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What to watch at the 17th Annual Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles

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LOS ANGELES (Diya TV) — The Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles is only two weeks away and we have some recommendations. Film festivals are a wonderful way to experience cinema but having a plan in advance can save you time and put you at ease. Mark your calendars for Opening night red carpet on April 11th & closing night on 14th, as those will be ‘must attend’ nights.

The opening night film, Anhadhun, featuring veteran Bollywood actress Tabu, won 5 awards at the Filmfare Awards: Best Film (Critics), Best Actor in a Leading Role (Critics), Best Editing, Best Screenplay and Best Background Score. And returning to tradition, IFFLA will honor the actress with a Tribute. Get there early for the on-stage conversation with Tabu prior to the screening and a stay back for Q&A following with Tabu and the director Sriram Raghavan.

The closing night, red carpet and screening of The Odds will be held at The Ahrya Fine Arts Theatre in Beverly Hills, preceded by the awards ceremony and followed by a Q&A with director and cast.

Block out Saturday afternoon, to truly discover something new – an absolute gem each year at IFFLA is the Shorts Program and this year is no different. Followed by a TV panel – Breaking in Brown featuring Kiran Deol of Sunnyside, Nik Dodani of Murphy Brown & Atypical & Meera Menon of The Walking Dead, GLOW, The Magicians, to name a few.

We asked Festival Founder, Christina Marouda (CM) & Director of Programming, Mike Dougherty (MD) to give us the inside scoop

KL: What are the festival hightlights? Any films you are personally most excited about?
MD: Every film we selected is special, and will make for a wonderful theatrical experience. If I had to highlight some events that will be once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, I’d say audiences should not miss our TV panel, which will assemble some of the most successful South Asian talent working in the American television industry to discuss their careers and offer guidance to young professionals. Also, our screening of Anand Patwardhan’s award-winning documentary REASON will have Anand join us for a Q&A after the film — which deals with the most urgent political issues facing India. Having Anand with us to speak about this film while the election cycle in India begins will be incredible. Also, I’m extremely excited to world premiere Megha Ramaswamy’s THE ODDS on closing night. We’ve been huge fans of her short form work and can’t wait to have her at IFFLA, along with her cast that includes Abhay Deol and Priyanka Bose.

KL: With the advent of digital streaming, how do you as a festival stay ahead of the curve and still make the festival experience exciting for folks to discover new films?
MD: It’s definitely gotten more competitive as films we have our eye on get snapped up quickly by Netflix or Amazon and put online before our festival. But there are still filmmakers that want to have the theatrical experience with an audience, and plenty of them send their films our way. We just need to be sure the films we select offer a broad, diverse view of all that Indian filmmaking has to offer. 

KL: Tell us about the Shorts program this year?
MD: We’ve got ten shorts across two shorts programs, all from emerging voices with unique sensibilities and masterful control of their filmmaking. Three of the films are hilarious comedies, four are world premieres, one is from a local Los Angeles filmmaker, six of the ten have female directors and you’ll even see some familiar faces like Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Vipin Sharma in the casts. The shorts programs are where you’ll see the early, exciting work from the huge names of tomorrow. We played Megha Ramamswamy’s short film “Bunny” a few years back, and now she’s our closing night gala!


KL: You’ve been with IFFLA for a couple of years now, how do you feel about the direction the festival has taken and where would you like to take it in the future?
MD: I’m extremely proud of how influential IFFLA has become and how the independent filmmaking community has embraced us as a place where they can come together to appreciate their current work and collaborate on future projects. An example of this: this year’s film CAT STICKS features three actors – Tanmay Dhanania, Saurabh Saraswat and Sumeet Thakur — who first met each other at a gathering IFFLA put together in Mumbai and began discussing the project soon after. I didn’t know this until after we invited it, but remembering the event now, it makes perfect sense!
In the future, I definitely would love to reflect the great work that is starting to happen in the television and digital spaces. Series like MADE IN HEAVEN and DELHI CRIME are using some extremely talented filmmakers — including IFFLA alum like Richie Mehta and Alankrita Shrivastava — to tell their stories, and I think that deserves highlighting at our festival.

KL: IFFLA typically hasn’t done tributes, what inspired the tribute to Tabu this year?
CM: We have done tributes to Naseeruddin Shah, Deepti Naval, Kirron Kher and Ismail Merchant. We took a break as we had planned a couple of tributes that were canceled last minute due to some personal emergencies of the honorees. We have been discussing Tabu for years. This felt like the right moment to do so. Her body of work is more diverse than ever, and in Andhadhun she delivers a superb performance. Plus it is a film we loved by a director whose film Johnny Gaddaar we screened a decade ago. Sriram Raghavan is a filmmaker we admire and he is able to join us along with his producer Sanjay Routray. This is how it all came together.

KL: What are you looking forward to the most at this year’s fest?
CM: I love every single aspect of the festival. From the opening night and the on stage discussion with Tabu, to our shorts programs that always manage to discover new talent, to our exciting TV Panel, to the world premiere of our closing night presentation of The Odds with the cast in attendance.

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IFFLA celebrates 20 years with a focus to mentor the next generation

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IFFLA celebrates 20 years with a trip down memory lane

LOS ANGELES (Diya TV) — IFFLA celebrated their 20th anniversary with familiar faces, overwhelming excitement and new additions to Southern California’s largest Indian and South Asian focused film festival.

Pan Nalin opened the festival with his film Last Film Show, a love letter to cinema and loosely based on his childhood.

