LIFF 2014 celebrates Independent Cinema

DESIblitz takes you through some of the best independent films of the 2014 London Indian Film Festival, including Hank and Asha, Barefoot to Goa and An American in Madras – all showcasing the great variety of independent cinema.

Barefoot to Goa

They have been selected as exceptional, unconventional films.

The London Indian Film Festival (LIFF) has yet again delivered innovative and creative Indian independent films to cinemas across London.

From award-winning directors, and extraordinarily talented actors, they have been selected as exceptional, unconventional films that British Asian audiences can enjoy.

Three films, Hank and Asha, Barefoot to Goa and An American in Madras, were highlights.

Hank and Asha

  • Director: James E Duff
  • Cast: Mahira Kakkar and Andrew Pastides
  • Synopsis: Asha, an Indian student studying in Prague, and Hank, a New York filmmaker, are bound by technology, separated by time zones and have never met face-to-face. However, this does not limit their growing friendship and budding infatuation which develops through a video correspondence.

Hank and Asha
Hank and Asha would theoretically be a difficult film to pull off. How can an audience feel connected to a chemistry of two culturally and geographically distant people that seldom communicate by video correspondence?

Nonetheless, writer and director duo, James E Duff and Julia Morrison, manage to captivate the audience and keep them involved.

The audience remain at the centre of the relationship between Hank and Asha. They gather a snapshot of their daily lives, dreams and experiences through their video correspondence.

The performances by the lead pair are commendable. They act so naturally and create that important emotional connection between them and the audience.

Writer Julia mentions that her experiences created the story of Hank and Asha: “When my husband and I were in Prague, we met an Indian friend who used to communicate with his wife through video correspondence.

“When he showed us these videos, we felt like we were placed in the middle of their love story and we wanted the audience to feel in the same way in our film.”

Julia believes that despite being in the world of instant messaging, video correspondence, has ‘more magic’: “People think about how they present themselves and want to present an idealized version of themselves and there is also the anticipation for the other person to reply.”

Barefoot to Goa

  • Director: Praveen Morchhale
  • Cast: Purva Parag, Farrukh Jaffar, Ajay Chourey, Saara Nahar
  • Synopsis: Two school children decide to visit their ailing grandmother in Goa without the knowledge of their parents. The majority of the movie focuses on the journey that the siblings embark on from Mumbai to Goa.

Barefoot to Goa

Barefoot to Goa is a realistic take on modern India. An India where there is space for a full time maid in a home but not an ailing grandmother.

An India where the elderly can be neglected and left to care for themselves. An India where grandchildren can understand the emotions of their grandparents better than their parents can.

The concept of children embarking on an unknown journey is not new. However, what is new is the purpose of their journey-to bring their grandmother home.

It is a journey that the audience want the children to complete because the audience can sympathise with the grandmother is longing to see her grandchildren. Barefoot to Goa is so magical because the audience can understand the grandmother’s loneliness despite her saying a word.

The film subtly deals with a myriad of themes affecting modern India. From urbanisation to the loss of family ties to life in rural India, Barefoot to Goa covers it all.

Praveen Morchhale exposes the impact of urbanised cities; Indian housewives going to a beauty parlour as a stress buster and how the children do not even realise when their father has left to go on a business trip.

An American in Madras

  • Director: Karan Bali
  • Synopsis: A documentary that traces American-born filmmaker Ellis R. Dungan’s contribution in the Tamil Film industry based in South India.

An American in Madras

An American in Madras is not just an educational documentary. It conveys the emotional journey through which Tamil cinema and Dungan went through.

Tamil cinema is introduced to modern make-up, mobile cameras and intimate love scenes through Dungan, whilst Dungan gains so much respect from an industry he previously had no ties with.

The subtitling work is commendable. One would not usually take notice of subtitles in a film, but when you are dealing with Tamil films released in the 30s and 50s, subtitles are paramount for an English speaking audience.

When Karan Bali was asked about his inspiration for the film, he replied: “I had a lot of interest in the classic era of Indian cinema. I came across Dungan’s work in 2004 but only later I saw a film in it. There were a lot of challenges when making this film.

“India does not have a good record of archiving as 70-80 per cent of films made before 1950 have been lost and 3 of Dungan’s films had not been released. However, Dungan had actually archived his life himself. The archive that was in America had provided me with enough content to make the film.”

These three films that LIFF has showcased this year convey the diversity that independent cinema has to offer; from different themes, genres and languages.

The London Indian Film Festival offers an essential insight into the array of Indian films that exist outside of mainstream cinema, and all its films are a joy to watch.

Sonika is a full-time medical student, Bollywood enthusiast and lover of life. Her passions are dancing, travelling, radio presenting, writing, fashion and socialising! “Life isn’t measured by the number of breaths taken but by moments that take our breath away.”

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