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Daring to unshackle, ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’ opens 15th annual IFFLA

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Director/ Producer Shirley Abraham (Film: Cinema Travellers), Director Alankrita Shrivastava (Lipstick under my burkha), Actor Aahana Kumra (Lipstick under my burkha); names left to right
Director/ Producer Shirley Abraham (Film: Cinema Travellers), Director Alankrita Shrivastava (Lipstick under my burkha), Actor Aahana Kumra (Lipstick under my burkha); names left to right

(Left to Right) Director/ Producer Shirley Abraham (Film: Cinema Travellers), Director Alankrita Shrivastava (Lipstick under my burkha), Actor Aahana Kumra (Lipstick under my burkha); Courtesy: Twitter

LOS ANGELES (Diya TV) — The 15th annual Indian Film Festival kicked off Wednesday evening with the opening night film Lipstick Under My Burkha. One of the words that stood out during red carpet interviews was ‘bold’. This is absolutely the case with the opening night film. It is apparently so bold that it is currently banned in India because according to the Censor Board, it is “too lady oriented”.

The director Alankrita Shrivastava and one of the lead actresses Aahana Kumra were in attendance and talked about the film during the Q&A after the screening. Kumra reminisced in front of a sold out crowd, her first thought about Shrivastava when she read script, “Man! This woman has guts to write a film like this!”

The film is set in the old town part of the city of Bhopal in Central India and the story follows the public and private lives of four women – two Hindu, two Muslim, living in close proximity sharing more than they know, in common.

The world around them and their circumstances stifle their lives but they all rebel in their own ways to follow their dreams. “It represents a lot of truth of the existence of women in India…there is a lot of discrimination against women” explained Shrivastava. The film blends these characters well by switching between them in a way shows how different and similar they all are.

Although entirely fictional, Shrivastava says, the film exposes the real truths of the life of women in India. The four women despite their different lives, lead a very similar existence, one that is shackled by societal expectations suffocating their dreams.

(Left to Right): Plabita Borthakur, Aahana Kumra, Konkona Sen Sharma, Ratna Pathak in the movie, 'Lipstick Under My Burkha', the contraversial film that opened the 15th annual Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles on April 5th, 2017

(Left to Right) Plabita Borthakur, Aahana Kumra, Konkona Sen Sharma, Ratna Pathak in the movie, ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’, the controversial film that opened the 15th annual Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles on April 5th, 2017

A widow and a matriarch is expected to be there for managing financials affairs and protecting the family property from greedy builders, but never again to dream of sex let alone, love or romance. A teenager in college who hides her Rock’n’Roll persona under a burkha. A young woman who is being forced into a marriage with man she does not love. A young mother in a loveless marriage with an oppressive man.

The film shows how each one of these women in their own secretive and bold ways try to unshackle themselves, daring to dream as they gasp for freedom against the contrasting backdrop of Bhopal. A city that suffered a huge tragedy in 1984, caused by a gas leak causing thousands of deaths and long term injuries leaving the city divided with no development in the old city and a newer more modern and developed part of town.

The young and gifted director shines when you look at the contrast in Bhopal as analogy to the the old traditions and societal norms these women abide by and the new world they want to build and live in. When asked why was the film set in Bhopal,  Shrivastava shares, “I wanted a place where Hindus and Muslims live in close proximity because two of the characters are Muslim and the other two are Hindu”. She adds, “I liked how the small town aspect captured the essence of old and new and the changes that are reflected in the town as well as the characters.”

While a crowd of nearly 500 film-lovers filled the theatre to watch this film at the Regal LA Live in Los Angeles, the film might never see the light of day in India.

Currently the film cannot be distributed or shown in India, without the appropriate approval and certification by the Censor Board, Shrivastava says, she is hopeful. When the Censor Board wanted to label the film ‘pornographic‘, Shrivastava and Kumra point out how this reaction is really telling of the “patriarchal society in India trying to control change”.

However Shrivastava is not backing down, screening the film world wide, showing at festivals and with the support of her producers, fighting the Censor Board through a legal course of action. When asked if she feels scared or concerned about her safety, to be taking on hundreds of year of Indian patriarchy, Shrivastava responds with a sublime clarity, “there’s no other way!”

She also takes comfort in the fact that so far the film has received a lot of positive reaction and she notes that wherever it screens, “people feel a heart to heart with the film.” She believes, even though the film is set in India, viewers, especially women anywhere can associate with these characters because what women go through transcends culture and race.

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Promising to be the film fest for “woke desis”, NYC SAFF to debut this November

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NYCSAFF Film Line-up

NEW YORK (Diya TV) — Promising to be the fest for “contemporary, aware, woke desis”, NYC SAFF is set to make its debut this fall at the Altman building in New York City. After the roaring success of the 5th annual Dallas-Fort Worth South Asian Film Festival (DFW SAFF), JINGO Media presents its second film festival in the United States, the New York City South Asian Film Festival (NYC SAFF), gearing up to make its debut in mid-November at various venues around Chelsea in Manhattan. The first ever New York South Asian Film Festival (NYC SAFF) opens with a collection of gut-punches, knee slappers, and laughing gags. Running over 3 days, be sure to bring out your inner cinephile.