“I think IFFLA over the years, it has been like a home in Hollywood. So I was always able to come here and invite people from the industry to see these movies,” said Nalin. “There are producers who usually don’t go to see Indian cinema. So I feel that it’s really important.”

Director Anurag Kashyap returned to host a MasterClass — a way to give back to the festival and fellow filmmakers.

“It is always good to be back here because for me this is where it all started from. And it’s amazing to see that this festival has grown so much and has been sustaining for so long,” said Kashyap.

New filmmakers were honored to be part of the lineup this year, especially after no in-person IFFLA for the last two years.

Hena Asraf, Director of The Return, shares “it feels a little unreal. It feels great! I think especially to be at a festival in person, after over two years.” 

“The community is amazing. The welcome is very warm. It feels just so honoring to be a part of this festival and amongst these filmmakers. I can’t wait to see all the other films,” said The Return Editor Esther Shubinski.

It’s that family feeling that makes IFFLA special and keeps filmmakers, attendees, and staff keep coming back.

Actor and director Ravi Kapoor is “just so grateful for this festival. It has been such a supporter of me. And they’ve helped bring the South Asian diasporic community here in LA together as well. Thank god they’ve lasted 20 years.”

Actor & musician Monica Dogra points out “what’s wonderful about IFFLA [is] it’s super niche, South Asians in LA of all places. [And] it’s small enough so you actually see people anyway.”

Actor Pooja Batra added, “I think they’ve always been eclectic with their mix of selection that they bring around here — smaller budget, smaller sort of productions also need a shout out.”

One of the new additions this year is the Spotlight on South Asia.

Festival founder Christina Marouda added this vertical to present films from different countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nepal. “We’re putting a spotlight on projects we want to support,” said Marouda.

The other major new change this year was a live table read of IFFLA alum Kahlil Maskati’s feature script, Alim Uncle, rather than a closing night film. Fawzia Mirza directed the piece.

These changes reflect IFFLA’s commitment to supporting filmmakers while giving audiences more than a viewing experience. In fact, they are able to be part of the filmmaking process.

Marouda says after 20 years, this is IFFLA’s direction moving forward — a full effort to mentor budding filmmakers, while showcasing new films.

Ravi Kapur and Deepti Dawar contributed to this report.

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Garcetti’s ambassadorship to India in limbo

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Garcetti's ambassadorship to India in limbo | Diya TV News

WASHINGTON DC (Diya TV) — Republican Senator Chuck Grassley has lifted the “hold” on the Senate confirmation of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who has been nominated by US President Joe Biden as the country’s next ambassador to India. Initially, Grassley planned to object to the nomination, saying Garcetti failed to properly investigate sexual assault allegations and harassment by a close advisor.

Protesters in Sri Lanka have burned down homes belonging to 38 politicians as the crisis-hit country plunged further into chaos, with the government ordering troops to shoot anyone caught destroying property. Even the former Prime Minister had to be evacuated from his home. Angry Sri Lankans continue to defy a nationwide curfew to protest against what they say is the government’s mishandling of the country’s worst economic crisis since 1948.

Internationally recognized Indian American energy expert Arun Majumdar will head the new Stanford University Doerr School of Sustainability, which aims to tackle urgent climate and sustainability challenges,

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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LA Kings host first Indian cultural night

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LA Kings host first ever Indian Cultural Night

LOS ANGELES (Diya TV) — The Los Angeles Kings hosted their first Indian Cultural Night at the Crypto.com Arena, a new initiative intended to broaden their appeal to a growing demographic. Many of the guests in attendance and the special invitees on hand talked about what the representation of the evening means to them.

Robin Bawa, the first South Asian NHL Player, said “this is great. This is a good idea that the Kings are doing. The first Indian Cultural Night here in the US, and they did a good job – coming down here to be part of this was also a great honor. You know it is all about spreading the word and getting the Indian community involved in these types of things and bringing them out to games.”

“We are here to grow the game, and this allows other people to understand the game and really get embraced by it,” said Dampy Brar, APNA Hockey Co-Founder. “So there’s a lot of South Asian families and population here. When they have nights like this, more will come, more will get introduced to hockey, educate themselves. So to be part of this night and to be able to do what I did today was special.”

Amrit Gill, host of Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi Edition, concurred. “If you can see it, you can be it, as cliche as it sounds. It is one of the most powerful tools in helping create more inclusion not only in sports, but in society as well. So I am over the moon to be here, but this is just the beginning.”

Indian American TikTok stars Kiran and Nivi sang the National Anthem. Kiran explained that this is their “first time attending a game and performing the national anthem.” Nivi added she was “just so grateful to be part of this.”

Indian American actress Sway Bhatia says representation matters in sports and media. Bhatia portrays a hockey player on Disney’s brand new Mighty Ducks TV show.

“Seeing so many people with faces of color, and to be one of those people, is just so empowering,” said Bhatia. And you know, other people in the stadium are able to see who we are and see what we do. I mean we had two amazing brown people of color sing the national anthem, which was so beautiful.”

Organizers are calling the evening a success after a larger than expected turnout and hope this continues to expand the popularity of the game.

Randip Janda, Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi Edition Host, points out that “this is a moment where not only hockey fans are able to celebrate what’s going on tonight but this is a community coming together and celebrating those common bonds whether you’re Indian, whether South Asian or not. A celebration like this, it shows you something. That the rink, where you go and you might be having a bad day but you’re going to celebrate. Win, lose or draw, it should be a party every single time. I think this helps us understand people around us and our communities and hockey can be a vessel of that.”

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