First Pravasi Film Festival 2010 Roundup

Posted on Sep - 25 - 2010

Veteran actor Saeed Jaffrey was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award in absentia at the first-ever Pravasi Film Festival held in New Delhi 3-6 January, 2010. The feature film ‘Life Goes on’ by Sangeeta Dutta from the United Kingdom bagged the award for the best feature film award and the short fiction ‘Shor’ by D K Krishna and Raj Nidimoru received the best short fiction award while ‘Flying Sikh’ by Navdeep Kandola got the best short non-fiction award. Both filmmakers come from the United States.

According to the feature film jury, ‘Life Goes on’ – which had been the opening film of the Festival – received the award for an emphatic rendition of characters and situations and heartfelt performances. Ms Sangeeta Dutta was the only recipient who was present to receive her award.

A large number of eminent personalities were present at the function, which concluded with the screening of the film ‘Chehere’ by Rohit Kaushik starring Manisha Koirala and Divya Dutta among others. Those present included Uttarakhand Chief Minister Dr Ramesh Pokhriyal, Union Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur, Mauritian High Commissioner Mookeshwar Choonee, Mauritian Culture Minister Dr Vasant K Bunwaree, and Mauritian National Assembly Deputy Speaker Etienne Sinatambou.

Ms Kaur expressed the hope that cultural exchanges between Indians and those of Indian origin in other countries would increase and said her Ministry would do everything to facilitate this process.

Mr Pokhriyal expressed the hope that the non-resident Indians were spreading a positive message about the country all over the world, and were also familiarizing those in their countries of residence with the salient features of Indian culture.

Mr Choonee expressed happiness that his country was a partner country for this Festival and hoped this would lead to some fruitful results. He said Mauritius had always been a favourite shooting site for Indian filmmakers.

Jury member and senior filmmaker Rahul Rawail called upon the film industry in India to support the Pravasi Film Festival initiative and referred to the affinity in themes. He added that women appeared to be doing very well as far as NRI filmmaker went, with Mira Nair, Deepa Mehta, Gurinder Chadha, and now Sangeeta Dutta.

Festival Director Anil Joshi said this first venture was only at a take-off stage and added that it could help create a market for films by NRI filmmakers. He recalled that the Mauritian President Sir Anerood Jugnauth accompanied by his wife Sarojini Jugnauth had unveiled the awards to be given away at the Festival in a ceremony on 1st December, 2009. He said Mauritius is a favourite shooting destination for filmmakers from India. Pravasi Today group Chief Editor Padmesh Gupta and Festival Co-Director Pankaj Dubey were also present.

Starring veteran actors Girish Karnad and Om Puri with versatile actress Sharmila Tagore and her daughter Soha Ali Khan, ‘Life Goes on’ is an intimate story of a Bengali family in the United Kingdom which goes through a period of turmoil when the wife of the main protagonist dies, leaving behind the husband grappling to understand his three grown-up daughters.

‘Shor’ is a film about two boys who steal a backpack of a sleeping man in a train in India, and what they find inside the bag kindles a reckless attempt to dispose off the contents.

‘Flying Sikhs – A History of Sikh Fighter Pilots’ provides an intimate portrait of the Sikh pilots who contributed so valiantly to British success in World War I and World War II.

The competitive Festival had been organized by the Pravasi Today Group in association with the Mauritius government at India Habitat Center from 3rd to 6th January 2010. Around 35 films from different countries were screened at the Festival and a large number of the filmmakers living abroad came to India to attend the event.

The feature film jury was headed by veteran filmmaker Basu Chatterjee and the non-feature jury by renowned critic Latika Padgaonkar. Other members of the feature film jury were filmmakers Rahul Rawail and Sanjay Singh, Festival advisor and senior critic Aruna Vasudev and critic Namrata Joshi. The other short film jury members were film historian Lalit Mohan Joshi, and senior critic Utpal Borpujari.

The Festival proved to be a significant initiative just before the Pravasi Bhartiya Divas (PBD) organized by the Indian Government from 7th to 9th January, 2010. It is noteworthy that 9th January marks the date when Mahatma Gandhi landed on Indian soil after coming from South Africa to join the freedom movement. Over the last three decades Indian films have created a special niche, enabling the Indians living overseas to strengthen their relationship with their motherland.

The Festival was inaugurated on 3rd January by renowned filmmaker Deepa Mehta who expressed the views of the NRI filmmakers when she said ‘we are like children who have left their mother and gone away. And we keep coming back because the mother is so good and pulls us back.’ Union Minister for Food Processing Industries Subodh Kant Sahay, Central Board of Film Certification and veteran film actress Sharmila Tagore, actresses Soha Ali Khan, Pooja Kumar and Purva Bedi, Ashok Malhotra, Secretary General of the Group of People of India Origin (GOPIO), American Yoga expert Dhananjay Kumar, Dr Nikhil Kaushik who is a doctor turned filmmaker from United Kingdom, British filmmaker Sangeeta Dutta and Avantika Hari, filmmaker Patricia Mohammed from the Trinidad & Tobago were also present on the occasion.

The festival also saw the presence of other film personalities from the Diaspora like Mira Nair and Manoj Bajpai, Nasreen Munni Kabir, Karan Razdan, Dr Nikhil Kaushik, and Dr Shiv Pande.

Apart from over thirty feature and non-features from the Diaspora and India, there were several panel discussions on subjects like ‘Mauritius – An attractive destination for filmmakers’, ‘India on my mind’; ‘Commerce of NRI Films’, ‘Filmmaking – a question of identity’, and ‘NRI films – the road ahead’.

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