The Indian Film Festival of Melbourne (IFFM), the southern hemisphere’s greatest annual celebration of Indian cinema kicked off on August 11 with “Female Empowerment” as its unifying theme. This year’s festival explores the richness of contemporary cinema from India and the sub-continent, featuring films spanning Bollywood box-office hits to documentaries and arthouse festival favourites, as well as hosting the third edition of the annual Indian Film Festival of Melbourne Awards.
Festival Director Mitu Bhowmick-Lange said, “This year’s festival presents a world-class program overflowing with gala events, master classes with India’s leading film figures, and over 50 films screenings in 17 languages across multiple Melbourne venues.”
The festival has invited a number of India’s biggest stars as special guests for 2016. The stellar list features Bollywood legend Rishi Kapoor, who over the last forty years has played the romantic lead in over 90 films, from the super-hit Bobby in 1973 to his most recent turn in Kapoor and Sons. Other VIPs include Leena Yadav, director of the internationally acclaimed Parched, the IFFM opening night film; Bollywood’s new “it girl” Radhika Apte; bold Bollywood actress Richa Chadda; award-winning director of Autograph and Rajkahini, Srijit Mukherjee; National Award-winning actress Rituparna Sengupta; Shakun Batra, director of Kapoor & Sons; dancer and actress Malaika Arora Khan, and IFFM Ambassador Vidya Balan.
OPENING AND CLOSING NIGHTS
IFFM kicked off on 11 August with Parched, a contemporary melodrama set in an isolated north Indian village where long upheld customs are slowly evolving. Parched premiered at TIFF and has taken the international film festival circuit by storm, winning the prestigious IMPACT Award at Stockholm, Audience and Best Actress award at The Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles and more.
The opening week coincides with the Indian Independence Day celebrations and the Festival commemorated this event through ceremony, dance and the recognition of excellence in India’s film culture. Celebrations included the raising of the Indian flag on Saturday 13 August at Federation Square by Bollywood veteran Rishi Kapoor, followed by the Telstra Bollywood Dance Competition judged by actresses Richa Chadda, Shakun Batra and Malaika Arora Khan.
As its closing film on Aug 21, IFFM will host the Victorian premiere of Angry Indian Goddesses with key cast in attendance. Directed by Pan Nalin, the film follows a riotous weekend in Goa experienced by a bride‐to‐be and her best female friends.
With a special focus on this year’s theme of “Female Empowerment”, IFFM presents new and classic films from India and the subcontinent, with a special selection of films, panels and roundtable discussions based around the theme. Festival director Mitu Bhowmick Lange said, “This theme was an obvious choice for us with so many of this year’s films portraying strong and vibrant female characters, while female directors turn the focus on inequality and liberation.”
IFFM Festival Ambassador, Vidya Balan said, “Whether you are an aspiring filmmaker, dancer, singer, or simply love watching great cinema, IFFM 2016 has plenty to offer. IFFM 2016’s theme of female empowerment is so close to my heart; and I hope that you too will be inspired, challenged and entertained by the many highlights that this year’s schedule contains.”
The “Female Empowerment” theme is explored in a number of critically lauded features and documentaries across six program streams, including the opening and closing night films Parched and Angry Indian Goddesses, as well as a roundtable discussion with critic Rajeev Masand exploring ‘Wild Women in Cinema’ (Sat 13 Aug), and two ‘In Conversation’ events: Richa Chadda on ‘Bollywood and Body Positivity’ (Sat 13 Aug) and Rajeev Masand In Conversation With Rishi Kapoor’ (Sun 14 Aug).
Further program highlights include the Australian premiere of Ashutosh Gowariker’s epic adventure-romance Mohenjo Daro starring Hrithik Roshan and Pooja Hedge in the lead roles, set in the ancient city of Mohenjo-‐‐daro in the era of the Indus Valley civilisation; and the Australian premiere of Anu Menon’s comedy drama Waiting, about the relationship between two people from very different walks of life who befriend one another in hospital.
The ‘Hurrah Bollywood’ program that features the best mainstream Hindi cinema from the last twelve months including IFFM Award Best Film nominees, Neerja by Ram Madhvani, and Kapoor and Sons starring Rishi Kapoor; ‘Beyond Bollywood’ presents art house and cinema in regional Indian languages, with programme highlights including the Pakistani biographical drama Manto, about the life of Indo-‐‐Pakistani writer Saadat Hasan Manto; and the box office and critical hit Aligarh, directed by Hansel Mehta and described by the BFI as “Probably the best film yet on the Indian gay male experience,” inspired by the life of Dr Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras. ‘The Subcontinent’ features films from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal, including the banned Bangladeshi feature Under Construction, which revolves around a woman’s struggle to reclaim her identity and sexuality; Pakistani drama Moor written and directed by Jami, about a troubled station master, and Among the Believers, a documentary that examines the increasing political and religious turmoil in Pakistan since the War on Terror. ‘Film India World’ presents Amrita Dasgupta’s award-‐‐winning The New Girl in Class, which looks at the possibility of mainstream education for Indian children with autism; while the IFFM Documentary stream features For The Love of A Man, exploring the madness of South Indian fandom as a former bus driver becomes a living legend. ‘Master Stroke’ showcases some of the greatest classics from India’s rich cinematic history.
IFFM is an 11 day feast starting from August 11- August 21, 2016.