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NY Indian American Film Festival Triumphant in 13th Year

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The New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF) announced the winners of its competition categories at a ceremony at NYU's Skirball Center last week, in the final event for the monumental festival. I was delighted to attend for the fourth year - a relative latecomer to this well-established cultural smorgasbord. The winners were chosen from eighteen narrative, ten documentaries (feature length or shorter), and eight shorts from the Indian subcontinent and its diaspora.

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Closing Night presenters and filmmakers. Photo: nydreams.com (Fahim Feroj).

Top honors were awarded to Anumati directed by Gajendra Ahire, for Best Feature Film as well as Best Actor in a Feature Film for Vikram Gokhale's impressive turn as a desperate husband, Ratnakar, on a mission to save his dying wife. The award for Best Feature Film was jointly presented by Consul General of India, Ambassador Mulay, and Ambassador Manjeev Puri. Top Chef judge Padma Lakshmi presented the Best Actor award.

Director Hansal Mehta took home the Best Director of a Feature Film award for his compelling film Shahid, which traces the true story of slain human rights activist lawyer Shahid Azmi. The director, in addition to receiving an award, presented an award that night alongside Farooque Sheikh, to the Best Young Actor in a Feature Film. Suraj Negi was honored for his role as the titular character in Hansa.

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Vikram Gokhale's won Best Actor for his role as desperate husband on mission to save his dying wife in "Anumati" that also won Best Feature Film. Photo: NYIFF.

Deepti Naval was also honored in her role as Leela Krishnamoorthy, a middle aged widow, in filmmaker Avinash Kumar Singh's debut Listen Amaya. This film reunited Farooque Sheikh and Deepti Naval as a romantic screen pair after over two decades. The award was fittingly presented by renowned actor Aasif Mandvi and beloved actress Sarita Choudhury.

Respected Malayalam cinema filmmaker/writer Dr. Biju was awarded for Best Screenplay by presenter Monica Dogra for his vision in Kashathinte Niram (Color of Sky), and the Best Documentary award went to The Only Real Game, directed by Mirra Bank, with the award presented by Sujata Thakur of the organization 'Incredible India!'

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Suraj Negi was honored as Best Young Actor for his role as the titular character
in "Hansa." Photo: NYIFF.

Best Short Film went to Khaana, one of my favorites, directed by Cary Sawhney. The award was presented by House of Cards actress Sakina Jaffrey.

This year the Festival also had an award for the one-minute cell phone Bollywood short film. Created under the supervision of professor Karl Bardosh, NYU students were tasked with creating Music Videos to popular Bollywood sound tracks, culminating in an impressive batch of viral mobile films, all in consideration for the esteemed award. Over the years this has been one of my favorite festival features. Student Yi Su won for his one-minute Gangnam/Bollywood mashup.

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Filmmaker/writer Dr. Biju was awarded Best Screenplay "Color of Sky." Photo: NYIFF.

The jurors - challenged to select the award recipients for each category were comprised of today's most revered filmmakers, scholars, and industry leaders - including La Frances Hui, Claus Mueller, Muriel (Mike) Peters, Zenobia Shroff, Parag Amladi, Ashish Avikunthak, Tejaswini Ganti, Udayan Gupta, Joseph Mathew, Myrna Moncayo-Iyengar, Jaideep Punjabi, and Nilita Vachani. The voting process was audited by KPMG.

The star-studded after-party, which included presenters, winners, jurors, and guests, followed the awards ceremony and reminded me that NYIFF social events are always as good as its provocative films.

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Amrit Singh addressing the press conference about his film Dosa Hunt.

Photo: Gunjesh / masalajunction.com.

And the winners for the New York Indian Film Festival 2013 were:

Best Feature Film (Narrative). Anumati, directed by Gajendra Ahire. The award was jointly presented by Consul General of India, Ambassador Mulay and Ambassador Manjeev Puri.

Best Director of a Feature Film (Narrative). Hansal Mehta for Shahid. The award was presented to the director by Feroz Khan and Avinash Kumar Singh.

