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Vikram Sengupta’s ‘Once Upon a Time in Calcutta’ Wins the Grand Jury Prize at the 2022 Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles

Vikram Sengupta’s ‘Once Upon a Time in Calcutta’ Wins the Grand Jury Prize at the 2022 Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles

The 2022 Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA) – which concluded this past weekend, on May 1 – announced the award winners for its 20th annual edition which featured a grand return to in-theater screenings and presentations after nearly three years. 

Aditya Vikram Sengupta’s “Once Upon a Time in Calcutta” won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Feature Film, and Anmol Sidhu’s Jaggi was the recipient of the inaugural Uma da Cunha Award for Best Feature Film Debut, as well as the Audience Choice Award for Best Feature.

In the feature film category, Aditya Vikram Sengupta’s “Once Upon a Time in Calcutta” was cited for “its sprawling, operatic depiction of broken people desperate to connect and its poetic mastery of cinematic craft” by the IFFLA jury. An honorable mention went to Shankar’s Fairies, “Irfana Majumdar” for its restrained and lyrical portrait of the unconditional bond between a young girl and the gentleman who cares for her family. 

Still from the feature film “Once Upon a Time in Calcutta” (Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles). Top photo, table read of Khalil Maskati’s feature film script “Alim Uncle” during the closing night gala event, May. 1
(Photo: Sunil Sadarangani).

In a year that introduced new programs and initiatives, and marked the festival’s 20th year, a new award was launched in honor of IFFLA’s beloved advisor and board member in India — the legendary Uma da Cunha. Uma has been a founding member of IFFLA, always championing Indian independent cinema and emerging voices.

Regarding her selection of Sidhu’s Jaggi which follows a schoolboy in rural Punjab who faces toxic masculinity and sexual abuse when he’s assumed to be gay, da Cunha, said, “Few independent films in India are made in the Punjabi language and fewer still find their way into festivals to reach a wider audience. This film needs to be seen in a milieu where sexual matters tend not to be addressed openly.”

Co-director of Programming Ritesh Mehta, added: “We’re absolutely thrilled with these winners, especially the audience choice winner Jaggi, a story about themes no one talks about which desperately need attention, told with audacity and vulnerability from a first-time filmmaking team. What more can we programmers ask for? Stories come to us, enthrall us, move our audiences, and now empower their creators to continue their narrative activism from their distinctive corners of the world.”

In the Short Film Category, the Grand Jury Prize went to Amrita Bagchi’s “Succulent.” The jury stated that the film “beautifully taps into our deep longing for genuine connection in a world that is increasingly artificial.” The Grand Jury Prize for Best Short in the inaugural Spotlight on the South Asia section went to Salar Pashtoonyar’s Bad Omen (Afghanistan/Canada). The jury remarked that it was “a raw and visceral film that showed us that above all else, honest filmmaking always wins.”

Honorable mentions in the Short Film category went to Megha Ramaswamy’s “Lalanna’s Song,” with the jury stating that the film impressed them with its daring, boundary-pushing filmmaking and two extraordinary lead performances, and Akanksha Cruczynski’s “Close Ties to Home Country.” The jury said the film “starts out absurd and hilarious, but sucker-punched us with the truth when we least expected it.”

The Feature Films Jury included Lakshmi Iyengar (Executive Vice President, Minor Realm); Smriti Mundhra (Academy Award nominee, Director, St. Louis Superman); and Jonathan Wysocki (Director, Dramarama). The Short Films Jury was comprised of Geetika Lizardi (Writer, Bridgerton, Mira, Royal Detective); Sid Mehra (Manager of Development and Production, Endeavor Content); and Carey Williams (Director, Emergency, R#J).

Still from Anmol Sidhu’s feature film ‘“Jaggi” (Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles).

The landmark 20th Anniversary edition of IFFLA included the Opening Night Gala presentation of Pan Nalin’s beautiful gem, Last Film Show, the inauguration of the new Spotlight on South Asia section, a virtual 20th Anniversary Shorts special program celebrating the festival’s history, a Master Class with Anurag Kashyap, and the film festival’s annual One-on-One program where filmmakers were paired with industry executives. 

The festival’s Closing Night was a First Look event featuring Kahlil Maskati’s feature film screenplay in development, “Alim Uncle,” presented as a live table read by a dozen of top Los Angeles-based actors, including Rizwan Manji and Nabeel Muscatwalla, and a preview of Nimisha Mukerji and Mark Ratzlaff’s Warner Bros. Discovery 150 supported the project, “New Country,” which included a reading and a live musical performance.

Full list of the 2022 IFFLA award-winning films and filmmakers:

Uma da Cunha Award (for Best Debut Feature): “Jaggi” Director: Anmol Sidhu

Grand Jury Prize Awards


“Once Upon a Time in Calcutta”

Director: Aditya Vikram Sengupta 


“Shankar’s Fairies”            

Director: Irfana Majumdar  



Director: Amrita Bagchi 


“Lalanna’s Song”                            

Director: Megha Ramaswamy

See Also


“Close Ties to Home Country” 

Director: Akanksha Cruczynski

BEST SHORT FILM – Spotlight on South Asia

“Bad Omen”            

Director: Salar Pashtoonyar   

Audience Choice Awards


“Jaggi,” Director: Anmol Sidhu


“7 Star Dinosaur Entertainment,” Director: Vaishali Naik

Sunil Sadarangani is a Mumbai-born, Los Angeles-based multiple award-winning producer and writer, having been a part of international digital film projects for over 15 years. He has produced award-winning short films “In Transit” (Shorts TV and Oscar nomination qualifier), “Blind,” “Nova,” and “With You.” He is the co-founder and Director of Programming of the Ojai Short Film Festival, now in its third season. He is a charter member of the Programmers of Color Collective (POC2) and was on the jury of the 2019 Los Angeles Greek Film Festival and a Senior Assistant Programmer at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles. He currently volunteers on the assistant programming committee at Outfest, Los Angeles. Sunil is an officially accredited writer covering film and digital media at leading film festivals and industry award events. The California State Senate has recognized him for his ongoing commitment to creativity and innovation in the Los Angeles community. Sadarangani is the co-founder of Omagination Pictures, a production company representing and producing South Asian creators and stories. He has been instrumental in securing IP content as well as forging associations with industry executives and creators for the company.

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