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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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Trump Speaks to Modi, Aims to Reduce Kashmir Tensions

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Modi Kashmir Tensions Trump

WASHINGTON (Diya TV) — President Trump spoke to Indian Prime Minister Modi by phone to get India’s perspective on Kashmir. Modi told Trump the anti-India rhetoric from Pakistani leaders was not conducive to peace. Later, President Trump in a tweet called Modi and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan “good friends,” of his and that he’s working “towards reducing tensions in Kashmir.”

Kabul, Afghanistan was the site of a horrific suicide bombing that took place at a wedding, killing 63 people. The bride and groom survived. Afghan officials blame the attack on the United States and their prolonged presence in the region.

A 35-year-old man from India on a hunger strike at a Texas ICE facility was force fed, according to his attorney, becoming the latest detainee seeking asylum in the U.S. fed in such a manner. The man stopped eating tko protest his confinement. ICE says they will do what it takes to “preserving the lives of those in its custody.”

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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Upcoming filmmaker Divyansh Sharma aims to reinvent cinema

From Street Play performer in remote rural India to turning heads in Los Angeles Divyansh Sharma has come a long way in a short time and hes only getting started.

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LOS ANGELES (Diya TV) — “Reinventing the cinematic standard” one story at a time might sound like a ambitious undertaking for some but for Divyansh Sharma it’s only the beginning.

Sharma’s roots stem from New Delhi where he discovered his fascination for storytelling. At 16, he began performing street plays in remote rural India, educating people on social issues such as equal rights, education for all, and child marriage. He finished High School and went on to take a scholarship offered by the American Musical and Dramatic Academy where upon he graduated from their BFA Program which focused on acting and directing.

Studded from the AMDA degree in Acting for Film, Theatre and Telvision, Divyansh Sharma went on to shoot award-winning commercials from Apple and Google each amassing thousands to millions of views globally. Still feeling the urge to create more he decided he wanted to “re-invent the cinematic standard one film at a time” and began writing his own short film that would use techniques unseen in short-film storytelling such as Breaking fourth wall, plot jumps, interconnecting plot-lines.

The result was “Graffiti” which made a world premiere at the Chinese Theaters in March 2019 for the Golden State Film Festival. The story revolves around Michael Dawson, played by Divyansh Sharma, a grieving spoken word artist trying to come to terms with the loss of a loved one. The 30-minute short which Sharma wrote, directed, acted, and edited went on to amass more than 30 awards across the world at film festivals like New York Film Awards, Los Angeles Film Awards, Delhi International Film Festival and more.

Without skipping a beat, Sharma wrote, co-directed, starred and edited his next project “Cigarettes in December”. In this upcoming film Divyansh Sharma portrays Russ, a sexual assault survivor who attends court ordered support group therapy and enters a graduation isolation from the world. Sharma is currently in the final stages of Post Production and will be the first project to be completely done in-house by his own Production Company “Origins Productions”. Sharma is looking forward to a successful run in the festival circuit for Cigarettes in December as he begins to shift his gaze on Pre-Production for next his project he co-wrote called “a Dream in Frames” whose script has already gone to win a Screenwriting award at Los Angeles Film Festival.

From performing Street Plays in rural India to turning heads with his debut in Los Angeles Divyansh Sharma is on a path that continues to deliver. From starring in Award- winning commercials to creating his own Award- winning features his footprint is firm and felt and his message is clear: “Re-invent the cinematic standard one film at a time”.

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Arts & Culture

Tulsi, Kamala tussle on night 2 of Detroit Democratic debate

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Tulsi Kamala Dem Debate

DETROIT (Diya TV) — In another otherwise straightforward affair, night two of the Democratic debate in Detroit, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and Senator Kamala Harris took jabs at one another, as they both aim to capture attention and move up in the polls.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo continues to tout the U.S.-India relationship, saying on a tour to the Indo-Pacific region that America is “working hard with the Indian government to provide them with opportunities to grow their economy.”

A 60-year-old Sikh priest was attacked at his home near a Sikh gurdwara in Hughson, California. Amarjit Singh says the suspect broke several windows, punched him in the back of his neck, and then yelled ‘go back to your country,’ before fleeing.

Indian rapper Badshah broke the record for most views of a YouTube video within 24 hours of its premiere. His new video “Paagal” received a staggering 75 million views, topping a mark set by Korean boy band BTS.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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