Opening the fest is Rohit Karn Batra’s directorial debut Line of Descent a white-knuckled cop thriller starring Brendan Fraser, and Abhay Deol. The story follows a mafia family dispute caught in the crosshairs of a police officer who guides their tragic downfall, and an arms dealer with a spy on the inside. The centerpiece film is the painstakingly painted ‘Bollywood Rose‘ based on true events, it tells the story of a forbidden love in a ruthless city. ‘Kaamyaab‘ which as recently screened at the the Chicago South Asian Film Festival(CSAFF) makes its way into NYC SAFF followed by other festival favorites like Ephemera, Khejdi, and Agency bolstering an already stellar line up. Expect to meet indie stars Tannishtha Chatterjee & Nawazuddin Siddiqui at the closing night film, Roam Rome Mein, a story that follows Reena who has run away to Italy in order to escape her overly strict parents, however, her brother, Raj in the turmoils of his own awakening sets out on a journey to find her.

The short film selection features Eliezer Vergaras ‘Fractured Souls‘; a baffling self revelation that unfolds as one mans frustration leads him into cascading tragedies. Vick Krishnas ‘Freak‘, a father must cope with unexpected news on his daughters surprise birthday. The feature lineup has a cup for everyone be it feature, documentary, fiction, or nonfiction. ‘Namdev Bhau‘ a man so flustered by the noise of Delhi vows to not speak and undertakes a pilgrimage of silence until a young boy decides to tag along. The disturbing Mai Ghat’ is based on the true story of two police officers who wrongly arrest a boy and tortured him to death. Its a powerhouse film exploring the violent act putting to question our personal and social conscience. It wouldn’t be a proper a film festival without films that challenge us and make us question ourselves.

Discussing topics that are too often swept under the rug like LGBT, womens rights and the societal oppression.The Last Letter‘ follows Mohan, a 70-year old gay man who has remained in the closet, that is, until the comfort he built for himself comes tumbling down. The Unexpected tells the story of a woman who despite achieving everything in life cannot conceive a child. Through its range of films, NYCSAFF aims to challenge, entertain, inspire and enrich.

Presented by Toyota and produced by JINGO Media, a NYC and Dallas-based events and public relations company, the inaugural, three-day festival boasts world, U.S. and New York City premieres of more than 25 shorts, documentaries and feature films focused on the unique stories of the South Asian Diaspora and those of our brothers and sisters back home. JINGO Media is also the parent company of DFW SAFF, which was conceptualized and created in 2015. 

“We are so proud to create yet another platform for world-class independent cinema from India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Afghanistan and the Maldives,” said Jitin Hingorani, CEO/Principal of JINGO Media, a public relations company that launched in New York City in 2010. “We’re coming full circle with this festival because Manhattan is where it all began for us almost 10 years ago. We are certain that the community-at-large will embrace us and celebrate our joyous homecoming.” 

NYC SAFF has also partnered with The India Center Foundation (ICF), a New York City-based nonprofit organization dedicated to the study of the Indian subcontinent, the promotion of its cultural life and the unique relationship between India and the United States. “To partner with NYC SAFF means that ICF is reaching the audience we wish to serve: contemporary, aware, woke desis and lovers of Indian and Diasporic creativity and storytelling. As a filmmaker whose film was so lovingly received at DFW SAFF, I know we are working with a staff who is dedicated and eager to give New Yorkers the film experience they deserve when it comes to screening South Asian cinema. We are looking forward to partnering on great conversations and panels around the films we see together,” said Priya Giri Desai, Founding Director of ICF.

Complete with an opening night red carpet , a curated set of film screenings and a closing night after party, this New York debut of an indie fest, is looking to leave you bruised with heartache, emotional bliss and a belly full of laughter, gasping for more. The first ever New York South Asian Film Festival promises one for the books!

It all goes down from November 15th though the 17th at The Altman Building. With the film screenings occurring throughout the weekend at AMC 34th street 14.

Diya TV is a proud media partner for the event, and will be onsite covering the fest. For tickets and information: https://www.nycsaff.com/tickets

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Indian Ambassador, Shringla speaks to U.S. Congress about Kashmir

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AMB. Shringla speaks to congress about Kashmir | Diya TV News

WASHINGTON (Diya TV)  — Indian Ambassador to the U.S. Harsh Shringla met with members of Congress at a private roundtable briefing, hosted by Southern California Congressman Brad Sherman. Sherman, who has been a supporter of India, took to Twitter recently to share his concerns about Kashmir and said serious questions about Kashmir were asked at the briefing.

President Trump is being urged to fix the H1-B visa process and do away with country-specific limits, with the latest effort for reform being spearheaded by 60 U.S. business school deans and CEO’s.

In an earthquake, seconds matter. So on the anniversary of the deadly 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake that rocked Northern California, state officials announced the launch of America’s first statewide earthquake early warning system.

Tabla Maestro Zakir Hussain will be coming to Boston next month to perform at the Berklee India Exchange, where he will also be conferred with an honorary doctorate by the esteemed music school. A Zakir Hussain Scholarship at Berklee is also being established.

And we have incredible video of three kids from India rescuing their dog from a snake that’s equal parts courageous and nuts.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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Basketball

Gandhi 150th birth anniversary noted around the world

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Birth Anniversary

NEW DELHI (Diya TV) —  Celebrations for Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary have been ongoing for the past year, but culminated with a ceremony in New Delhi featuring Prime Minister Modi and another in Washington at the Library of Congress. And France’s government worked with the Indian Embassy there to issue a stamp in honor of his birth anniversary.

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and India’s Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal are meeting this week to continue the US-India discussion on trade and investment.

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb came to New Delhi to strengthen ties between the Hoosier State and India. Infosys has already made a large commitment there. Holcomb is part of a large delegation of Americans now heading Mumbai to take in the first-ever NBA preseason games in India featuring the Indiana Pacers and the Sacramento Kings.

Bollywood turned Hollywood actor Anupam Kher came to the Bay Area to keynote the Akshay Patra annual fundraising gala that helps feed children in India a hot meal during the school year.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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