The annual Bagri Foundation London Indian Film Festival is back with its ninth edition. The festival will be held in London, Birmingham and Manchester between June 21 and 29 and will open with Tabrez Noorani’s Love Sonia. Starring Mrunal Thakur, Richa Chadha, Freida Pinto, Demi Moore, Manoj Bajpayee and Rajkummar Rao, the movie explores the attempts of Sonia to free herself and her sister from the global sex trade.
The closing film is Canadian director Eisha Marjara’s Venus, about a transgender person who discovers just before her sex reassignment surgery that she has a son.
“This cutting edge festival showcases indie cinema that entertains but shows the more realistic and sometimes the raw side of South Asian culture but, at the same time, there are always stories of comedy, hope and the inexhaustible energy of over 1.3 Billion South Asian lives from the Indian subcontinent,” festival director Cary Rajinder Sawhney said in a press note.
Kireet Khurana’s T for Taj has been given a special screening slot. Khurana’s movie is about a roadside eatery owner (Subrat Dutta) who operates near the Taj Mahal in Agra and educates local children by offering tourists free food in exchange for lessons.
Among the themes this year is ‘The Female Eye’, which showcases the work of South Asian filmmakers. On the list are Rima Das with multiple award-winning Village Rockstars, about a girl from a village who dreams of being a guitarist, Dar Gai’s Teen Aur Aadha, which explores three Mumbai-set stories shot in three takes, and Sangeeta Datta’s Bird of Dusk, a documentary on Rituparno Ghosh.
The festival will also pay tribute to Sridevi, who died in February, with a screening of one of her biggest hits, Mr India.
Another theme is ‘Fathers & Sons’. The titles include Dipesh Jain’s In The Shadows, about a ten-year-old boy, a wife-beating father, and an agoraphobic in Delhi. In British comedy Eaten By Lions, directed by Jacon Wingard, Bradford teenager Omar and his half brother search for his Asian father in Blackpool. In Nishil Sheth’s Bhasmasur, an indebted father sets out to sell his son’s beloved donkey.
A third theme is ‘Extra-Ordinary Lives’. There is Iram Haq’s What will People Say, about a Pakistani teenager living in Norway who is sent back to her native land after her father discovers her with her Norwegian boyfriend. The observational documentary Up Down and Sideways by Anushka Meenakshi and Iswar Srikumar explores the links between music and rice cultivation in Nagaland. Lokesh Kumar’s Tamil movie My Son is Gay is about a mother who struggles to accept her son’s sexuality.
Kabir Singh Chowdhry’s Mehsampur weaves together documentary and fiction as it revisits the deaths of folk singer couple Amar Singh Chamkila and Amarjot Kaur in Punjab in 1988.
Access to toilets is the subject of Nila Madhab Panda’s Halkaa, in which a boy living in a slum dreams of owning his own latrine. In Prakash Kunte’s Cycle, a village gets together to reunite astrologer Keshav with his stolen bicycle.
In Ben Rekhi’s The Ashram, starring Kal Penn and Radhika Apte, an American stumbles upon a cult in the Himalayas while looking for his missing girlfriend.
Bangladeshi director Mostofa Sarwar Farooki’s Doob (No Bed of Roses) stars Irrfan as a filmmaker whose marriage is ripped apart after an affair. Another Irrfan starrer will be screened at the festival: Anup Singh’s The Song of Scorpions, set in Rajasthan and exploring the relationship between a camel herder (Irrfan) and a mystic healer (Golshifteh Farahani).
The documentary Bengal Shadows, directed by Joy Banerjee and Partho Bhattacharya, revisits the devastating 1943 Bengal famine. This screening will be followed by a discussion between Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, who has extensively studied the links between economic policy, food distribution and famine, and London School of Economics professor Tirthankar Roy.
Bengali director Srijit Mukherji’s Uma, starring Jisshu Sengupta, Sara Sengupta and Anjan Dutt, is based on the real-life story of a terminally ill Canadian boy whose town celebrated Christmas early for his sake.
Among the short films that will be screened are Priyanka Singh’s Maun, which highlights child sexual abuse, Abhishek Verma’s animated Machher Jhol, about food and coming out, and Ranjan Chandel’s Jaan Jigar, about the attempts by two teenagers to have their first kiss.