Special Report: The Chicago South Asian Film Festival

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As the Bollywood presence continues to establish itself in the US, the city of Chicago continues to show itself as one of the strongest influences of promoting South Asian content. The Chicago South Asian Film Festival premiered last year, and 2011 has already brought us the first ever Chicago Global Runway, which was a fashion experience with a very strong South Asian influence.

The Chicago South Asian Film Festival took place this year over the weekend of September 30 to October 2nd. Just as it had been done the year before, on the opening night there was a Red Carpet ceremony followed by a feature film, and a drinks and appetizer gala immediately after.

For the second straight year, the venue of choice was the Chicago Cultural Center in the heart of Chicago. This year there were some last minute cancellations by some of the bigger names that were supposed to be in attendance, and yet I noted that the audience was notably more crowded than last year, proving that the aggressive marketing done by the promoters is working and the event as a whole is growing.

After the Red Carpet was finished, everyone was directed into the theater room where Rang Rasiya was screened. Rang Rasiya is based on the trials and tribulations of 19th century Indian painter Raja Ravi Varma. The movie itself was a solid film, with above average cinematography, however in discussions with folks after the movie was over, we agreed that the film ran a bit long. The subject of the movie was quite interesting however, and I applaud someone wanting to tell the Raja Ravi Varma story, because otherwise many may not be aware of just how interesting of an individual he was.

The next day, CSAFF took the party over to Columbia College. In the morning, a panel discussion was led by Sachin Bhatia of the famed CurrySmugglers. During the discussion, Sachin interviewed Suzy Singh (Master Chef), Nandana Sen (Rang Rasiya), and Manav Dhanda (Hum Desi). The main points of discussion were the gradual increase of South Asian presence on modern day media, and what it would take to keep progressing in a positive light. While some responses seemed a bit, planned and rehearsed, the panel overall provided some worthy points to a full audience.

After the panel discussion was over, I wandered into what turned out to be the highlight of the weekend, for me at least. I settled down in the theater again, and spent the late afternoon watching Stanley Ka Dabba (you can read Bollyspice’s interview with the director here) As someone who is a frequent movie watcher (I watch dozens on a monthly basis), this was one of my favorite films of the entire year. I reiterate, GO WATCH THIS FILM! I don’t want to spoil much in this article, but it has the perfect blend of humor and story. By the time the credits came up, there was not a dry eye in the house.

The star power was obviously lacking from last year’s Chicago South Asian Film Festival, however after speaking to some of the coordinators of the show, their plan is to simply keep growing from year to year. Judging simply by the eye test, they succeeded in doing just that in Year 2.

Actress Nandana Sen – Photo Credit: Rahul Rana

Actress Nandana Sen – Photo Credit: Agnel Antony

Alderman Ameya Pawar – Photo Credit: Rahul Rana

CSAFF Gala – Photo Credit: Agnel Antony

CSAFF Team (L to R) Parveen Usman, Margi Patel, Kant Desai, Raza Siddiqi, Ketki Parikh, Kaivan Dave, Shalini Trivedi, Amit Rana, Mileen Patel, Suhani Amin – Photo Credit: Rahul Rana

CSAFF Team (L to R) Shalini Tridevi, Mileen Patel, Kant Desai, Margi Patel, Amit Rana, Ketki Parikh, Kaivan Dave, Suhani Amin, Parveen Usman – Photo Credit: Rahul Rana

I Am Kalam Director Nila Madhab Panda – Photo Credit: Agnel Antony

Opening night Outside the Theater- Photo Credit: Ram Karamchandani

Panjak Johar Director_ Producer – Photo Credit: Rahul Rana

QandA for I Am Kalam with Director Nila Madhab Panda – Photo Credit: Agnel Antony

QandA for I Am with Director Sonali Gulati – Photo Credit: Rahul Rana

Rich Moskal (Director of Chicago Film Office) – Photo Credit: Agnel Antony

Sold out showing of Rang Rasiya- Photo Credit: Rahul Rana

Talavya Concert- Photo Credit: Agnel Antony

Troublemaker Director Geeta Malik – Photo Credit: Agnel Antony

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