Fans of Indian cinema in search of an alternative to Bollywood’s sugar coated, rose-tinted perspectives on India will no doubt rejoice as the London Indian Film Festival returns to the capital. Officially launched in the summer of 2010, the Festival was hailed by fans, reviewers and filmmakers alike for breaking from tradition and providing a platform for filmmakers unafraid to showcase India in all its’ resplendence and infuriatingly contradictory glory.
Among the gems on show last year were “Love, Sex aur Dhokla” – a brutally realistic study of the ratings-obsessed, sensationalist and often voyeuristic Indian media – and “City of Gold”, a no-holds-barred take on the original city of dreams, Mumbai.
Following on from that outstanding roster, this year’s Festival opens with “Delhi Belly”, a hilarious story of a man and his quest to keep his family and business intact in the face of unsavoury overtures from several fronts. Whilst the theme may have a familiar Bollywood ring to it, the film is a total departure from the mainstream in how the protagonist goes about dealing with his usurpers. Unsurprisingly, this irreverent tale has been produced by Bollywood’s new king of gritty social observation, Amir Khan himself.
Other highlights include the shocking new film by Bengali director Anurag Kashyap, “That Girl in Yellow Boots”; the story of a young British Asian girl who returns to Mumbai in search of her biological father but discovers a dark secret instead; and a special screening of ‘Colours of Passion’, fittingly at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The film relates the story of the revolutionary painter Raja Ravi Varma whose portraits of sari-clad women have been celebrated for their luscious sensuality and which continue to influence modern Indian art and cinema, more than 120 years after their creation. The film by Ketan Mehta pushes the envelope of eroticism as the painter seduces his gorgeous muse, leading to Bombay’s scandal of the century.
But it won’t be all gritty realism during LIFF 2011; “The White Elephant” tells the fascinating story of a ceremonial elephant who is worshipped by a little village in Kerala. Each year, the elephant is said to choose which villager will look after him and the movie has already proved popular with families in India.
In keeping with the Festival’s theme of showcasing cinema from the length and breadth India – rather than concentrating on Bollywood and its’ spiritual home of Mumbai – LIFF 2011 will be staged right across London, opening in the West End at the Cineworld Haymarket and continuing at the Victoria and Albert Museum and taking in screenings at BFI Southbank, the Nehru Centre and Cineworld Feltham, Wood Green and Ilford.
Appropriately enough the Festival will be formally concluded with a performance by none other than fusion music maestro Raghu Dixit; once shunned by mainstream Bollywood but now celebrated in India and around the world for his unique blend of Eastern and Western musical traditions.
For more information visit www.londonindianfilmfestival.co.uk.