Indo-Canadian and Bollywood Celebrities Grace Toronto’s Mosaic International South Asian Film …

Posted on Sep 9 2016 - 9:31pm
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Indo-Canadian and Bollywood Celebrities Grace Toronto's Mosaic International South Asian Film ... lyrics, song mp3 download, family, wedding pictures, age, height, weight, biography

[Photo Credit: Facebook/Mosaic International South Asian Film Festival]

By Swati Sharan

The Mosaic International South Asian Film Festival (MISAFF) showcased a splendid array of films and talent between Aug 4-7 this year. Zee TV hosted its Indo-Pak peace initiative, Zeal for Unity, where 12 filmmakers from India and Pakistan have been brought together to make short films. As the greater Toronto area witnesses a surge in the population of South Asians in its quarters, this category of cinema is only going to grow larger.

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The diverse themes and choices of films, along with a great number of talented artists, stood united under the banner of cinema for the South Asian diaspora. The festival first opened with a gala premiere of the Rajkummar Rao and Manoj Bajpayee film, “Aligarh.” Rao’s mission and message were solid: “We’ll try and educate you and entertain you as well,” he said.

[Photo Credit: Facebook/Mosaic International South Asian Film Festival]

As the film  opened the film festival, Rao and “Aligarh” director Hansal Mehta were flooded with questions from the audience. The film is based on a true story about a gay professor being suspended from Aligarh Muslim University for his sexual preferences, even though homosexuality had been decriminalized at the time. The film opened to thunderous applause and a virtually full house. In it, Rao plays journalist Deepu Sebastian in the film. Sebastian is the one who continually followed the case and helped build momentum for it so Professor Siraj (Manoj Bajpayee) could get his job back. During the premiere, Rao mentioned how Sebastian was a vocal extension for Siraj because he was a very quiet person.

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What’s more, it’s a miracle the film was even made. Story researcher Ishani Banerjee emailed Mehta about this plot one night in a drunken stupor, with an offer to take it on. Mehta checked his junk email that day, found the email, and immediately called a hungover Banerjee, who was surprised by his interest. The irony of the film is that it was banned in Aligarh.

We got the opportunity to speak with Anu Menon, who was promoting her film “Waiting,” which she co-wrote and directed. It stars Naseeruddin Shah and Kalki Koechlin, and focuses on two people grieving for their spouses while waiting in the hospital’s critical care area. It is loosely based on her experiences of being in a similar situation when she lost her father.

anu menon
[Photo Credit: Facebook/Mosaic International South Asian Film Festival]

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So many questions arise from your film. Like when do we believe the doctor and at what point should we be accepting of the possibility of a loved one’s death? What are your personal thoughts about this? 

“I think I have presented both these views in the film. I believe there’s no right answer. I think the answer is to face your destiny whatever the destiny is. I think that needs courage sometimes. I think it’s about having the strength to face your destiny. And that’s what the two characters do in the film.”

As you went through a similar situation with your father in real life, did you see yourself as Tara (Kalki) or Shiv (Naseeruddin) or maybe someone in the middle? 

“I’m both. Most times when we write characters and you talk about characters who come from opposite ends, often those writers are somewhere in the middle. And you think, if I went all this way, how would it be?  I think I am more Tara than Shiv because I am a woman and I belong to that fast pace of life. A lot of things you actually think are important are not actually as important. So, I think generally my lifestyle and worldview would be closer to Tara. There are also certain things about Shiv’s character which I have taken from me and put it in there.”

Given that the festival emphasis is for South Asian filmmakers to collaborate more, it seems fitting to ask you the following question. How technically easy or hard is it to make these alliances? You’ve worked with Pakistani actor/singer in your previous film “London, Paris, New York” before.  

“I think if you’re a Pakistani, you can’t be in certain places. There are restrictions. It’s not a free flow. I guess there are restrictions for other countries too. If you’re a British citizen and you come here, you may face these issues, too. So if you get a Pakistani lead, there’s a bit of nervousness that you hope nothing goes wrong. We go through that cyclical thing which is, unfortunately, the relationship between India and Pakistan. But whatever the political situation, I think we in the industry have reached out to each other and always wanted to spend more time together.

Other than that, I think there are so many common things between us. We are the same people. If anything, I actually love the way they talk. I’m inherently charmed by the way they speak Hindi. Like in India, we have actors who speak Hindi but a lot of our actors are anglicized. They speak that old-world Hindi which is so beautiful.  That’s why they are fantastic actors. I just wish we could use more of their talent.”

As their film “On Again Off Again,” about a couple that keeps breaking up and getting back together, enjoyed a sold-out premiere at MISAFF, Arsalan Shirazi and Samantha Spatari shared their insights about their film.  

[Photo Credit: Facebook/Mosaic International South Asian Film Festival]

How does it feel to be here today?

“We are beyond excited. Just getting a chance to share our film at a festival like this is a big opportunity in itself. It promotes South Asian films of all stripes and is honestly a dream come true.”

In real life, do you believe people can keep breaking up with the same person and getting back together again?

Shirazi: “While we were working on our characters and bouncing off each other on the set, we realized there are so many factors influencing these decisions, including South Asian culture and identity. It’s a very common phenomenon. It really affects people and how they view their self-image.”

Spatari: “It’s a big universe and a lot of people go through these big emotions all the time. You get together with someone and love them and sometimes it doesn’t work out. That’s what I love about this film.”

