MIAAC 2009 Gets Ready to Inspire NYC Audiences

This past Thursday, in the midst of a hectic and very surprising week for me, the Indo-American Arts Council and its inspiring founder and director Aroon Shivdasani held their press conference at Aicon Gallery in NYC, announcing their upcoming MIAAC Film Festival. I point to my state of mind and busy schedule — which would appear to have absolutely nothing to do with the Mahindra Indo-American Arts Council Film Festival — simply because had it been any other upcoming event or promotional get-together of the press, I would have skipped it… But when it has to do with Ms. Shivdasani, the IAAC and films, how could it possibly be anything less than inspiringly perfect! Needless to say, I was not disappointed.

Surrounded by friends and supporters of the IAAC, which included MIAAC film curator and festival director L. Somi Roy, actress and renowned chef Madhur Jaffrey, comedian Aasif Mandvi and all the press that have so loved to cover the event since its beginnings in 2001, Aroon Shivdasani gave an impassioned and touching speech about the difficulties faced by the organization in this troubling financial year of 2009. “I can’t wait for the year to end” she confessed, echoing the thoughts that run through most of our minds these days. The year has been deeply arduous but it promises to fade out quite beautifully, thanks to this beloved festival.

The line-up this year includes some of the best and brightest of the past, present and future in Indian cinema. Among my personal favorites are groundbreaking filmmaker Anurag Kashyap — currently working on a top-secret project which bears the enigmatic working title ‘That Girl in Yellow Boots’ — the eccentric Sudhir Mishra who comes as both producer and director at this festival, the generous Sanjay Suri — I will never get tired of saying he is my favorite interview to date — ‘My Brother Nikhil’ director Onir, Indian cinema power couple Javed Akhtar and Shabana Azmi, the talented Rahul Bose, the ever mentioned and always ahead of the times Mira Nair and opening night feature writer and actor — known to most as our favorite ‘Daily Show’ correspondent — Aasif Mandvi. I can’t, of course, leave out beloved actress and first-time director Deepti Naval, ‘Barah Aana’ filmmaker Raja Menon, legendary director Shyam Benegal, actress of the moment Tannishtha Chatterjee, the ever-striking Sarita Choudhury of ‘Mississippi Masala’ fame and the list goes on and on…

Stay tuned for insightful interviews with the filmmakers responsible for some of the masterpieces in the festival. Among them, a long talk with The Fakir of Venice’ director Anand Surapur which will be featured this coming week in EGO Magazine -- am totally impressed with it myself, the editing on EGO is divine and Surapur was a good interview — and a wonderful twist on the typical journo/filmmaker talk with the director of ‘Barah Aana’ — also referred to as ‘Shortchanged’ — Raja Menon. Of course, check out Sanjay Suri’s piece from earlier this year — in occasion of the opening of Piyush Jha’s ‘Sikandar’ which will also be shown at MIAAC as part of their informative Festival Sidebar ‘In Frame: Kashmir’ — as well as a talk with actor and friend Samrat Chakrabarti, who stars in Joseph Mathew-Varghese’s film ‘Bombay Summer’ about the delicate balance required in a trio of friends, when one of them is a woman.

OK, so what are the must-see films at the festival this year, according to The Ajnabee?? Well, I play favorites always, and typically chose films that have a personal connection for me. ‘The Fakir of Venice’ was a favorite of mine at IFFLA back in April and I agree with all who have called it the next crossover hit. Never mind that I found its director Surapur fascinating and stars Farhan Akhtar and Annu Kapoor simply heart-melting. Oh, and did I mention the Venice-Bombay connection?? Moving on, any film that Sanjay Suri is in becomes a favorite in my book, so I’ll be watching Onir’s ‘Sorry Bhai’ since I have seen ‘Sikandar’ twice already. But I recommend both and if you do see ‘Sikandar’ make sure to read this review on AVS’s blog to understand the ending. For a woman who is the proud granddaughter of a renowned and respected Shakespeare translator, I simply cannot say enough how much I liked Anurag Kashyap’s ‘Gulaal’ which feels like his own version of a Shakespearean tragedy. And the fact that Kashyap is one of my favorite people on the face of this earth, well that’s just icing on the cake! Try to catch ‘Tera Kya Hoga Johnny’ by Sudhir Mishra for some amazing cameos, the Sturla Gunnarsson documentary ‘Air India 182′ for a sobering dose of the reality of terrorism — unacceptable in every incarnation — and opening night selection ‘Today’s Special’.

For those attending opening night, a wonderful chance to mingle with the filmmakers, click here for tickets. For the dinner gala to follow, click here. Either way, it will be an evening you will never forget. For all other tickets, info and a schedule of all films in the festival, click here. See you there!!

Images courtesy of MIAAC, except Anand Surapur image courtesy of IFFLA

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