- The awards were presented at the closing night gala of the seven-day virtual event.
Aditya Vikram Sengupta’s “Once Upon a Time in Calcutta” received two awards at the recently concluded New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF). Along with the best director award for Sengupta, the best actress award went to Sreelekha Mitra.
Faraz Ali’s “Shoebox,” starring Amrita Bagchi in the lead role was declared the best film. Ritesh Sharma’s “The Brittle Thread”, a trilingual drama in Hindi, English and Hebrew, won the best debut film award at the gala.
The awards were presented at the closing night gala at the Angelika Film Center in New York City, on May 14.
The 22nd edition of the film festival, presented by the Indo-American Arts Council (IAAC), celebrated independent, art-house, alternate and diaspora films. Presented virtually for the third year in a row, the festival included 60 screenings — 8 feature narratives, six documentaries and 36 short films.
“We aimed to truly underscore the NYIFF commitment to diversity and cultural representation in film,” said festival director Aseem Chhabra about the festival’s selection. Films shown this year included 13 Indian languages — Assamese, Bengali, English, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu. “NYIFF’s mission is to provide filmmakers, actors and industry professionals a platform to showcase their work, as well as foster an environment where filmmakers exchange ideas and interact with discerning and diverse audiences, journalists and aficionados,” Chhabra added.
“The Beatles And India: An Enduring Love Affair,” a documentary by Ajoy Bose and Peter Compton, detailing the time The Beatles enjoyed a spiritual summer in Rishikesh, closed the seven-day film gala.
“Once Upon a Time in Calcutta” is based on true events and is the filmmaker’s homage to modern-day Kolkata. The Bengali film highlights the aspirations and struggles of people gasping for breath in an ever-expanding metropolis.
The Hindi film “Shoebox” explores a young woman’s complex relationship with her father as the world around them changes drastically. It was the second centerpiece of the festival following Bani Singh’s “Taangh/Longing,” which received the best documentary feature trophy.
Singh’s film chronicles the life of the director’s father Grahnandan ‘Nandy’ Singh who was part of India’s hockey team that won the gold medal in the 1948 London Olympics against former colonizers England as well as traces his friendship with teammates that goes back before the Partition of 1947.
Set in Sharma’s hometown Varanasi, “The Brittle Thread” follows the street dancer Rani and handloom weaver Shahdab, who are both fighting the hardships of life.
Amrita Bagchi’s short film “Succulent”, which questions the possibility of the commodification of human affection, went home with the best short narrative award.
The best documentary short award went to Vijayeta Kumar’s “”Kicking Balls”, exploring the journey and sisterhood of 200 teenage girls from three small villages in Rajasthan playing football.
Jitendra Joshi won the best actor award for his performance in Nikhil Mahajan’s “Godavari”. The Marathi film is billed as a philosophical exploration of life and death and borrows its name from the titular river that flows from Nashik, Maharashtra to the southern states of the country. Reyaan Shah and Hirnaya Zinzuwadia were winners of the child actor award for the Gujarati children’s film, “Gandhi & Co.”
Kuldip Patel’s “Powai” won the award for best screenplay. The film, set in Mumbai, follows the struggle of three women from diverse socio-economic strata trying to realize their dreams and claim autonomy in a chaotic, patriarchal and unforgiving urban landscape.