Pravasi Film Festival Special

NRIs, PIOs at  Pravasi Film Festival Admit Films Help Bind Them With Their Country Of Origin


A Report by BB Nagpal

Soha ali Khan at the Festival

New Delhi, January: Delhi has perhaps never seen such a galaxy of non-resident filmmakers or those of Indian origin.

The first major event of the new year, the first-ever Pravasi Film Festival to be held in the country, commenced in the capital with several filmmakers expressing how their cultural roots bind them to the country of their origin.

Inaugurating the festival, renowned filmmaker Deepa Mehta said ‘we are like children who have left their mother and gone away. And we keep coming back because the mother is so good and pulls us back.’ The VIPs also lit the traditional lamp to declare the Festival open.

Union Minister for Food Processing Industries Subodh Kant Sahay said cinema was an excellent medium for integrating NRIs with their motherland. He was particularly happy that a non-governmental effort has been made in this direction.

The competitive Festival had been organized by the Pravasi Today Group in association with the Mauritius government at India Habitat Center from 3rd to 6th January. Around 35 films from different countries were screened at the Festival and a large number of the filmmakers came to India to attend the event.

A large number of personalities were present at the inauguration. They included Central Board of Film Certification and veteran film actress Sharmila Tagore, actresses Soha Ali Khan and Purva Bedi, Ashok Malhotra who is Secretary General of the Group of People of India Origin (GOPIO), American Yoga expert Dhananjay Kumar, Dr Nikhil Kaushik who is a doctor and also a filmmaker from the United Kingdom, eminent filmmaker Prakash Jha, British filmmaker Sangeeta Dutta, and Avantika Hari.

The eminent jury members present comprised veteran filmmaker Basu Chatterjee who is headed the feature jury and Latika Padgaonkar who headed the non-feature jury, filmmakers Rahul Rawail and Sanjay Singh, critic Namrata Joshi, senior critic Aruna Vasudev who is also an Advisor to the Festival,and senior critic Utpal Borpujari. Puja Kumar who is an actress based in New York, compered the inaugural ceremony.

Welcoming the guests, Festival Director Anil Joshi recalled how the Mauritian President Sir Anerood Jugnauth accompanied by his wife Sarojini Jugnauth had unveiled the awards to be given away at the Festival in a ceremony on 1st December. He said Mauritius is a favourite shooting destination for filmmakers from India.   

After a short film about the Pravasi Today group, Chief Editor Padmesh Gupta said films were a robust medium to express the feelings of those Indians who were living outside the country of their origin. Festival Co-Director and spokesperson Pankaj Dubey introduced the jury and the luminaries present, who later gave the vote of thanks.

Introducing the opening short film ‘Coolie Pink and Green’, filmmaker Patricia Mohammed from Trinidad and Tobago who had come with her crew members said this was the only Caribbean film at the festival. The film relates the story of how Indians were taken by the British as bonded labourers between 1845 and 1917, the challenges faced by them, and the way their future generations had attempted to get integrated with the local culture. She said there were many similarities still between Trinidad and Tobago and India.

Later, the feature ‘Life Goes On’ by Sangeeta Dutta starring Girish Karnad, Om Puri, Sharmila Tagore, and Soha Ali Khan was screened. Speaking about the film based in the United Kingdom and later at a press meet, Sangeeta said she had attempted through the story of a man and his three daughters the intricate relationships and how these are often misunderstood and the circumstances under which these misunderstandings are cleared.

Sharmila felt the film was a journey into the mind of a woman who has to bear the burden of being both a wife and a mother, and at times is a very lonely woman.

Soha said acting with her mother had been a formidable task as Sharmila is very exacting, but ultimately a film is the director’s medium.

Apart from over thirty feature and non-features from the Diaspora and India, there were five panel discussions on ‘Mauritius – an attractive destination for filmmakers’, ‘India on my mind’; ‘Commerce of NRI Films’, ‘Filmmaking - a question of identity’, and ‘NRI films – the road ahead’.


Expected participants  included filmmakers Deepa Mehta, Nasreen Munni Kabir, Sangeeta Dutta, Karan Razdan, Rahul Rawail, Sanjay Singh, Avantika Hari, Patricia Mohammed, Poorva Bedi, Nikhil Kaushik, Basu Chatterjee, Mira Nair, and Satish Kaushik, Jury member Latika Padgaonkar, and Senior Adviser Aruna Vasudev. The discussions were  held at the India Habitat Centre and Indian Islamic Centre, between 4 and 6 January. 

The awards will be given for the best feature film, the best documentary and the best short film category. Films in competition include ‘Land Gold Women’ by Avantika Hari, ‘Blind ambition’ by Bala Rajashkhruni, ‘Life Goes on’ by Sangeeta Dutta, and ‘President is Coming’ by Kunal Roy Kapoor. The non-features include ‘Extrospection’ by Manan Katahora, ‘A Bristol Pilgrimage – in search of Raja Rammohan Rai’ by Aniruddho Sanyal, ‘Flying Sikh’ by Navdeep Kandola, ‘Kosu’ by Saro Varjabedian, ‘Tea Shop on the Moon’ by Anish Vargees, ‘Coolie Pink and Green’ by Patricia Mohammed, and ‘Shor’ by Krishna D K and Raj Nidimoru.

In addition, five popular features from Bollywood on issues related to the Diaspora are also being screened. These are ‘New York’ by Kabir Khan, ‘Namesake’ by Mira Nair, ‘Earth’ by Deepa Mehta, ‘Monsoon Wedding’ by Mira Nair, ‘Ninety-nine’ by Krishna D K and Raj Nidimoru.

The feature film jury was headed by veteran filmmaker Basu Chatterjee and the non-feature jury is headed by renowned critic Latika Padgaonkar. Other members of the feature film jury were filmmakers Rahul Rawail and Sanjay Singh, critic Namrata Joshi, and senior Indian Administrative Officer Manoj Srivastava  of Madhya Pradesh. The other short film jury members were film historian Lalit Mohan Joshi, and senior critic Utpal Borpujari.

Pravasi Today, with its presence in around 125 countries all over the world is a platform for the Indian Diaspora. Team Pravasi Today has also been successfully organizing many international festivals for several years. It has organized Cultural Exchange Programmes between India and many European countries. 

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