by E. Nina Rothe
So the red carpet has been rolled up, the gowns have been stored away and the volunteers have gone back to their regular jobs, but the Engendered I-View Film festival heart still beats excitedly in my chest! What a wonderful event this was and what an unprecedented opportunity to spend time with the Whos Who of the Indian film industry, up close and personal! I mean, where else could you chat up the ever gracious Farhan Akhtar, exchange ideas with the hilariously deadpan Boman Irani, have ‘Tea with Tarun’ - BTW, don’t miss this exciting “two on two” featuring ‘Dostana’ filmmaker Tarun Mansukhani and John Abraham later this week on AVS TV - other than if you travel to Bombay and happen to talk your way into a celebrity wedding or club opening perhaps?! This festival was a resounding success and a film lover’s dream come true.
Starting on Friday evening, when I first arrived at Lincoln Center’s Rose Hall, I was immediately impressed by the intensity of media coverage. The cameras rolled and the photographers flashed in preparation of the multiple Superstar arrivals. They were not disappointed, when one by one the parade of those celestial bodies in the Indian film firmament began arriving, stopping for photos wearing their fineries, speaking about their latest projects into tiny little digital recording devices and announcing their involvement in the festival to cameras gleaming across them. I won’t bore you with too many of those details as you’ll have a chance to see for yourself on this week’s show, of course.
For me, some of the highlights of that evening were Farhan and Zoya Akhtar - at I-View to accompany Zoya’s directorial debut feature ‘Luck By Chance’ - Ram Madhvani the director of ‘Lets Talk’, Boman Irani who served double duty as the star of Madhvani’s film and for his flamboyant role in ‘Dostana’ and filmmaker Tarun Mansukhani. What, “No John Abraham?” you ask. Yes, yes, he’s a hunk, he’s fantastically hot, even more so in person if you can imagine that to be possible… But mine is the thinking woman’s taste and I like to believe I am beyond melting in front of perfect masculine beauty. Wait, what was I just writing about? I seem to have lost my train of thought…
Oh, yes I-View. Now back to more serious business, like what everyone was wearing on the red carpet. Reshma Shetty from the TV show ‘Royal Pains’ arrived wearing a beautiful olive green silk gown and dark crystal pendant, while boyfriend Deep Katdare - you know, the antihero we loved to hate in Broadway’s ‘Bombay Dream’?! - looked dashing in a grey suit.
Farhan Akhtar wore the quintessential black suit and tie elegantly, with a crisp white shirt and modern hair, while Zoya - who once told me she doesn’t buy “the idea of everyone being ‘Pretty in Prada’” - wore a knee-length, flared striped skirt - a must-have for Fall - with an ecru shantung shirt, belted at the waist and accessorized by her gorgeous hair. Mira Nair was Indo-chic in her black with red details silk churidad suit, while Boman Irani sported a black suit with grey shirt and patterned black tone-on-tone silk tie, for a contrasting yet sophisticatedly manly look.
Both John Abraham and ‘Dostana’ writer/director Tarun Mansukhani walked in wearing grey suits, but while John’s was shiny and worn with a strategically unbuttoned light blue shirt, Mansukhani wore his with a crisp black shirt, which made the look very NYC. And finally Ram Madhvani wore a Nehru-collared black jacket which was the epitome of Desi elegance.
The three-day event also included some amazing shorts and documentaries, such as ‘Beauty Parlor’ from talented filmmaker Mehreen Jabbar who has also made the touching ‘Ramchand Pakistani’ featuring Nandita Das; ‘A Jihad For Love’ by Parvesh Sharma, a film pointing to the discrepancies of an ancient religion in a modern, multi-sexual world; and the documentary ‘The Third Gender’, about the inner conflicts and overt discrimination faced by the Hijras of India.
Among some of the greatest moments of the festival were the early Saturday morning showing of ‘Dostana‘ - attended by John Abraham, Tarun Mansukhani and Boman Irani, who entertained their audience with an in-depth Q & A after the film - the NYC screening of ‘Lets Talk‘ followed by a conversation between director Ram Madhvani and Irani and the closing night selection ‘Luck By Chance‘ at Asia Society which was attended by all involved in the festival and brought the event to a bittersweet end… Sweet, because the film touches such a deep personal chord and the Akhtar brother/sister team truly give a face to concepts such as mutual respect and humble super-talents. Bitter, because the event marked the closing of a festival that crossed lines, removed barriers and created a forum for further discussions, all in the name of basic human rights.
In the words of Tarun Mansukhani “There comes a time when you just want to push the envelope, you don’t want to tear it.” I-View gently nudged those who attended the event - as well as all who will read about it or catch coverage of the festival on TV - to reconsider their own views on life, love and what we call ‘normal’. For that, it will always fill a special place in my heart…