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London Indian Film Festival 2016: Women filmmakers and gender issues in spotlight

London Indian Film Festival 2016: Women filmmakers and gender issues in spotlight

July 5 2016

The largest festival of its kind in Europe, the London Indian Film Festival presents an eclectic programme and see the films at the BFI Southbank and make the most of our two tickets for the price of one offer…

A DOUBLE-OSCAR® winner, a Tamil film legend, and a director who made the crossover from India to Hollywood, are just three of the standout attractions from this year’s Bagri Foundation London Indian Film Festival (LIFF).

An actress who was plucked from relative obscurity as a 16-year-old and propelled to stardom by film legend Satyajit Ray also graces the festival this year and Bollywood glitz is represented by actor and producer Ajay Devgn.

The film, “Parched” which the Bollywood actor (also married to Bollywood icon Kajol) produced, opens the festival at a glittering gala screening in central London on July 14.

The festival runs until July 21 in London and also in Birmingham till July 24.

We have a special offer for all LIFF films screened at the British Film Institute (BFI Southbank). Get two tickets for the price of one by using the code:asianculturevulture241, whether booking online, in person or on the phone. Book now!


Parched” is just one of an array of independent films screening at the festival. There are also productions from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka complementing the 24 titles in what is the seventh year of the festival.

LIFF director Cary Rajinder Sawhney told this year’s festival was looking to highlight films with a strong women or LGBTQ+ (Lesbian; Gay; Bisexual; Transgender; Queer+ – non-determinate) agenda.

“What’s amazing that there are so many unsung women filmmakers – and so we are singing it!

“Seven of our 24 titles are made by women filmmakers – that’s so much better than at a lot of other festivals,” stressed Sawhney.

Double Oscar winner Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy

“These are world class films – they’re not just in the festival on an equality ticket – we’re showing them because they are great films.”

Among the women directors attending are Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, who won an Oscar for her short film documentary, “Girl in the River:The Price of Forgiveness”.

Festivalgoers will also get a chance to see her “Song of Lahore” about the city’s beleagured musician community.

She will also participate in a special women directors panel alongside directors Leena Yadav and Rinku Kalsy, who also have films featured in LIFF 2016.

“We celebrating women in film,” said Sawhney.

Kamal Haasan is widely regarded as one of India’s greatest film personalities. Though rooted in Tamil cinema since his childhood, his fame and reputation extend across much of India and he is an auteur in the widest sense and is described in the LIFF online programme, as a “writer, poet, filmmaker, actor, rationalist and social activist”.

One of the great figures of the Indian film industry: Kamal Haasan

There is also a chance to see of one of Haasan’s most seminal films as an actor – “Nayakan” (1987) directed by another South Indian legend, Mani Ratnam. The film is included in a top 100 all-time film list by Time magazine.

Festivalgoers will get the chance to hear – and quiz – Hasaan at a screen talk at the British Film Institute (BFI) – make the most of our 2 for 1 ticket offer!

“It’s a nice-tie up with Mani Ratnam who came last year. Kamal Haasan is not just a director-producer-star but he has made a very diverse range of films and has been doing so since 1955,” stated Sawhney.

Shekhar Kapur, the director of the Oscar-nominated, “Elizabeth” and “Elizabeth: The Golden Age”, will talk about plans to get the third instalment to the screen and his long career.

It began originally as an accountant in London, before he threw in his lot in Mumbai as an actor and then film director.

His “Mr India” (1987) remains one of the most loved in modern Bollywood and his making of “Bandit Queen” (1994) for Channel 4 propelled him to Hollywood.

Leena Yadav (l) and Rinku Kalsy are directors who will appear at the Women with a camera panel at the BFI

The closing Gala film, “Toba Tek Singh” will touch hearts and isn’t as bleak as it sounds, emphasised Sawhney.

Made under an initiative conceptualised by Indian global broadcaster ZEE TV, and called ‘Zeal for Unity’, it looks to mark the 70th independence anniversaries of both India and Pakistan and the countries’ common culture.

The film visualises one of the great stories of Partition by one of its greatest ever chroniclers.

Sadaat Hasan Manto was an acclaimed writer who moved from Bombay (as it was then) to Karachi following Partition.

Pained by the whole experience and scared by the sight of millions, who once lived harmoniously side by side, setting on each other, his story about what to do with the patients of a mental hospital who came from different sides of the new divide, is one of the most iconic of its time. Director Ketan Mehta tackles this famous story on celluloid.

“For me, it’s the best of all the recent Manto films (there are several),” argued Sawhney. “It’s a real tearjerker and very moving but it’s also positive and looking ahead.”


In the LGBTQ+ strand, “I am not He…She” stands out.

Fresh from its accolade as the best Kannada (language) film this year as judged by Indian film magazine, Filmfare, it is thought to be the first transgender themed film in Indian history.

Set in Bangalore, and based on a real life story, director BS Lingadevaru is set to attend.

“At one level civil society in India has moved on (from the recent re-criminalisation of homosexual relations in India) and many young people are not bothered by that and these films are in step (with them) – it’s the conservatives who are out of step,” reasoned Sawhney.

“The documentaries shouldn’t get overlooked – there’s a wonderful documentary on South Indian film star, Rajinikanth; and we have ‘Fire Flies in the Abyss’ about heart rendering stories of children working in the mines in the north east of India,” stressed Sawhney.

Picture collage at top (clockwise from top): Sharmila Tagore, Ajay Devgn, Shekhar Kapur, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, and Kamal Haasan

• For our 10+ best films/talks at LIFF this year, please see here
• See BFI offer, two tickets for the price of one, please use code:asianculturevulture241
• Interview director Leena Yadav to come
• Interview Q ‘Brahman Naman’ to come
• Video interviews Seema Biswas and filmmaker Rehat Kazmi’s Manto
• Exclusive Women in Motion discussion at the Cannes Film Festival 2016 (Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis) discussion as preview to Women with a Camera, Saturday, at LIFF July 17 3.10pm at BFI Southbank)

Full LIFF programme & booking:



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Written by Asian Culture Vulture

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