May 5-10, New York City: Actors, artists, directors and producers gathered last week for the New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF), the oldest and most prestigious Indian film festival in the US. With five days of screenings including opening and closing night galas, the films showcased at the Festival ranged from shorts, documentaries to feature length films.

The Festival opened with Anurag Kashyup’s Ugly, a dark, psychological thriller about the disappearance of the 10-year-old daughter of an aspiring actor. Following the film, a Q&A was held with the director whose notable works include Gangs of Wasseypur and That Girl in Yellow Boots.

The highlight of the Festival was the 20th anniversary screening of Gurinder Chadha’s Bhaji on the Beach, a cult classic about a group of British-Indian women and their trip to Brighton, followed by a Q&A with the groundbreaking director.

The closing night film was Aparna Sen’s Goynar Baksho, a Bengali horror film revolving around three women and their relation to a jewelry box. A post-screening discussion was held with the director which was followed by the anticipated Festival awards ceremony.

Best Picture went to Liar’s Dice, a Hindi road movie that follows a young mother, living in remote village, whose husband goes missing. Written and directed by Geetu Mohandas and starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Geetanjali Thapa (who won Best Actress for her role), the film deals with the issue of the human cost of migration to cities. Best Director went to Nagraj Manjule for Fandry, Naseeruddin Shah took home Best Actor for his role in The Coffin Maker. Gulabi Gang won Best Documentary while Best Screenplay went to Ranjini Krishnan, P V Shajikumar and K R Manoj for Kanyaka Talkies Virgin Talkies. Blouse won Best Short.

US-based filmmakers of South Asian origin also showed a strong presence at the Festival with actor, musician Samrat Chakrabarti making his directorial debut with the short, Late, Late, his love (hate) letter to New York City.  Artist and filmmaker Mumtaz Hussein showed his latest feature film, Art=(Love)2, a psychological thriller about the suspicious death of a mathematician and her artist lover’s quest to discover the truth. Prashant Bhargava (Patang) offered his simple documentary Ammaji about the sacrifices his parents, as recounted through is mother, underwent to raise five children. LA-based director Mahesh Pailoor sold out his screening of Brahmin Bulls, a story of a father who makes a surprise trip to visit his estranged son (Sendhil Ramamurthy) in hopes of amends, but in actuality has come to search for a former flame.

Mrs Scooter, directed by Shiladitya Moulik, was also screened at the Festival and was presented by Iman Cosmetics, makeup and skincare for women of color. The heartwarming film follows the fates of a young bride and a new scooter, both of which are abandoned upon the untimely death of the husband.

NYIFF is put on by The Indo-American Arts Council, a nonprofit with the mission of promoting and building the awareness, creation, production, exhibition, publication and performance of Indian and cross-cultural art forms in North America.

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