Mondo Cinema

Breaking free of Bollywood's glitzy chains: Houston film festival shows there is much more to Indian cinema

Breaking free of Bollywood: Houston film festival shows there is more

Indian Film Festival of Houston The Good Road directed by Gyan Correa
In The Good Road, director Gyan Correa’s drama focuses on three groups of people whose lives intersect as they travel along a bleak stretch of highway in western India.  MyTheatreCafe.com
Sutapa Indian Film Festival of Houston October 2013
Sutapa Ghosh, far left, of the Indian Film Festival of Houston (File photo) Courtesy photo
Indian Film Festival of Houston Celluloid movie still
Celluloid is a biography depicting the life of J.C. Daniel, generally acknowledged as the Father of Malayalam Cinema. MatineeStars.com
Indian Film Festival The Jewelry Box
A scene from The Jewelry Box, a horror-comedy based on Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay's classic tale about three generations of women and their shifting positions in a class-conscious East Bengal society Shomingekiblog.blogspot.com
Indian Film Festival of Houston The Good Road directed by Gyan Correa
Sutapa Indian Film Festival of Houston October 2013
Indian Film Festival of Houston Celluloid movie still
Indian Film Festival The Jewelry Box

Sutapa Ghosh wants the world to know that, just as there is more to American cinema than Hollywood, there is more to Indian cinema than Bollywood. To help spread her message, the Calcutta-born, Houston-based movie producer organized the Indian Film Festival of Houston.

The fifth annual edition of her ambitious event unspools this weekend, Friday through Sunday, at the Asia Society Texas Center. And rest assured: Ghosh has taken pains to ensure there is more than just the usual Bollywood song and dance on her program of shorts, documentaries and dramatic features.

India, it should be noted, just happens to be the most prolific producer of motion pictures in the entire world. Among the reasons for this prodigious output: The sheer size of the domestic audience.

 “I have nothing against Bollywood. We’re very proud of Bollywood. But we’re beyond Bollywood as well.” 

“India is so vast, with so many languages, so many dialects,” Ghosh says. “But while, yes, there are many, many movies produced in India — not all of them are produced in the Hindi language in Bollywood.

“Currently, we’re in a very blessed time in India, where a lot of new moviemakers have come in and started making some excellent movies. And they’re not just Bollywood movies — we’re talking about films from different regions as well: Bengali movies, Gujarati movies, Tamil movies and so on.”

Don’t misunderstand: Ghosh isn’t a Bollywood basher.

“I have nothing against Bollywood. We’re very proud of Bollywood. But we’re beyond Bollywood as well.”

As Ghosh sees it, she’s dealing with an image problem not unlike the one that burdens her adopted hometown. “Typically, when people talk about Houston,” she says, “they think of oil and gas and medical centers and NASA. It was initially a challenge for us to convince some people that we have a thriving arts community as well.

“Houston is a very international city. And we see part of our mission as helping put Houston on the map in terms of international culture.”

Features programmed for the 2013 Indian Film Festival of Houston include:

The Good Road – Director Gyan Correa’s road-movie drama focuses on three groups of people whose lives intersect as they travel along a bleak stretch of highway in western India. For all its critical acclaim, the Gujarati-language production was viewed by many observers — including Correa himself — as a surprise choice when it was selected as India’s official 2013 entry in the Academy Awards race for Best Foreign Film.

A pleasant surprise, mind you, but a surprise nonetheless.

“It’s staggering,” Correa told the showbiz trade paper Variety. “I never thought this would happen. I never thought about the Oscars. I just made the film that was in my mind. I’m humbled.”

Correa will be on hand for the opening night screening. (7 p.m. Friday at Asia Society Texas Center)

The Jewelry Box – Award-winning Bengali filmmaker Aparna Sen is slated to introduce the H-Town premiere of her latest effort, a horror comedy based on Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay's classic tale about three generations of women and their shifting positions in a class-conscious East Bengal society. (6 p.m. Saturday at Asia Society)

Celluloid – Filmmaker Kamaluddin Mohammed Majeed, usually credited simply as Kamal, pays tribute to J.C. Daniel, generally acknowledged as the Father of Malayalam Cinema, in this biopic dealing with Daniel’s production of the groundbreaking 1930 silent film Vigathakumaran. (2:15 p.m. Sunday at Asia Society)