Bollywood and Beyond

Indian Film Festival Houston shows the diversity of India — and Houston

Indian Film Festival Houston shows the diversity of India — and Houston

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Director Soham Mehta and his parents Photo by Julie Knutson
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Photo by Julie Knutson
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Indian Film Festival Houston founder Sutapa Ghosh Photo by Julie Knutson
News_Indian Film Festival_Sept. 2011_Alfred Cervantes_Ellen Goldberg
Houston Film Commission's Alfred Cervantes and IFFH board member Ellen Goldberg Photo by Julie Knutson
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Photo by Julie Knutson
News_Indian Film Festival_Sept. 2011_crowd
Photo by Julie Knutson
News_Indian Film Festival_Sept. 2011_Soham Mehta_parents
News_Indian Film Festival_Sept. 2011_dancers
News_Indian Film Festival_Sutapa Ghosh
News_Indian Film Festival_Sept. 2011_Alfred Cervantes_Ellen Goldberg
News_Indian Film Festival_Sept. 2011_sign
News_Indian Film Festival_Sept. 2011_crowd

After two successful years, the annual Indian Film Festival Houston returned Tuesday night, kicking off five evenings of contemporary Indian cinema at the CityCentre Studio Movie Grill in west Houston.

Like all good film festivals, IFFH opened with a party. Before the first screening, over 100 attendees gathered on a green plaza a block from the theater, enjoying food from South Asian restaurant Moghul’s and wine from The Tasting Room.  A DJ mixed a combination of Indian dance music with American staples like the Black Eye Peas.  Guests wore everthing from jeans and shorts to suits and saris.

“Houston’s here tonight to celebrate the Indian film industry,” said Emmy-award nominated filmmaker Karen Aptekar.  “This is a meeting place for the city’s vibrant film community; great for networking.”

 Alfred Cervantes, deputy director of the Houston Film Commission, explained how the festival shows not only the diversity of Houston, but also the diversity of India itself. As a nation, India produces over 400 films from a variety of smaller cities beyond the Bollywood circle in Mumbai.

 Alfred Cervantes, deputy director of the Houston Film Commission, explained how the festival shows not only the diversity of Houston, but also the diversity of India itself. As a nation, India produces over 400 films from a variety of smaller cities beyond the Bollywood circle in Mumbai.

The IFFH opened with a screening of I Am Kalam, which has garnered considerable international acclaim since its debut at Cannes last year. The film, directed by Nila Madhab Panda, is at the forefront of a new wave of mainstream Indian cinema the concentrates on socially-aware themes from a broad global perspective.

I Am Kalam follows a young boy from an impoverished family on journey to meet former Indian president Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, exploring themes of poverty and personal growth within the country’s rigid social structure. The film’s score is composed by Susmit Bose, once referred to as the “Bob Dylan of India” for his songs about the struggle for human rights.

Founded by avant-garde filmmaker Sutapa Ghosh, who also helped to launch the Indian Film Festival Los Angeles, this week’s festival will screen a total of nine films – four features, two documentaries, and three shorts – all selected from over 80 initial entries.  Screenings over the next three evenings will include special Q&A sessions with the film directors.

On Wednesday, the festival will show the comedy-drama A Decent Arrangement, as well as the documentary In Search of God and four short films including Fatarka, for which director Soham Mehta won a Student Oscar at the recent Academy Awards.  Thursday, the festival offers another comedy-drama entitled Desperate Endeavors, in addition to a second showing of I Am Kalam.  On Friday, there will be a screening of the drama Delhi in a Day.  See schedule for details.

On Saturday at the Hotel Sorella near the Studio Movie Grill, the Indian Film Festival Houston will close with an awards ceremony and reception featuring a guest list of Bollywood actors, directors, and industry leaders.

“Everything [festival founder] Sutapa does is top notch,” IFFH board member Ellen Goldberg told CultureMap.  “As a film director, she has a great eye for detail, so expect the final Awards Night party to be phenomenal.”

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