Best Actor in a Feature Film. Vikram Gokhale as Ratnakar in Anumati, winner of Best Feature Film, directed by Gajendra Ahire. The award was presented by Padma Lakshmi.

Best Actress in a Feature Film. Deepti Naval as Leela Krishnamoorthy, a middle aged widow, in debut filmmaker Avinash Kumar Singh's Listen Amaya. This award was presented by actor Aasif Mandvi & actress Sarita Choudhury.

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School children running on the country road in "Oonga." Photo: NYIFF.

Best Young Actor In A Feature Film. Suraj Negi in Hansa. The award was presented by Hansal Mehta and Farooque Sheikh.

Best Screenplay. Dr. Biju for Kashathinte Niram (Color of Sky). The award was presented by Monica Dogra.

Best Documentary Film. The Only Real Game, directed by Mirra Bank. The award was presented by Sujata Thakur, Incredible India.

Best Short Film. Khaana, directed by Cary Sawhney. The award was presented by Sakina Jaffrey.

Best One Minute Cell Phone Film. Bollywood Style directed by Yi Su. The award was presented by Professor Karl Bardosh.

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Aroon Shivdasani, Indo-American Arts Council, with fashion mogul Amrita Singh. Photo: Raju Sethi.

I spoke to my friend Aroon Shivdasani, founder and director of the Indo-American Arts Council, who told me:

NYIFF 2013 was, once again, a roaring success - engaged audiences, amazing films, exciting discussions, lively parties. Each year our reach is wider, our reputation brighter and the public begging for more screenings of our films. This year was extra special because we celebrated 100 Years of Indian Cinema with three newly restored films as well as films that spoke of the history of Indian Cinema and music in Indian films.

Mira Nair's The Reluctant Fundamentalist was screened at the opening of festival, a film that's trailer alone moved me enormously. My colleague Meera Gandhi, CEO and Founder of the Giving Back Foundation, attended the screening and enthused, "I thought the film was very well done and authentic! Mira is sheer talent and genius!"

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Opening Night with NYIFF's film festival director Aseem Chhabra.

Photo: Shhivika Chauhan.

I chatted with another friend, Dr. Richard Allen of NYU Film School who told me:

Another wonderful festival culminating in Filmistaan, one of the best Indian films of the year. But I was particularly delighted to see new prints of two rarely seen classics of Indian Cinema: Garm Hawa with the last and unforgettable performance of the legendary Balraj Shani; and Kalpana, Uday Shankar's experimental dance-film masterpiece recently restored by Martin Scorcese's World Film Foundation.

The New York Indian Film Festival is the oldest, most prestigious Indian film festival in the U.S. It is dedicated to showcasing, promoting and building an awareness of Independent, art house, alternate, and diaspora films from/about/connected to the Indian subcontinent, including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, and Afghanistan.

The Festival's mission is to encourage filmmakers to tell their stories and to educate Americans about them. Every year, NYIFF boasts five days of premiere screenings of feature, documentary and short films, industry panels, special events, retrospectives, red carpet galas, an award ceremony, packed audiences and amazing media coverage.

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The Indian film "Jadoo" was a hit. Photo: NYIFF.

The Indo-American Arts Council (IACC) under the leadership of thought leader and global citizen Aroon Shivdasani is a non-profit, secular service and resource arts organization charged with the mission of promoting and building the awareness, creation, production, exhibition, publication and performance of Indian and cross-cultural art forms in North America. I am one of IACC's biggest fans.

IAAC supports all artistic disciplines in the classical, fusion, folk and innovative forms influenced by the arts of India. They work cooperatively with colleagues around the U.S. to broaden their collective audiences and to create a network for shared information, resources and funding. Its focus is to work with artists and arts organizations in North America as well as to facilitate artists and arts organizations from India to exhibit, perform and produce their works here.

In short, the Indo-American Arts Council builds bridges for better understanding of diversity and culture that promotes peace. That is why it is so important.

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Indo-American Arts Council | New York Indian Film Festival | Facebook

See Stories by Jim Luce on:

Film | India & Indian-American Culture | New York

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