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London Asian Film Festival 2016: Superstar Indian writer Chetan Bhagat calls in…

London Asian Film Festival 2016: Superstar Indian writer Chetan Bhagat calls in…

March 2 2016

Now reaching adulthood, this film festival has an eclectic programme with some real standout features and events…

BLOCKBUSTER Indian author Chetan Bhagat makes a rare UK appearance as part of the London Asian Film Festival which opens on Friday (March 4).

He is one of the headline draws, as the 10-day festival screens more than a dozen features – several with UK premieres and hosts a series of talks, special events and a short film competition. Venues range from Regent Street Cinema, the British Library and BAFTA in Piccadilly to Waterman’s in Brentford, west London.

Tannishtha Chatterjee and Brett Lee in 'UnIndian'

Among the feature films to look out for is the gala opening “I am Nojoom, Age 10 and Divorced” from Yemen; the world premiere of British/Indian film, “Feast of Varanasi” shot entirely on location in the temple town, featuring international indie stars Adil Hussain and Tannishtha Chatterjee; Pakistani film “Manto” about the iconic Partition writer, claimed by both India and Pakistan; Indian indie hit, “Aligarh” which centres around a gay professor fighting slurs and his own university employers – and currently laying a trail of controversy as it plays across India; and “Unindian” which pits Chatterjee, this time, as an Australian Indian being wooed by former Aussie cricket star Brett Lee in his debut acting role in what is an Aussie romcom.

The festival closes with another film shot in India by another British Asian director, Anu Menon. She worked with an all-female crew on location around Kochi in Kerala. “Waiting” stars Naseeruddin Shah and rising Bollywood/indie star Kalki Koechlin. As well as a Q&A with Menon, hosted by actor Navin Chowdhry, there will be the London Asian Film Festival Awards ceremony and dinner on the evening.

The “Feast of Varanasi” a stylish, haunting, first feature by Rajan Kumar Patel, enjoys a red carpet premiere at Cineworld Haymarket on Saturday (March 5), ahead of its UK release on March 11.

Arjun (Adil Hussain); Rajveer (Tannishtha Chatterjee); Maya and Helen (Holly Gilbert)

Mixing horror, occult and Hindu mysticism, Patel’s own tale of a young English girl caught in a vortex of intrigue, murders, and unusual occurrences in the holy city of Varanasi make for an original and arresting debut feature. Patel told how he got established stars Tannistha Chatterjee (best known in the UK for “Brick Lane”) and Adil Hussain (from Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi”) on board and overcame the challenges and difficulties of filming his first feature in India on location – having never even attempted a short before. Read our interview with him about his experiences tomorrow.

Bhagat, the former Indian Institute of Management (IIM) graduate is one of India’s best-selling authors, whose novels have been turned into films. Perhaps the most successful of these is the Bollywood hit “3 Idiots” starring Aamir Khan. The film was adapted from Bhagat’s debut book, “Five Point Someone”. He is a hugely influential Indian media figure and has columns in many Indian newspapers.

His first novel helped to completely transform English language book publishing in India. For so long the preserve of high literary fiction or self-help books, Bhagat’s first work, almost a curious hybrid of commercial fiction (which didn’t really exist in India at the time) and the self-help genre, proved to be hugely popular and broke new ground for publishing in the country.

His first book was followed by “One Night@The Call Center” (2005) “The 3 Mistakes of My Life” (2008) “2 States” – all of which occupied spots on India’s best sellers list. He appears at the British Library next Saturday (March 12) “In Conversation with Chetan Bhagat” with SOAS Professor Rachel Dywer at 6.30pm.

Chetan Bhagat one of India's best-selling authors and screenwriters

This is the 18th edition of a film festival which started as Tongues of Fire.

We will have more interviews, reviews and features as the festival starts – stay connected with the bird!

For full programme, see

Interview with Rajan Kumar Patel out tomorrow.

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture


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