Aditya Vikram Sengupta’s “Once Upon a Time in Kolkata” received two awards at the recently concluded New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF). In addition to the best director award with Sengupta, the best actress award went to Sreelekha Mitra.
Faraz Ali’s “Shoebox” starring Amrita Bagchi was declared the best film. Ritesh Sharma’s “The Brittle Thread”, a trilingual drama in Hindi, English and Hebrew, won the best first film award at the premiere.
The awards were handed out at the closing night gala held at the Angelika Film Center in New York on May 14.
Presented by the Indo-American Arts Council (IAAC), the 22nd film festival celebrated independent, arthouse, alternative and diaspora films. Presented almost for the third time in a row, the festival featured 60 screenings, including 8 feature-length narratives, six documentaries and 36 short films.
“We really aimed to highlight NYIFF’s commitment to diversity and cultural representation in film,” festival director Aseem Chhabra said of the festival’s selection. Films shown this year included 13 Indian languages - Assamese, Bengali, English, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu. “NYIFF’s mission is to provide filmmakers, actors and industry professionals a platform to showcase their work, as well as foster an environment where filmmakers exchange ideas and engage with selective and diverse audiences, journalists and enthusiasts,” Chhabra said.
Ajoy Bose and Peter Compton’s documentary “The Beatles And India: An Enduring Love Affair,” detailing the time The Beatles spent a spiritual summer in Rishikesh, has closed its seven-day film premiere.
“Once Upon a Time in Kolkata” is based on true events and is the producer’s homage to present-day Kolkata. The movie Bengal highlights the aspirations and struggles of people who are out of breath in an ever-expanding metropolis.
The Indian movie “Shoebox” explores a young woman’s complex relationship with her father as the world around them changes drastically. This was the second highlight of the festival, after Bani Singh’s “Taangh/Longing” which won the award for best feature documentary.
Singh’s film chronicles the life of the director’s father, Grahnandan ‘Nandy’ Singh, who was part of India’s hockey team that won the gold medal against ex-colonialists England at the 1948 London Olympics. 1947.
Set in Sharma’s hometown of Varanasi, “The Fragile Thread” follows street dancer Rani and weaving weaver Shahdab as they both struggle through life’s challenges.
Amrita Bagchi’s short film “Succulent”, which questions the possibility of commodification of human love, went home with the best short narrative award.
The award for best documentary short went to Vijayeta Kumar’s Kicking Balls, which explores the journey and fraternity of 200 young girls playing soccer from three small villages in Rajasthan.
Jitendra Joshi won the best actor award for his performance in Nikhil Mahajan’s “Godavari”. The Marathi film is billed as a philosophical exploration of life and death and takes its name from the titular river that flows from Nashik, Maharashtra to the southern states of the country. Reyaan Shah and Hirnaya Zinzuwadia win the child actor award for their Gujarati children’s movie “Gandhi & Co”.
Kuldip Patel’s “Powai” won the best screenplay award. Set in Mumbai, the film follows the struggle of three women from different socio-economic strata as they try to fulfill their dreams and claim autonomy in a chaotic, patriarchal and unforgiving urban landscape.