Sreelekha Mitra has won the Best Actress award for ‘Once Upon a Time in Calcutta’, amid top honours at this year’s New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF) that celebrated India’s cinematic traditions as the country enters its 75th year of its Independence.
The other films that won accolades were a documentary on hockey Olympian Grahnandan Singh, a film that explores a young woman’s complex relationship with her father and a documentary about young girls standing up against child marriage and learn football earned.
About 60 films, features, and documentaries were showcased at the 2022 New York Indian Film Festival, considered North America’s oldest and most prestigious festival that ran from May 7-14 and featured cinema from India and the Indian Diaspora.
Presented virtually for the third year in a row, the festival, presented by the Indo-American Arts Council (IAAC), featured 60 screenings including 18 feature narratives, six documentaries, and 36 short films.
The festival closed Saturday with the documentary ‘The Beatles and India: An Enduring Love Affair’, directed by Ajoy Bose and Peter Compton.
The NYIFF 2022 winners included ‘Shoebox’, adjudged Best Film, Aditya Vikram Sengupta won the Best Director award for ‘Once Upon a Time in Calcutta’, Best Screenplay award went to ‘Powai’, Jitendra Joshi won the Best Actor award for ‘Godavari’, and Sreelekha Mitra won the Best Actress award for ‘Once Upon a Time in Calcutta’. The Best Child Actor(s) award went to Reyaan Shah and Hirnaya Zinzuwadia for ‘Gandhi & Co’.
The documentary ‘Taangh/Longing’ directed by Bani Singh, chronicling the story of her father, the Olympian Grahanandan Singh who had won two gold medals in hockey in 1948 and 1952, won the award for Best Documentary (Feature), while the Best Short (Documentary) award went to ‘Kicking Balls’.
The documentary, set in three small villages in Rajasthan, details the work of a non-profit organisation that trains teenage girls, almost all of them child brides, in football.
The Best Short (Narrative) award went to ‘Succulent’.
Consul General of India in New York Randhir Jaiswal presented the awards to the festival’s winners.
IAAC chairman Dr Nirmal Mattoo said at the closing night that the festival presents India’s contribution to the world of art and literature. As India marks 75 years of its independence this year, Mattoo said “India as a country has long, literary and artistic traditions and there is an abundance of creative and scientific literature.”
IAAC executive director Suman Gollamudi said this year the festival the diversity of the Indian culture and showcase the country’s celebrated cinematic traditions.
As the country is marking the ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’, NYIFF will celebrate the country’s acclaimed cinematic traditions in 13 languages.
NYIFF Festival director Aseem Chhabra expressed hope that after being presented in virtual editions for the last three years due to the pandemic, the festival will return in an in-person avatar next year.
“We aim to truly underscore the NYIFF commitment to diversity and cultural representation in film,” he said. He said that this year, the festival featured films in 13 languages spoken in India: Assamese, Bengali, English, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu, and Urdu.
Chhabra added that NYIFF’s mission is to provide filmmakers, actors and industry professionals a platform to show their work, create a culture where filmmakers can exchange ideas with diverse audiences, journalists, and aficionados.
The closing night also featured a conversation moderated by Chhabra with Bose and producer Reynold D’Silva about their documentary on the time the iconic band the Beatles spent in India.
Through rare archival footage, photographs, eye-witness accounts and expert comments along with location shoots across India, the documentary bring “alive the fascinating journey of George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr from their high octane celebrity lives in the West to a remote Himalayan ashram in search of spiritual bliss that inspires an unprecedented burst of creative songwriting.” PTI