypical images and storytelling approaches, TAKING THE HORSE TO EAT JALEBIS takes us into the reality of Old Delhi, centering the stories of its citizens such as a pickpocket, street vendor, labor activist and tour guide. When Pattru, an outcast thief, decides to lead his own tours, the police and tourists reject his stories of the dark truths of the city. Still, he continues, taking us further in to the dream life and subconscious of the community.
For her debut film, accomplished theater director Anamika Haksar spent years in Old Delhi, talking to inhabitants about their lives, thoughts and dreams. Mixing magical thinking with documentary realities, Haksar has created a film where the irreducible dignity of people who are too often rendered invisible by modern, developing society is made tangible and real. TAKING THE HORSE TO EAT JALEBIS is a powerful cinematic vision of Old Delhi, its past and present, and a monument to its people.
WIDOW OF SILENCE
Los Angeles Premiere
Director: Praveen Morchhale
Producer: Praveen Morchhale
Screenwriter: Praveen Morchhale
Cinematographer: Mohammad Reza Jahanpanah
Editor: Anthony Joseph
Cast: Shilpi Marwaha, Ajay Chourey, Bilal Ahmad, Noorjahan
Logline: A Kashmiri woman’s attempt to obtain a death certificate for her long-missing husband is thwarted by a corrupt government official.
Synopsis: In the first shot of WIDOW OF SILENCE a beautifully-lit elderly woman is gently tied to a chair by someone offscreen. Not only does this image of paralysis act as a metaphor for the status of women in Kashmir, it foreshadows the entanglement that faces the heroine, Aasia — a situation she attempts to liberate herself from at great cost.
Aasia is a half-widow; her husband was taken by Indian police seven years ago and is presumed dead. However, without a death certificate she can neither remarry nor settle her dire financial situation. A corrupt government clerk offers her the documents she needs, in return for agreement to sell her small plot of land to a buyer of his choosing, plus a commission, and sex.
Through exquisitely composed visuals deeply influenced by the late Kiarostami, filmmaker Praveen Morchhale transports the audience into a world of breathtaking beauty and nihilistic bureaucracy.