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The 16th annual IFFLA opens with a pensive, ‘In the Shadows’ starring Manoj Bajpayee

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Left to Right: Director Dipesh Jain (In The Shadows), Actor Manoj Bajpayee (In The Shadows)

LOS ANGELES (Diya TV) — The 16th annual Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles took the audience on a journey into the decent of one man’s mind with the opening night film, Gali Guleiyaan or ‘In the Shadows’. The director and writer, Dipesh Jain along with lead actor, Manoj Bajpayee were in walked the opening night red carpet and stayed till the end of the movie for an insightful Q&A session moderated by IFFLA’s Director of Programming Mike Dougherty.

The film is set in the heart of New Delhi and deals with a recluse, Khuddoos (played by Manoj Bajpayee), who watches the world through the lens of CCTV cameras that he has set up around his densely packed neighborhood in Dehli. His best and only friend, Ganeshi (played by Ranvir Shorey), tries to get Khuddoos to get out more but something is just a bit off with him. Khuddoos has been the voyeur for so long that when he suspects his next-door neighbor’s young boy is being abused, he must gather the courage to become a participant instead of just being a bystander.

During the Q&A, Jain mentioned he had snippets and scenes in mind for this film for years. The idea of entrapment and people being trapped had been on his mind since childhood because his grandparents lived in a similar area to that presented in the film. Later on, Jain started researching child abuse and the connection to abused individuals suffering from schizophrenia. This concept then developed in to the idea of a man trapped in this city and his mind. There is a line in the film that says the city is like a maze and once you are in it, you are stuck there.

When asked what he thought of the script/story, Bajpayee said he found it quite fascinating and that this character and script would take his craft to another level. The character of Khuddoos has a lot going on under the surface and Bajpayee played this complex character superbly. One audience member even asked what was wrong with the character because he is so peculiar. Bajpayee explained this is not dealing with a disease but rather dealing with the mind. and he wanted to portray a conflicted mind where the character spirals downward while looking for himself.

Khuddoos loses track of time, seems distant yet fixated on trying to help this young boy. Bajpayee said it was a challenge going in and out of character and that “the deterioration of the mind and how to achieve that” would be difficult to come out of. He went on to say that preparation for each actor is personal and for him, he did not tell any family or friends that he was filming in Dehli. Recalling a story, Bajpayee talked about how the director showed him candid photos that had been taken of him and elaborated that, “you don’t know when you slip in the character. You become one. That’s the way to become this complicated character.” He went on to say that the mind of the character has so many things going on and that is part of the enjoyment of being an actor.

When asked to compare the experience of portraying this character to his character in Aligarth, Bajpayee said that the role in Aligarth was not that complicated. That is a man who knows who he is unlike In the Shadows, where he does not, and the search to find out continues to break his mind down. Bajpayee commented that he likes as an actor, “you get to play so many minds”, and that you need to play the mind not the profession. If you have two lawyers, they may be alike in profession but it is their minds that makes them different.

As you can tell, the concept of the mind in a large theme with this film but to elaborate further would be to spoil the intriguing journey the film takes.

On returning to Dehli, Jain said the city never changed. The character of the city, the people, their talks and their culture have stayed the same. It is like a time trap but this aided in the telling of the primary and secondary story. Each story has different film styles to make them stand apart from each other.

The other story that the film focuses on if the young boy that Khuddoos wants to help. Jain told the audience that the process of casting the young boy was tedious but satisfying. They found him in an orphanage and learned he was a victim of child abuse who left home and lived on the streets. Jain talked about how he and the young boy worked together on scenes such as if he should cry or not while his father beat him. Jain wanted to and succeeded in earning the boy’s trust because some of these scenes were like relieving the trauma. The audience was happy to learn the boy had been struggling with his studies before they started filming but now he has more confidence and is working to get into a good school.

The Q&A wrapped up with Jain elaborating on one of the challenges of filmmaking in this area was that of interrupting people’s lives and having them stop and wait while filming. He knew this script would be a challenge and attributes much of the success of the film to his team; a team that was so much in sync. Jain said, “it’s a tough film and these guys made it easy.,”

The film addresses many different forms of voyeurism from the main character watching the outside world through video cameras, to the young boy spying on neighbors with his friends, and to the people who all gather when something is going on and just stand and stare.
The question one has to ask, do you just sit back and watch or do you step in to help?

During a heated moment, Khuddoos exclaims that all the kids in the neighborhood get beaten but no one does anything about it. Is this a reflection on society where we sit back while so much happens in the world but what are we really doing about it? If this character is any parable for the audience, we cannot sit locked up at home and hide away from the world. Even if it is painful, we must face our inner demons and not let them snuff us out.

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.

India’s exports to China are up in 2019, while imports declined, leading to a $10 billion reduction in India’s trade deficit with China. Analysts say the current Washington-Beijing trade war has also opened things up for India.

The Jallianwala Massacre 100 years ago that left hundreds dead and 1200 injured at the hands of British troops is considered a key turning point towards a free India. British prime minister Theresa May marked the occasion by expressing “deep regret”, but there are still no apologies.

An effort by an American and British companies to help Jet Airways founder Naresh Goyal save the airline from collapse dissolved after Etihad Airways and TPG Capital threatened to walk away themselves if Goyal was part of the deal.

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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