|By Brian Santhumayor [ Published Date: June 3, 2012 ]|
Washington, D.C. - Enthusiastic Bollywood fans and members of the South Asian Community braved the severe weather that hit several Maryland counties last evening with rain, flash foods, and tornadoes and turned out in full force at this year’s Washington D.C. South Asian Film Festival (DCSAFF) which kicked off on June 1, 2012. DCSAFF aims to give South Asian filmmakers from around the world a chance to exhibit their films to the diverse cine-going audience of the nation's capital. The festival brings together a wide variety of films from across South Asia and includes films in Hindi, Urdu, Marathi, Bengali, and Telegu. This year's DCSAFF will run through Sunday, June 3rd, 2012 at the Universities at Shady Grove in Rockville, Maryland.
There was an electrifying energy in the room as the audience eagerly awaited the appearance of their favorite stars on the red carpet. Media and celebrity photographers waited in baited silence with their cameras positioned at strategic points to capture the poise and essence of the stars that have captivated cinema audiences since yesteryears. The charming Master of Ceremonies - Nilima Mehra welcomed the audience and then kicked-off the fashion show which caused quite a flutter as the bevy of beautiful women modeled their Indian costumes as they walked down the red carpet.
The fans broke out in a cheer as prominent actors and producers walked down the red carpet amid an explosion of media flash bulbs. It was a nostalgic moment for me to meet Mr. Shyam Benegal who is a prolific Indian director and screenwriter. I reminisced about my college days in India when I sneaked out of a drab class to go and watch Mr. Benegal’s movies. In a career spanning almost four decades, Benegal has made a combined total of over 70 films, documentaries, and television programs. He has been awarded two of the Indian Government’s most prestigious awards: The Padma Shri in 1976 and the Padma Bhushan in 1991. Actress Manisha Koirala exuded the very same charm that has earned her many fans worldwide. Her grandfather Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala was the Prime Minister of Nepal. She has been recognized for her acting prowess in movies like Bombay (1995), Akele Hum Akele Tum (1995), Khamoshi: The Musical (1996), Dil Se. (1998) and Company (2002). Ther other stars that graced the red carpet included: Ketan Mehta (Director of Mangal Pandey, Mirch Masala, Maya), Deepti Naval (Memories in March, Firaaq, Shakti), Rajit Kapur (Guzaarish, Well Done Abba!, Zubeidaa), Samrat Chakrabarti (Deepa Mehta's upcoming Midnight’s Children, NBC's 30 Rock, HBO's In Treatment), Omi Vaidya (3 Idiots), the Director (Manan Singh Katohora) and cast of the movie 9 Eleven, and many others.
DCSAFF also has a number of prominent artists who are working to promote South Asians here in the American film industry, including Ajay Naidu (Office Space, 30 Rock, Monk, Scary Movie 3, Ashes), Samrat Chakrabarti (Arya, Loins of Punjab Presents, Kissing Cousins, Deepa Mehta's upcoming Midnight’s Children, NBC's 30 Rock, HBO's In Treatment), and Manan Singh Katohora (Flavors, Arya, When Kiran Met Karen, Date # 25, 9 Eleven).
After the Red Carpet event, the fans mingled with the stars during the reception and had a unique opportunity to gain more insight into their work. As I walked around the hall, it was refreshing to see many young South Asian Americans asking the accomplished stars for advice and their perspective on how best to make inroads into acting and a possible role in future Bollywood movies. I was impressed by the grace of these doyens of Hindi cinema as they patiently obliged enthusiastic fans with requests for autographs, advice, and photos.
Prior to the screening of the opening night film MAMMO (1994) (directed by Mr. Shyam Benegal and starring Farida Jalal, Surekha Sikri, Amit Phalke, Rajit Kapur, and others), Deepti Naval and Manisha Koirala lit the festivities lamp. The star panel also fielded a number of questions from the audience. In response to a question from an audience as to how to bring Bollywood movies here to the U.S., Mr. Benegal responded that he did not like the term “Bollywood” and preferred to call it “Indian Cinema.” He also alluded to the fact that Indian movies are being shot in locations all around the world with a multinational cast. Therefore, he looked at Indian Cinema being truly global and not just movies shot in locations in India. Actor (movie 3 Idiots) Omi Vaidya advised aspiring South Asians wanting to make an entry into Indian movies – “Follow your dreams and do the unreasonable and not just the reasonable, if that’s what it takes to be successful.” Samrat Chakrabarti talked about his experience of working in Hindi movies as a South Asian American. Director Manan Singh Katohora also emphasized that the cast of his recent movie 9 Eleven was made up of local residents and the movie was shot here in Washington D.C.
Gauging by the enthusiasm and feedback of the audience, the Opening Night Red Carpet Gala was a big hit. Over the next two days, DCSAFF 2012 will provide an opportunity for audiences of all ages and ethnicities to discover new South Asian filmmakers, and celebrate ones already well established. DCSAFF will host a number of workshops, movie screenings, Q&A sessions with the cast and crew and much more. This event was sponsored by Ceasar Productions whose goal is to offer diverse film and theatre programs to the South Asian community of the Washington D.C. Metropolitan area. Kudos to one and all responsible for making this wonderful event truly memorable.
About The Author
Brian Santhumayor is actively involved with Benefit Premiere Screenings and launches of Hollywood/Bollywood movies. He has published numerous op-eds and articles locally and internationally. He currently works for the U.S. State Department - Bureau of Consular Affairs as a Liaison Officer and has won many leadership awards including U.S. President Obama’s Volunteer Service Award, Leadership Award from the U.S. State Department, and a Commendation from President Bill Clinton’s American India Foundation for his leadership. He can be reached at email@example.com.