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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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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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One-on-One with Prime Minister Modi

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One-on-One with Modi

NEW DELHI (Diya TV) — In a rare sit-down interview in the middle of an election, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi discusses his first term and what he plans to accomplish if he is elected to a second term. Watch the full interview tonight on a special Diya TV Dialogue at 7 pm.

Two U.S. Senators are urging more negotiations with India over a Trump administration plan to end preferential imports because it could raise costs for American consumers.

Meanwhile, India purchased a missile system from Russia. Indian Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is hopeful the deal will avoid sanctions and scrutiny from the U.S.

Thiru Vignarajah a former federal prosecutor, who also once served as deputy Attorney General in the state of Maryland, announced he is running for mayor of Baltimore as a Democrat.

And our entertainment reporter, Kari Lane will take you behind the scenes at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, an event proudly sponsored by Diya TV, full of some of the brightest stars you will soon see on the silver screen.

Ravi Kapur & Alejandro Quintana contributed to this report.

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