8 Indian Films To Screen At This Years' BFI London Film Fest!

By Srikanth Kanchinadham. Posted on September 02, 2015

The BFI London Film Festival which is scheduled to open on the 7th of October has just unveiled its full line-up. The 12 day festival is Britain's largest public film event and is run every year in the 2nd half of October under the umbrella of the British Film Institute. Aimed at showcasing the finest talent of world cinema from among both, established and emerging filmmakers, the festival screens more than 300 documentaries, shorts and features from over 50 countries. Living up to its reputation, the event also hosts numerous public forums, education events, lectures, masterclasses and Q&As with filmmakers and film talent. The event is high on glamour and allure, thereby attracting numerous film stars and directors.

This year's edition of the festival will see a total of eight Indian films showcased at the prestigious festival. Hansal Mehta's Aligarh is all set to have its European premiere at the BFI London Film Festival.


Still from the film 'Aligarh'

Another film that will be showcased in the 'Debate' section is Mira Nair's Salaam Bombay! The film which showed a true unnerving portrait of Mumbai’s street children, is one of the only 3 Indian films that have been nominated for the Academy Award for "Best Foreign Language Film". The film came close to winning the award but lost to Nights of Cabiria by a single vote.

Writing about the film, Robin Baker of BFI had this to say:

"Mira Nair’s debut feature hits you between the eyes with its unflinching portrayal of street children eking out a life among the drug dealing and prostitution of Mumbai’s Dickensian back streets. Almost thirty years on, the film has lost none of its immediacy or relevance: this is Slumdog without the Millionaire. Nair developed the script from workshops with street children and then cast them in central roles. The effect is disarmingly authentic.

The world of Krishna (a sensational performance by Shafiq Syed), tiny Manju and ‘Sweet Sixteen’ might seem shockingly bleak, but Nair’s humanist approach reminds you of Satyajit Ray. She never sentimentalises, but gets under the skin of her characters, offering flashes of real warmth and joy. The cacophony of candy colours that make up much of the film’s palette – radiant in Mirabai Films’ restoration – are seductive, but look closer and you see the paan-stained walls and filth of decades."

Check out the trailer right here:

Meghna Gulzar's Talvar (Guilty) is also set to have its European premiere at the BFI London Film Festival. The film starring Irrfan Khan, Neeraj Kabi and Konkona Sen Sharma would also be showcased in A Window on Asian Cinema section at the Busan International Film Festival and in the Special Presentations section of the Toronto International Film Festival. The movie will play in the 'Thrill' section which according to Damon Wise of BFI is the strand that captures the sight and sound of excitement, whether it’s stunt motorcyclist Evel Knievel trying to jump 13 London buses, Steve McQueen putting his life on the line for the ultimate F1 movie or an old man’s attempts to bring a war criminal to justice in Remember.

Here's how the BFI site introduces the film:

"Based on the controversial ‘Noida Double Murder Case’ that rocked India in 2008, this gripping whodunnit is framed within the structure of a police procedural, where the cops are their own worst enemies. A top sleuth (played by Irrfan Khan, The Lunchbox, Life of Pi) is brought in to solve the murder of a 14-year-old middle-class girl, believed to have been slaughtered by her parents in an honour killing. As he digs deeper, he uncovers a series of blunders made by local police in their initial investigation, where forensic evidence was destroyed. This points to a wholly different culprit. As the new findings spread via a sensationalist media, the investigation rapidly switches to a game of betrayal and political brinkmanship, where the isolated cop with a conscience is forced to decide whether to play the establishment game, or fight for the truth and risk his career."

Check out the trailer right here:

Partho Sen-Gupta's Arunoday (Sunrise) has already made its name in the International circuit. The film was screened at multiple film festivals including Tribeca, Sydney Film Festival to name a few. The gritty high-style neo-noir thriller bagged two awards at the 36th Durban International Film Festival which include the award for the Best Feature Film and Best Cinematography. The movie shall premiere in the 'Dare' section which according to Kate Taylor of BFI is the section where one will find filmmakers pushing the limits in myriad ways, to reward adventurous viewers.

