MoMA Welcomes “The New India” Film Festival.

The Museum of Modern Art loves Indian films!  In 2007 the  world renowned museum did a tremendous  job with “India Now” a week long film festival showcasing  the best of Indian films & documentaries.  MoMa does an encore presentation this year with many of the top independent, short and Bollywood films from India in “The New India,” a unique and exciting  & ongoing Indian film festival presented by the Museum of Modern Art until June 18 2009 www.moma.org.

Indian film iconic actor Naseerudhin Shah mingles with guest at MoMA's The New India film festival

Indian iconic actor Naseeruddin Shah mingles with guest at The New India film festival

The festival includes 16 films (8 of them being NY releases) and includes top Bollywood and  provacative and social issues seriously affecting India  including AIDS, political corruption, terrorist attacks & exploitation of child.

 The opening night of the festival premiered with the film  “Yes, Madam, Sir” (www.yesmadamsir.com)  a profile look at Dr. Kiran Bedi, the first woman and high ranking police official and one of the  most revered social activist in India today. Dr. Bedi was present during the screening.

Academy Award winning director Megan Mylan’s  film ‘Smile Pinki” (www.SmilePinki.com) a heart wrenching story about a beautiful Indian girl born with cheiloschisis commonly know as cleft lip, whose  life changes dramatically after getting surgery.  Mylan won the 2008 Oscar for Best Documentary.

The selection process was a bit tough say festival officials especially for a country that produces the most films in the world (1000 plus) and  in several different languages.

“It was very challenging to pick films for this festival because we had seen over 200 films and the process is very demanding but at the end,you have to select the best ones you can and hope audiences will be receptive” stated the  guest curator  Uma De Cuhna, an acclaimed Indian film festival organizer for US audiences for the past several years. 

De Cuhna collaborated closely with MoMa’s  renowned Associate Curator Josh Siegel from the Dept. of Film and together they worked for over a year and the fruits of their labor have proven to be successful.   The comments & reaction from audiences and the mostly sold out screenings this year were the results of their hard work and dedication to Indian cinema.  

De Cuhna also stated that despite the immense talent in the art films and independent films, the vast majority of interest from audiences at the festivals  still stems from  where it all beings- Bollywood.

“Where ever our festivals are, people always like to see Bollywood films. I guess it’s the lively human spirit in the films &  the songs and dances  that attracts them these  films and with  so much going on now in the world people are just enjoying Bollywood films even more” says the guest curator.

Beautiful actress & director Nandita Das is all smiles for The Ravi Report on the success of her film "Firaaq" shown at the "The New India" film festival.

Beautiful actress & director Nandita Das is all smiles for The Ravi Report on the success of her film "Firaaq" shown at the "The New India" film festival.

 Personally, De Cunha does believe independent films bring out the raw talent of many Indian actors that often get caught up in the glitz and glamour of a big budgeted blockbuster and says she  even prefers to watch regional & art movies where actors are seen in their finest and more realistic moments then a fantasy filled Bollywood thriller.

The New India”festival so far  included special appearances by top Indian film stars including Nandita Das who presented her directorial debut “Firaaq”  (www.firaaq.com) which was screened to a sold out audience, Abay Deol,a popular young Bollywood star whose  film “Oye Lucky, Lucky Oye” was received well  and one of the most iconic stars of Indian cinema, Naseeruddin Shah and his amazing film “ A Wednesday!”  (www.awednesdaythefilm.com)

Shah has won more prestigious awards and has given some of the best performances in Bollywood and art films in his career as a top actor. At 59  and with over three decades of acting in Indian films behind him,  Shah  is one of the most sought after stars in Indian cinema today and the most respected.  His leap into Hollywood with films like “Monsoon Wedding” (2001) and “The League of Extraordinary Gentleman” (2003) with actor Sean Connery has been nothing but welcoming from the western audiences, prompting Hollywood to take a closer look at this National Award winning gifted actor.

Legendary actor Naseeruddin Shah and Ravi Yande at The New India film festival.

Legendary actor Naseeruddin Shah and Ravi Yande at The New India film festival.

Directed and produced by Neeraj Pandey, “A Wednesday!” focuses on the daily hardships & corruptions  the common man in India  faces and the repercussions that happen when his life is threatened.

” I took to the script because it shows the everyday struggles of the common man in India which is so difficult” said the National Award winning star.

Shah said he did a first read without stopping (something  he has never done before  in his career he says) and  knew right away it was for him. The film was made on a “sandal string budget” Shah told the packed audience before the screening and it has done incredibly well in India and abroad. The iconic actor is not modest about the success of the film at all.

“I was not surprised at all. When I take a film I don’t bother about the box office potential. I  take films purely on instinct. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t but I knew right away this film would do well” states the award winning actor.

Regarding changes in the way films are being made these days in Bollywood,  Shah believes that non-formula Indian films are getting better and the reason being that the younger generation of  producers & directors are not only making films but they are  “living them”.

“These kids nowadays write a good story because they experience it. They live it, they breath it and that is applied to today’s smart script development” boasts the actor.

  “Luck By Chance” which was shown earlier on in the festival,  focuses on the immense struggles & competition of achieving stardom in Bollywood.

“It’s nice to be able to see a Bollywood film and an art film all in the same  festival” said Indian movie  fan Jessica who came from Queens, NY dressed in a bright red Indian tunic.

The New India”  film festival is ongoing until June 18, 2009.  For tickets/shows/special screenings log onto www.moma.org for a full list. The exhibition is made possible by Marguerite and Kent Charugundla from the incredible Tamarind Art Council www.tamarindarts.org.

The journey continues…


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