By John Noonan

Entering its fourth year, 2016’s Indian Film Festival of Melbourne (IFFM) promises over 50 films in 17 languages from India and the sub-continent.

Festival Director, Mitu Bhowmick Lange, announced earlier this month that the theme of this year’s festival would be female empowerment, and looking through this year’s programme, you’ll see this highlighted in a number of events designed to celebrate ‘kickass, wonderful ladies in cinema and beyond.’

On Friday, August 12, an empowerment concert will be held at the Melbourne Recital Centre with Sara Haider, Suzanne D’Mello and Shamail Kholgade in attendance. Actress Richa Chadha will be in conversation to discuss Bollywood and Body Positivity; whilst film critic Rajeev Masand will be holding a roundtable on Wild Women in Cinema.

Before the official opening night tonight, IFFM kicked off with a Melbourne press conference presided over by Lange and the Minister for Creative Industries, Martin Foley. Also in attendance were the aforementioned Richa Chadha and Suzanne D’Mello. As well as filmmakers Shakun Batra (Kapoor and Sons) and Leena Yadav (Parched), Pakistani actor Fawad Khan, and Bollywood veteran Rishi Kapoor, who will be hoisting the Indian National Flag this weekend as part of IFFM’s Independence Day Weekend celebrations.

Much was made over the course of the morning regarding the unifying nature of film. Talking about his fellow actor and one-time co-star, Khan, Kapoor said, “…we only have one secular language; cinema.” Minister Foley emphasised the importance of these kind of events by highlighting how “…growing multicultural communities are entitled to see themselves reflected in our cultural lives; to see diversity on our screens.” Discussing the changing role of women in cinema, Shakoon Batra noted that “Often female actors’ parts are so weakly written. They’re just there as an objective for the male lead’s pursuit. Really solid strong female parts are what’s realistic.”

Leena Yadav’s Parched will have its Australian premiere tonight as part of the IFFM’s opening night. We called it ‘a confronting work’, whilst Lange was not shy in describing it as, “…easily one of the greatest films I’ve seen in a long time.” And the whole event will come to a close with Angry Indian Goddesses from director Pan Nalin, billed as one of India’s first all-out female buddy films.

More information about the event, the films showing and where you can buy tickets can be found by checking out the IFFM website. The festival runs from 11-21 August.



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