LIFF will be Great in 2008!

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The 52nd British Film Institute London International Film Festival is set to be a stunner — and this year it carries an Indian theme as one of its strands. The showpiece of the Festival, however, will be the new Bond movie, Quantum of Solace with Daniel Craig. Other key movies worth watching out for include David Cronenburg’s Eastern Promises about a Russian mafia family operating out of the East End of London; Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited in which Irfan Khan and Amara Karan pop up in supporting roles; Ang Lee’s staggering edifice Lust, Caution with it’s beautiful costumes and set pieces; Oliver Stone’s W about the outgoing president and Nick Broomfield’s Battle of Haditha presents a pair that should really be seen together. For a bit of light-hearted relied, there’s Stephen Elliott’s Easy Virtue, a visually stunning cocktail of a Noel Coward play. Other movies that this reviewer will be queuing up for include Michael Winterbottom’s critical analysis of Italian policing in Genova, Steven Sodergergh’s Che and Woody Allen’s latest Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

But it’s the Indian theme this year that is attracting a lot of press attention, demonstrating the slowly increasing influence of the sub-continent on the structure, creativity and finance of the industry. Ketan Mehta’s Colours of Passion — Rang Rasiya is a good appetizer. Based on the life of artist Raja Ravi Verma, it stars Randeep Hooda and the increasingly significant Nandana Sen as his muse.

Nandita Das’ first directorial venture Firaaq makes an appearance following its success at the Toronto Festival. Set against the Gujurat communal riots, this is a gripping event with stunning performances from Tisca Chopra and Shahana Goswami. The theme could have been overwhelmingly depressing in the wrong hands, but Nandita is able to humanize the events by crystallizing them around a selection of individual stories. It leaves the viewer with a feeling of hope for the future.

Nandita also stars as an actress in Pakistan’s Ramchand Pakistani, the story of a boy who drifts across the border during the time of partition and ends up spending five years in prison whilst his mother goes frantic not knowing what’s happened to him. The film features a stand-out performance from Fazal Hussain as Ramchand and also includes first-class Pakistani actress Maria Wasti.

Atul Sabharwal’s Midnight Lost and Found with Deepak Dobriyal and the lovely Geetika Tyagi. This is a short movie, a winner at the Los Angeles International Film Festival, about a comic book loving pharmacist in Mumbai and the redemption he finds in his friendship with a prostitute.

Quick Gun Murugan looks like a fun highlight of the Festival. It’s an outrageously creative comic western with attitude that takes in an epic battle of vegetarianism vs. non-vegetarianism, time-and-space, heaven-and-hell (well, Mumbai anyway) and some wonderful songs — of course. Based on the hit TV series, it stars Dr. Rajendra Prasad as Quick Gun and the gorgeous Rambha as Mango Dolly. Ranvir Shorey makes a guest appearance. Don’t miss this one!

Santosh Sivan’s Tahaan — A Boy With A Grenade is gripping from start to finish. Purav Bhandare is extraordinary in this movie about a Kashmiri boy who will stop at nothing to get his donkey back. The synopsis doesn’t sound very promising but in Santosh Sivan’s hands, it has become a magical spell that will touch your heart in a way that it has been rarely touched before. Anupam Kher and Rahul Bose also submit first-rate performances.

Shyam Benegal’s Welcome to Sajjanpur apparently shows some startling chemistry between Shreyas Talpade and Amrita Rao! Amrita has put everything into making this movie, including darkening down her skin tone to village girl levels and learning pottery! Insiders say that this movie deserves to be a big hit!!

The Festival ends with a British movie — but one that has a strikingly Indian tone — Danny Boyle’s new opus Slumdog Millionaire. It stars British actor Dev Patel and Indian soon-to-be-a-superstar Freida Pinto. It’s a film about love, game shows, Mumbai, brothers, gangsters, and well… just about everything and told at such a pace that you can’t help wondering if Danny was on amphetamines whilst making it. Anil Kapoor also pops up in the movie. It won the People’s Choice Award at the recent Toronto International Film Festival. Don’t miss this one either !!

Set to be the biggest and most popular London International Film Festival ever, the only problem’s going to be with having to see so many movies in just 15 days, when will I get a chance to sleep?

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