The South Asian International Film Festival came to a close with a bang last night. Featuring the North American premiere of India’s official entry to the Oscars for 2010 ‘Harishchandrachi Factory’ — a beautiful Marathi film which chronicles the struggles of the man who made India’s first motion picture in 1913 — the evening started with the momentous awards ceremony. The event sparkled with the presence of such stars as filmmakers Rajat Kapoor and Saurabh Shukla, producer Anadil Hossain, composer Simon Taufique, actor Samrat Chakrabarti and rhythm queen DJ Rekha.
The night started with a brief but powerful red carpet, which introduced the director responsible for the evening’s feature presentation, Paresh Mokashi, and shined the interview lights on personal favorite director/actor/writer and producer Rajat Kapoor. You will have a chance to watch AVS’ own Jitin Hingorani chat with these two personalities, as well as Saurabh Shukla, ‘Kavi’ filmmaker Gregg Helvey and many, many more on this weekend’s edition of AVS TV.
Rajat Kapoor had not one but two films in the festival — ‘Fatso’, his funny, yet truly poignant, at times sad and always romantic directorial effort and ‘Raat Gayi, Baat Gayi?’ directed by Saurabh Shukla and starring a dashing Kapoor in a role that will leave you re-evaluating the meaning of true love… The film, produced and co-written by Kapoor, took home the Audience Choice Award for Favorite Feature which is, in my view, the only vote that counts. The kind and unbelievably humble Saurabh Shukla accepted the award by saying “The biggest award for me is that I got to see my film with an audience”. I personally believe that making films is about satisfying that audience, allowing them to walk away from the picture inspired and fulfilled by what they saw on the screen. The audience of the jam-packed SVA theater witnessing the World Premiere of ‘Raat Gayi, Baat Gayi?’ on Monday evening obviously felt like their lives had been changed by their viewing experience. I certainly did.
Other awards included Audience Choice for Favorite Short, which went to Gregg Helvey and his film on modern slavery in India ‘Kavi’. The award was presented by Anadil Hossain. Audience Choice for Favorite Documentary went to ‘Made in Pakistan’ and was accepted by the film’s co-producer Ayesha Khan. The film was recently shown to a sold-out audience at the Mumbai Film Festival, which is quite a step in the right direction towards the mutual understanding India and Pakistan must achieve in order to bring the semblance of peace to their interaction. Producer Amelia Hanibelsz presented the Award for Best Documentary to‘Project Kashmir’ while writer Grady Hendrix awarded the Best Narrative Short prize to ‘Boond’.
The Best Music Award went to ‘The Last Thakur’ and Samrat Chakrabarti awarded the Best Acting Performance prize to Suniel Shetty for his role in‘Red Alert: The War Within’. Note to self, must watch the film as I never thought of Shetty as an award-worthy actor, but do admire him as a hunk…
The most — in terms of numbers — awards went to Anjali Menon’s directorial debut‘Manjadikuru’ AKA ‘Lucky Red Seeds’ which took home the Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Narrative Feature - Jury Award - and Best Emerging Talent award - this for the young Vyjayanthi. A film to add to the must-watch list also, I guess…
All in all, everyone present at SAIFF was a winner. From festival founder and director Shilen Amin, who managed great attendances and wonderful world premieres at this year’s edition, to the filmmakers who presented their latest and greatest, to the audiences, who were privy to some fantastic films and got a chance to rub elbows with a few true Indian cinema superstars. If you missed SAIFF this year, don’t worry. There are plenty of great films coming up in the next few weeks, so stay tuned to AVS for all that. And, the South Asian International Film Festival will be back next year, same time, same place, for more fab films and stellar appearances.