Indian Film Festival group presents UK premiere of Bengali drama Avijatrik

Shefali Saxena Wednesday 15th September 2021 02:56 EDT

London Indian Film Festival who have now announced a season of film screenings across four cities opening with the UK Premiere of the Bengali drama Avijatrick.  

The film festival has been going for over 12 years now and in that time has expanded to Birmingham for the last 6 years and went to Manchester for the first time earlier this year and now has expanded to Bradford.

The festival showcases independent films from independent directors and is well known for screening films that cover sensitive issues such as the recent documentary WOMB which received its UK premiere at its first festival in June. The Festival is the largest of its kind in the UK and Europe and always attracts Directors and Talent to its red carpet every year. 

Festival Director Cary Rajinder Sawhney received an MBE for his services to the industry and previous posts he has held include Programme Adviser South Asia to the BFI London Film Festival at the British Film Institute as Head of Diversity in the National Film Archive.

Asian Voice talks to Cary about his career and the upcoming Festival and what filmgoers can expect.


What according to you has been the biggest paradigm shift in the art and culture industry during the pandemic?

A big shift in this time of uncertainty is not being able to pre-guess audience tastes. This was typified by this June’s London Indian Film Festival where we expected audiences would come back to the cinema for new comedies. Instead, the films that sold out were our classic British Asian films like My Beautiful Laundrette which reminded audiences of good times. Also, how we have engaged with audiences has had to change. Last May everyone was watching films online. This year more people want to come back to the cinema, so that has required different types of marketing. 


What kind of help does the sector need to stand up on its feet and also make profits?

We need to remain flexible and encourage audiences back to the cinema, providing as safe as possible viewing experience. I’m glad to say we have some of the safest high-quality screens supporting the festival.


Tell us about the festival and what our readers can expect.

The festival this autumn in Manchester, Birmingham and London will offer a great mix of British Asian classic films such as the British Asian music documentaries Brim Full of Asia and Mutiny-Asians Storm British Music at MAC Birmingham.  There’s also our contribution to the celebrations of master filmmaker Satyajit Ray’s 100th birth anniversary with great films like Pather Panchali at Cinema Lumiere in London, or the new Ray inspired film Avijatrik (The Wanderlust of Apu) premiering in all three cities. We will also be screening Bollywood classic Mughal-E-Azam in the new partner city, Bradford. Being inclusive we are also showing the new Pakistani American feature I’ll Meet You There, also in Bradford.


What according to you will change for film lovers in the coming months?

I don’t think anyone really knows how the next two seasons will play out. 

However, with cinema production up and running again in India film lovers can expect new films in cinemas and online for 2022. 


Do you think institutions in the UK that cater to the film going audience and cinema lovers are ready for a post-pandemic future?

There are many factors to this question, from the fall out of Brexit and Covid and how this has hit businesses, particularly cinemas that have been closed for over a year, to how they will recover remains to be seen. Public funding via BFI has been valuable for festivals and some cinemas as a lifeline into 2022. 

I’m pleased to say that LIFF, BIFF and MIFF continuing in 2020 and 2021, has shown the enduring draw and power of Indian cinema and we thank our audiences for sticking with us in spite of everything.  Receiving so much audience love and support has really inspired us.


What will be the impetus of film festivals now, given that putting them together (which was already a mammoth and sometimes thankless task) will require greater support and rejuvenated zeal to make it a successful festival?

At least for the next few years, the film festival will need to remain hybrid.   This will attract different types of audiences and also give them a further reach. On our new platform we have been able to reach out to audiences in India and worldwide, especially for our screen talks and shorts programmes.

So, our festival has, for example, seen the opportunity of expanding beyond national boundaries and exploring a global market which is of course is a positive thing for the future. 


Full programming for Birmingham, Manchester, London and Bradford:- 18 – 30 September 2021

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