By Smita Sarkar
From The London Indian Film Festival
The announcement of awards and the screenings of the winning film of the Satyajit Ray’s Short Film Award, Mochi, and Ketan Mehta’s Toba Tek Singh were the highlights of the evening.
The ICON Awards for outstanding contribution to world cinema went to Sharmila Tagore and Shekhar Kapur.
Satyajit Ray Short Film Award went to Mochi by Saqib Pandor.
LIFF Audience Award went to Song of Lahore by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and Andy Schocken.
“The festival has had a special focus on women and cinema this year with seven films by women directors. I am happy to receive the ICON award and have enjoyed doing the master class at this rapidly growing event,” said Sharmila Tagore in a statement.
The short film jury awarded the Satyajit Ray Short film award, carrying a cash prize of £1000.
Chair of the jury, Satwant Gill, said: “This multilayered film, evocative and striking, manages to inject real suspense in a short timespan. The drama stays with you long after it has finished, and heralds in a talented new filmmaker.”
A special commendation went to Debanjan Nandy for his emotional, warm and haunting animation Chhaya.
The director of The Bagri Foundation London Indian Film Festival, Cary Sawhney stated: “Our awards aim to highlight just some of the many achievements of filmmakers and actors from South Asia, who may otherwise go unsung by the broader world film community.”
The evening also showcased Ketan Mehta’s movie Toba Tek Singh as a part of the Zeal for Unity peace initiative by Zee – aiming to bring together nations in conflict through films, music and television.
Acclaimed filmmakers from India and Pakistan came together to showcase their work on a single platform and facilitate an apolitical exchange environment to strive for peace and harmony. The mantra was ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ that means ‘The World is my Family.’
Toba Tek Singh is based on Manto’s story, with Pankaj Kapur as Bishen Singh. He plays a Sikh inmate of a mental asylum camp who has not slept for fifteen years. He is harmless and always asks “Where is Toba Tek Singh” – the name of his village.
With the partition of India and Pakistan, the institution is made to give up their Hindu and Sikh inmates to India. Bishan Singh is marched to the new border but refuses to leave Pakistan when he asks “Where is Toba Tek Singh” and an official answers “in Pakistan.” He succumbs to the trauma of being deported and dies in the new border.
The film talks about the insanity and absurdity of the divide where people got divided for no fault of theirs. “It is a story of human condition,” said Ketan Mehta. “The second generation is not aware of the bitterness of the divide, so why carry it forward? Why do we not reconnect?”
Hopefully people will get to watch this film to make a difference. While most people in the film circles are educated and tolerant – preaching to the converted will not make sense. We need to showcase it to people who are responsible for the fiction and that would be possible when the film finds a distributor.
The London Indian Film Festival, described as Europe’s largest Asian film event, is branching out to Birmingham this year. Cinemas and venues across the city will be hosting film premieres alongside screenings of specially-selected work from a number of acclaimed directors and producers from South Asia.
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