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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.

Arts & Culture

Redacted Mueller report, detailing Russian election meddling, released

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Redacted Mueller Report

WASHINGTON (Diya TV) — A redacted version of the Mueller report is now public. The 448 page document is the result of a two year investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Democrats say the report shows President Trump tried to obstruct justice. But Trump’s campaign in a statement says otherwise.

Read the redacted report here.

Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said no Pakistani soldier or citizen died in the Indian Air Force air strike in response to the Pulwama terror attack in February, reversing claims made by other officials after the strike.

Anita Malik announced she is running once again for Arizona’s 6th Congressional District seat. She fell short last year. But this time, she will face additional competition, as fellow Democrat Dr. Hiral Tipirneni (Ti-per-neh-knee) as also running for this seat.

And Hasan Minhaj won another Peabody, his second in a row, for his work on “Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj.”

Ravi Kapur & Alejandro Quintana contributed to this report.

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U.S. and India conduct joint military drill on Diego Garcia in Indian Ocean

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Indian Ocean drill

DIEGO GARCIA, Indian Ocean (Diya TV) — The U.S. and Indian Navies went submarine hunting in the Indian Ocean, their first bilateral anti-submarine warfare exercise since a signing pact to work more closely together last fall.

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And comedian Hasan Minhaj, who won a 2017 Peabody Award, received another Peabody nomination in the entertainment category for his Netflix show, “Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj.”

Ravi Kapur & Alejandro Quintana contributed to this report.

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Women filmmakers shine at the 2019 Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles

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IFFLA staff with the 2019 festival winners

LOS ANGELES (Diya TV) — The 17th annual Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA) concluded Sunday night with the zany slice-of-life film, The Odds, directed by Megha Ramaswamy. Complete with a glamorous closing night red carpet, and an awards ceremony, the festival ended with an after party at the Spice Affair in Beverly Hills.

(From Left to Right) Praveen Morchale, Christina Marouda, Shazia Iqbal, Anand Patwardhan, Nitin Sonawane , Divya Kohli Courtesy: Javeed Sheikh Photography

IFFLA was only four days this year (compared to five days in previous years), but there was still so much to see during that time. In addition to the curated set of films, there was an incredible panel discussion, Breaking in Brown: Making it to Series in TV’s Golden Age, that featured panelists working in various fields in the television industry and their struggles to rise up through the ranks in the Hollywood while being brown.

Panel Discussion Breaking in Brown. Courtesy: Javeed Sheikh Photography

This year’s film lineup boasted five world premieres, two North American premieres, two U.S. premieres and eleven Los Angeles Premieres, with films presented in nine different languages. The overall atmosphere was very relaxed, even with films that tackled difficult subject matters. Roughly fifty percent of the films were directed by women. Filmmakers and staff alike hoped for a future where it will be normal to have women and men equally making films.

Kicking off the awards ceremony, Director of Programming, Mike Dougherty, announced the winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Best Feature, Widow of Silence.

“We present the Grand Jury prize to a film that illuminates a condition that most of the world doesn’t get to see and shines a light on the characters that live through it everyday…This filmmaker’s civic disobedience illustrates their love and compassion for their country and their people, and the craft of their film-making was beautifully wise and refined.”

Director Praveen Morchhale was visibly surprised as he walked up to receive his award. The film he said was about those, “that nobody talks about and nobody treats them as a human.” Even though it was Morchhale’s first time at IFFLA, he felt as if he had been coming here for many years. He credited his win to the women in Kashmir the film portrayed.

The Audience Award for Best Feature went to Reason. Director Anand Patwardhan received a standing ovation when he went to collect his award. Patwardhan said, “most of the time our film is getting thrown out of festivals, I wasn’t expecting this.” He added that it meant a lot for the film to be well received at IFFLA and how that will hopefully impact its reception in India.

Shazia Iqbal’s Bebaak was a crowd favorite winning the Audience Award For Best Short Film. The jury mentioned how she almost gave up on filming because she was getting thrown out of mosques. Iqbal spoke about how when people think of Muslims, they only think of Muslim men and not women, many of whom experience tremendous misogyny. She hopes people will be able to “see beyond what misogyny and religion does to people.” Iqbal added, “a director is nothing without their team.”

“a layered portrait of a woman determined to pursue her needs and impulses,” the Grand Jury awarded their prize for Best Short to The Field from director Sandhya Suri. “the film takes images that normally evoke a sense of fear and flips the narrative on its head redefining a new more empowered world for the female protagonist and exploring an often unseen story of a woman’s drive and agency over her own body and life,” the jury added.

After the awards, Dougherty introduced the closing night film, The Odds by saying the film was the “perfect way to close IFFLA on a celebratory note.”


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