- Geeta Malik’s “India Sweet and Spices” will open the 7th annual Dallas/Fort Worth South Asian Film Festival, while Ajitesh Sharma's documentary “WOMB” (Women Of My Billion) will be screened on opening day in NYC.
Geeta Malik’s “India Sweet and Spices” will open the 7th annual Dallas/Fort Worth South Asian Film Festival (DFW SAFF), Oct. 15 at the Dallas Holocaust & Human Rights Museum. A week later, the coming-of-age film will close the 3rd annual New York City South Asian Film Festival (NYC SAFF). Both the festivals, presented by Toyota Motor North America, and produced by Texas, New York and India-based media conglomerate, JINGO Ventures, will showcase an identical lineup of 23 shorts, documentaries and feature films during consecutive weekends this month.
“India Sweets and Spices,” which made its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in June, stars Sophia Ali, Manisha Koirala, Adil Hussain, Rish Shah, Deepti Gupta, and Ved Sapru. It tells the story of Alia Kapur (Sophia Ali), who returns to her family’s posh suburban New Jersey home after a year away at college and upends their well-ordered life with her brash independence. After befriending Varun (Rish Shah), the handsome son of the new owners of the local Indian grocery, she invites his family to a dinner party where family secrets are revealed. Alia’s surprise turns to rebellion when she uncovers secrets about both her parents that push her toward a daring and ultimately hilarious confrontation.
“Typically, we host our Dallas festival in the spring and our New York festival in the fall,” said festivals founder and director Jitin Hingorani. “But because of the ongoing pandemic and the travel restrictions around it, we decided to host both festivals back-to-back in the fall, so that we can highlight the same set of films and fly in the same talent for both festivals.”
There’s also a virtual festival, “because our online programming during the 2020 lockdown was so successful and attracted an astounding number of cinephiles across North America,” Hingorani added.
Ajitesh Sharma’s documentary “WOMB” (Women Of My Billion) will close DWF SAFF on Oct. 17, with Gaurav Madan’s drama “Barah by Sarah,” as the centerpiece film, Oct. 16. In New York, “WOMB” will open the festival. “Rani Rani Rani,” “Mehrunisa,” “Definition Please,” and “Barah by Barah,” will be screened the following day.
“WOMB” is being described as “a heart-warming watch exploring the socio-political issues faced by women of today’s India.” The documentary feature highlights the monumental journey through Srishti Bakshi’s lens, her interaction with over 85,000 women over more than 100 workshops she conducted in schools, villages and institutions on her walk from Kanyakumari to Kashmir.
“Barah by Barah” is the story of Sooraj (Gyanendar Tripath), the last remaining death photographer at the burning banks of Manikarnika, who is going through troubled times like old Kashi. The ancient town is being demolished to build modern beautified pathways. The death photographer is out of work because of the fancy smartphones with exquisite cameras. He stands at the crossroads — either he continues seeking dummies to click or he looks for greener pastures beyond the singed banks of Varanasi to secure a better future for his family.
“After the incredible success of our partnership with DFW SAFF and NYC SAFF in 2019, we are excited to partner with Jitin and his team once again,” said Kelsey Charles, sponsorship integration, integrated marketing operations, Toyota Motor North America. “At Toyota, we celebrate cultural diversity in all that we do, and we look forward to growing our support of the South Asian community in Dallas and New York City.”
Both the festivals will include four world premieres, six North American premieres, 11 Texas premieres, as well as the international festival premiere of Abhiroop Basu’s short film, “Laali,” starring Pankaj Tripathi as a lonely, Calcutta laundryman who finds solace in an unclaimed red dress left behind by a customer.
Rajaram Rajendran’s sci-fi thriller “Rani Rani Rani,” starring independent cinema queen Tannishtha Chatterjee in the titular, triple roles will have its world premiere on Oct. 16. The Bengaluru-based ad director’s debut film also stars late Asif Basra, Danny Sura, Alex O’Nell and Abid Anwar. The 90-minute film was shot in a span of 10 days in Dandeli, a town in the western Karnataka.
Sandeep Kumar’s “Mehrunisa” will have its North American premiere on Oct. 17 in Dallas. In the highly-anticipated film, the grande dame of Indian cinema, Farrukh Jaffar (“Gulabo Sitabo” and “Peepli Live”) takes on Bollywood’s patriarchy and unwillingly becomes a leading advocate for women’s rights.
Having its Dallas and New York City premiere is Sujata Day’s model minority satire “Definition Please.” Day stars in the film she wrote, produced and directed. It follows Monica Chowdhary (Day), a National Spelling Bee champ who hasn’t really accomplished much in life as she deals with a sick mom and mentally ill brother. Together they redefine themselves as they walk the line between their American and Indian cultures.
DFW SAFF will be held from Oct.15 to 17 at the Dallas Holocaust & Human Rights Museum For the synopses, trailers, showtimes and ticket information, visit www.dfwsaff.com. The following weekend, Oct. 22-24, the NYC SAFF will beheld at the Helen Mills Event Space and Theater. For more information about this festival and the complete lineup, visit www.nycsaff.com. Virtual SAFF, powered by Movie Saints, will take place online from October 25 to 31 at www.virtualsaff.moviesaints.com. It will showcase all the films from the physical festivals, plus 12 additional titles that will have their world and North American premieres at this digital destination.