Writing about the film, Cary Rajinder Sawhney of BFI had this to say:

"Partho Sen-Gupta delivers an intense, must-see neo-noir thriller, featuring towering performances by Adil Hussain and Tannishtha Chatterjee, who make the most of the director’s no-nonsense screenplay. Inspector Joshi (Hussain) is a cop whose life has been twisted out of recognition since the abduction of his six-year-old daughter. He does his best to attend to police duties but he keeps returning to his investigation into the whereabouts of his child.

Returning home at night Joshi tries to comfort his wife Leela (Chatterjee) who has been unable to cope with the loss, preferring to create a fantasy world in which her child still lives with them. On discovering a possible child trafficking ring at the seamy Paradise Club, Joshi is compelled to take the law into his own hands. Stunningly shot by Jean-Marc Ferriere, Sen-Gupta’s film takes us deep into the darkness that haunts any parent – the inexplicable loss of a child."

Check out the trailer right here:

Kothanodi directed by Bhaskar Hazarika is the second Indian film that has been selected to make its premiere in the 'Dare' section. The film revolving around four mothers, depicting different shades of motherhood was selected for the Asian Network of Documentary (AND) Fund. The film will also have its world premiere at the Busan International Film Festival.

Writing about the film, Cary Rajinder Sawhney of BFI had this to say:

"The darkest fairytales are often the most compelling, unsettling us by touching on universal fears and desires. It is a feeling that Bhaskar Hazarika mines with the grotesque magical realism of his debut feature. Four traditional folk fables present disturbing, multi-layered tales of the travails of their female protagonists, revealing the underlying patriarchy that drives the woman to the edge of sanity.

Senehi is a village wife who plots her stepdaughter’s murder when her husband leaves for work. Her husband Devinath (Adil Hussain) meets a woman who has given birth to a strange vegetable and resolves to help her unearth the mystery. Meanwhile, in another village a rich woman (Seema Biswas) prepares her daughter for marriage to a python, hoping that untold riches will spring from the union. And a mother resolves to save her newborn child from the husband who buried her previous three babies alive somewhere in the jungle."

Check out the trailer right here:

Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari's Nil Battey Sannata (The New Classmate) which is a charming tale of a poor single mother who comes up with an ingenious plan to convince her rebellious daughter to study will have its European premiere at the festival. The film will play in the 'Journey' section which aims at showcasing films that transport and shift one's perspective.

Here's how the BFI site introduces the film:

"Debut director Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari presents an inspiring family film with this tale of a loving single mum battling to ensure her daughter has every opportunity in life, whether she wants it or not. Since the death of her husband, Chanda has raised Apeksha alone, making ends meet with her wages as a maid. When Apeksha starts a new school, she falls in with the wrong crowd and begins to fail in her studies.

Chanda is desperate for her daughter to have more than she did but when she encourages Apeksha in her studies, her daughter’s rebellion grows. In response, Chanda takes the drastic step of enrolling herself into school, but Apeksha’s embarrassment at seeing her mother attend the same class as her only makes things worse. Tiwari’s drama is a powerful account of motherly love and the often turbulent conflict that can exist between generations."


Still from the film

Two Indian shorts are also a part of the festival. Shai Heredia's An Old Dog’s Diary is the only Indian film that will be competing for an award. The Short Film Award recognises short form works with a unique cinematic voice and a confident handling of chosen theme and content. An Old Dog’s Diary is a part of 'Mediums and Messages' section which according to Benjamin Cook of BFI portrays diverse excavations into historic and contemporary media, art, foraging behaviours and the way that the Internet shapes us, which question the limits of documentary and the specific interplay between subjects and mediums.

Paribartana Mohanty's The Miniaturist is the other Indian short film at BFI this year. It was selected in the 'Second Sight' section. The section showcases visions from the past and future that were received, revised or sought after in the present moment of each individual film. The Miniaturist showcases first visual descriptions of the atomic tests in Los Angeles and the bombing in Hiroshima which are considered in the context of an interview with J. Robert Oppenheimmer, the physicist who had recited the Bhagavad Gita just after the Hiroshima bombing.

You can watch the short film below.

The glamour filled event will be held in London from October 7-18. 2015 and is bound to mesmerize the world with its gala premieres and events.


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