Famous Pakistani television personality Marina Khan graced us with her wit and charms at the premiere of “Lala Begum,” her first Indo-Pak collaboration.   

marina khan
[Photo Credit: Facebook/Mosaic International South Asian Film Festival]

Many Indians know you best from “Dhoop Kinaare,” a great soul-binder at a time when things were not so accessible between India and Pakistan. How did that feel? 

“We found out about the popularity it got in India much later. It felt great. Anybody that would go to India and come back would tell me, ‘Do you know they know you in India?’ It felt wonderful that we were not just limited to our own nation.”

What was it like working on “Lala Begum”? 

“A lot of fun! ‘Lala Begum’ was actually a project that started out as something we wanted to do for television. That didn’t come about so we had a meeting about it a year before we shot it.”

There are many Indians in an older age group who prefer watching Zee Zindagi over the typical Indian saas-bahu serials. Do you know if there is any reason for why Pakistani TV shows have evolved that way? 

“The Pakistani TV industry evolved before India but when India took over, they just went leaps and bounds ahead of us. In fact, this is a question I’d like to ask Indians. What is it that they prefer about our dramas?

I’m currently working for a channel called Geo for the production side. We are constantly criticizing our own stuff. However, Indians are of the opinion that our content is strong and bold.

I think recently, Zee took this initiative to start airing our dramas. Before that, there were political restrictions and our shows couldn’t run on Indian networks. Geo recently did a co-venture with Zee called ‘Teri Meri Jodi,’ and I think they’re going to be airing it either this month or the next. We’ve already aired it in Pakistan.  am really looking forward to it and to see how well it is received in India.”   

Mehreen Jabbar is a Pakistani film director who is also part of Zee Tv‘s Peace Project, Zeal for Unity. She directed “Lala Begum,” starring Marina Khan and Sonia Rehman. 

mehreen jabbar
[Photo Credit: Facebook/Mosaic International South Asian Film Festival]

Can you tell us about the plot of this film?

“It is about two sisters who haven’t met in twenty years to face their unresolved issues. It was written before the Zeal for Unity project came about. I was going to do a short film with Marina and Sonia, who are two very fine actresses and good friends. Mohammed Ahmed, who has also been a collaborator, had written the script. When this opportunity came about, we thought the narrative of the film fits in perfectly with the theme of Zeal for Unity.”

How did you get involved with Zeal for Unity?

“Almost two years ago, the producer of our film Shailja got in touch with me and said they were planning this great project of getting filmmakers from both countries together.  She asked if I was interested, and I absolutely was. After a few months, they finalized the project and got in touch with me even as I was filming my TV show in Karachi. It was such a fantastic opportunity because I don’t think this has happened before.”

Had you done any Indo-Pak collaborations of this kind before?  

“Yes, I have. My first feature film was “Ramchand Pakistani.” It starred Nandita Das and the music was done by Debujit Mishra, so I spent a month in India for the music. It was shot in Pakistan but the editor was from India. The crew was from America and Pakistan. It was indeed a very collaborative effort. The film went to a ton of festivals in 2008.”

Were there any restrictions on where the actors could go or was there a fear of the border getting disturbed? 

“Those situations will remain until the relations are normalized between India and Pakistan. One just has to learn and adapt and work with it. Even when Nandita came, our film was shot very near the border of India and Pakistan in the desert. So the interior and defense industry were totally involved in it. They knew she was there but you had to take permission. So that sensitivity in both countries does exist whether it’s Indians working in Pakistan or Pakistanis working in India. You just learn to live with it and carry on.”

Varun Saranga, star of Canadian TV series “Schitt’s Creek,” is very well-known for his  role as AJ Mehta in the YTV show about an Indian  family called “How to be Indie.” His family originates from Chennai, Tamil Nadu but Saranga grew up in Scarborough. At MISAFF, he was awarded the National Bank Star ’16 for his contribution as a South Asian to the Canadian  television and film industry.  

varun saranga
[Photo Credit: Facebook/Mosaic International South Asian Film Festival]

How do you feel about getting the award?

“It came out of the blue. I am very grateful. As I came out of the Canadian Film Centre, I met MISAFF directors Arshad and Anya and they offered this award to me and I couldn’t say no.”

What do you feel about the South Asian TV and Film and scene in Canada? 

“It’s growing. There’s an increasing amount of films coming out each year, even if it’s by three or four films. As an example of a Canadian home-grown production, Deepa Mehta’s ‘Beeba Boyz’ did a good job. We are slowly making  waves. There’s a huge segment of South Asians in Canada who want to see themselves reflected on-screen.”

What do you feel about festivals like MISAFF? 

“It’s a good platform for both, South Asians who want to showcase their work and also for those who are fans of South Asian cinema. There are not many venues for exploring films made by our diaspora so this is a good way to do that.”

How did your show “How to be Indie” happen? 

“I was actually 18 then and was planning to attend New York University to study law when my brother told me about the audition for ‘How to Be Indie.’ I auditioned and four months later, I got the role. I had to play a 14-year-old!”

What is the message you would like to give South Asians trying to get a break in the Canadian TV and film industry? 

“Don’t give up now because things are changing a lot faster and for the better.”

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Indo-Canadian and Bollywood Celebrities Grace Toronto’s Mosaic International South Asian Film … was last modified: September 9th, 2016 by greendecker

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