India is having something of a moment these days. Ever since a little-known movie called Slumdog Millionaire exceeded everyone’s expectations by walking away with an Oscar for best picture, all things Indian have been spotted all over, from home decor all the way to music (cue hottie Jay Sean).
In the meantime, the organizers of the Indian Film Festival Los Angeles (IFFLA) have quietly been putting on what is arguably the largest showcase of Indian films on the West Coast. This year’s festival, held at Hollywood’s ArcLight Cinemas as always, includes an eclectic mix of films from Indian and Indian American filmmakers, with participation from other cultures in between.
Opening night celebrations kick off tonight with a screening of Dilip Mehta’s Cooking with Stella, starring the gorgeous Lisa Ray (really, is there such a thing as an Indian woman who isn’t heart-stoppingly stunning?), who will be in attendance with the director. Ray plays Maya, a Canadian diplomat who is posted to New Delhi, where she and her husband Michael meet their house cook, Stella. Stella is stunned to learn that Michael, a chef, will be home while his wife goes off to work, and hatches a devious plan when Michael asks Stella to be his cooking guru.
Closing night festivities feature a screening of The Waiting City, starring Radha Mitchell (who also co-produced). Mitchell also sits on the feature jury for IFFLA. The story revolves around an Australian couple struggling to save their troubled marriage during a trip to Kolkata to adopt a child.
In between, don’t miss a screening of romantic Bollywood blockbuster My Name is Khan, starring Indian heartthrob Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol (who’ve been heating up the Indian gossip columns). Khan plays a man struggling with Asperger’s Syndrome, who sets off on a journey to America to set things right with the woman he loves, only to be accused of being a terrorist.
Another must watch is Dev Benegal’s Road, Movie, which is what I suspect Cinema Paradiso would look like as a road movie. Stunning cinematography combines with a touching, sweet coming-of-age story here as an unlikely band of travelers take to the Rajasthani desert with a traveling cinema on the way to a city by the sea.
Photos courtesy IFFLA.
Details 8th Annual Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, April 20-25, ArcLight Cinemas Hollywood. Opening Night Gala, 7:30 p.m., April 20.