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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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Promising to be the film fest for “woke desis”, NYC SAFF to debut this November

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NYCSAFF Film Line-up

NEW YORK (Diya TV) — Promising to be the fest for “contemporary, aware, woke desis”, NYC SAFF is set to make its debut this fall at the Altman building in New York City. After the roaring success of the 5th annual Dallas-Fort Worth South Asian Film Festival (DFW SAFF), JINGO Media presents its second film festival in the United States, the New York City South Asian Film Festival (NYC SAFF), gearing up to make its debut in mid-November at various venues around Chelsea in Manhattan. The first ever New York South Asian Film Festival (NYC SAFF) opens with a collection of gut-punches, knee slappers, and laughing gags. Running over 3 days, be sure to bring out your inner cinephile.

Opening the fest is Rohit Karn Batra’s directorial debut Line of Descent a white-knuckled cop thriller starring Brendan Fraser, and Abhay Deol. The story follows a mafia family dispute caught in the crosshairs of a police officer who guides their tragic downfall, and an arms dealer with a spy on the inside. The centerpiece film is the painstakingly painted ‘Bollywood Rose‘ based on true events, it tells the story of a forbidden love in a ruthless city. ‘Kaamyaab‘ which as recently screened at the the Chicago South Asian Film Festival(CSAFF) makes its way into NYC SAFF followed by other festival favorites like Ephemera, Khejdi, and Agency bolstering an already stellar line up. Expect to meet indie stars Tannishtha Chatterjee & Nawazuddin Siddiqui at the closing night film, Roam Rome Mein, a story that follows Reena who has run away to Italy in order to escape her overly strict parents, however, her brother, Raj in the turmoils of his own awakening sets out on a journey to find her.

The short film selection features Eliezer Vergaras ‘Fractured Souls‘; a baffling self revelation that unfolds as one mans frustration leads him into cascading tragedies. Vick Krishnas ‘Freak‘, a father must cope with unexpected news on his daughters surprise birthday. The feature lineup has a cup for everyone be it feature, documentary, fiction, or nonfiction. ‘Namdev Bhau‘ a man so flustered by the noise of Delhi vows to not speak and undertakes a pilgrimage of silence until a young boy decides to tag along. The disturbing Mai Ghat’ is based on the true story of two police officers who wrongly arrest a boy and tortured him to death. Its a powerhouse film exploring the violent act putting to question our personal and social conscience. It wouldn’t be a proper a film festival without films that challenge us and make us question ourselves.

Discussing topics that are too often swept under the rug like LGBT, womens rights and the societal oppression.The Last Letter‘ follows Mohan, a 70-year old gay man who has remained in the closet, that is, until the comfort he built for himself comes tumbling down. The Unexpected tells the story of a woman who despite achieving everything in life cannot conceive a child. Through its range of films, NYCSAFF aims to challenge, entertain, inspire and enrich.

Presented by Toyota and produced by JINGO Media, a NYC and Dallas-based events and public relations company, the inaugural, three-day festival boasts world, U.S. and New York City premieres of more than 25 shorts, documentaries and feature films focused on the unique stories of the South Asian Diaspora and those of our brothers and sisters back home. JINGO Media is also the parent company of DFW SAFF, which was conceptualized and created in 2015. 

“We are so proud to create yet another platform for world-class independent cinema from India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Afghanistan and the Maldives,” said Jitin Hingorani, CEO/Principal of JINGO Media, a public relations company that launched in New York City in 2010. “We’re coming full circle with this festival because Manhattan is where it all began for us almost 10 years ago. We are certain that the community-at-large will embrace us and celebrate our joyous homecoming.” 

NYC SAFF has also partnered with The India Center Foundation (ICF), a New York City-based nonprofit organization dedicated to the study of the Indian subcontinent, the promotion of its cultural life and the unique relationship between India and the United States. “To partner with NYC SAFF means that ICF is reaching the audience we wish to serve: contemporary, aware, woke desis and lovers of Indian and Diasporic creativity and storytelling. As a filmmaker whose film was so lovingly received at DFW SAFF, I know we are working with a staff who is dedicated and eager to give New Yorkers the film experience they deserve when it comes to screening South Asian cinema. We are looking forward to partnering on great conversations and panels around the films we see together,” said Priya Giri Desai, Founding Director of ICF.

Complete with an opening night red carpet , a curated set of film screenings and a closing night after party, this New York debut of an indie fest, is looking to leave you bruised with heartache, emotional bliss and a belly full of laughter, gasping for more. The first ever New York South Asian Film Festival promises one for the books!

It all goes down from November 15th though the 17th at The Altman Building. With the film screenings occurring throughout the weekend at AMC 34th street 14.

Diya TV is a proud media partner for the event, and will be onsite covering the fest. For tickets and information: https://www.nycsaff.com/tickets

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Indian Ambassador, Shringla speaks to U.S. Congress about Kashmir

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AMB. Shringla speaks to congress about Kashmir | Diya TV News

WASHINGTON (Diya TV)  — Indian Ambassador to the U.S. Harsh Shringla met with members of Congress at a private roundtable briefing, hosted by Southern California Congressman Brad Sherman. Sherman, who has been a supporter of India, took to Twitter recently to share his concerns about Kashmir and said serious questions about Kashmir were asked at the briefing.

President Trump is being urged to fix the H1-B visa process and do away with country-specific limits, with the latest effort for reform being spearheaded by 60 U.S. business school deans and CEO’s.

In an earthquake, seconds matter. So on the anniversary of the deadly 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake that rocked Northern California, state officials announced the launch of America’s first statewide earthquake early warning system.

Tabla Maestro Zakir Hussain will be coming to Boston next month to perform at the Berklee India Exchange, where he will also be conferred with an honorary doctorate by the esteemed music school. A Zakir Hussain Scholarship at Berklee is also being established.

And we have incredible video of three kids from India rescuing their dog from a snake that’s equal parts courageous and nuts.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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Gandhi 150th birth anniversary noted around the world

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Birth Anniversary

NEW DELHI (Diya TV) —  Celebrations for Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary have been ongoing for the past year, but culminated with a ceremony in New Delhi featuring Prime Minister Modi and another in Washington at the Library of Congress. And France’s government worked with the Indian Embassy there to issue a stamp in honor of his birth anniversary.

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and India’s Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal are meeting this week to continue the US-India discussion on trade and investment.

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb came to New Delhi to strengthen ties between the Hoosier State and India. Infosys has already made a large commitment there. Holcomb is part of a large delegation of Americans now heading Mumbai to take in the first-ever NBA preseason games in India featuring the Indiana Pacers and the Sacramento Kings.

Bollywood turned Hollywood actor Anupam Kher came to the Bay Area to keynote the Akshay Patra annual fundraising gala that helps feed children in India a hot meal during the school year.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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