IFFSA-Toronto brings dozens of films and filmmakers

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Well-known Hindi film actor Manoj Bajpayee was in Toronto for the 2019 IFFSA-Toronto.
Well-known Hindi film actor Manoj Bajpayee was in Toronto for the screening of his film Bhonsle which was part of the International Film Festival of South Asia (IFFSA) – Toronto. Bajpayee participated in a Q&A with Jake Dheer, a member of IFFSA-Toronto advisory board. Photo by Toronto Desi Diaries.

If you’re a serious film buff, not the Bollywood song-and-dance kind, but of cinema whose characters and storyline end up connecting with you on a personal level, albeit through subtitles, then, the International Film Festival of South Asia (IFFSA) — Toronto, may be just what you need. The festival running until May 20 at multiple venues across the Greater Toronto Area, kicked-off Thursday, May 9.

Well-known actor Manoj Bajpayee (Satya) was among those in Toronto for the screening of his acclaimed film Bhonsle. The film follows the unusual friendship between Ganpath Bhonsle, a retired cop (Bajpayee), and a pair of Bihari migrants; a young woman and her brother.

Bajpayee—who also co-produced the project— talked about how the movie almost didn’t happen.

Migrants and migration are hot potato issues in India (across the globe too). At least half a dozen producers passed it because they feared the film’s sympathetic premise would step on the toes of some stridently anti-migrant political leaders.

When the shooting was finally underway in 2017, the Devashish Makhija directed film, ran out of money on the 10th day, forcing a desperate, but determined Bajpayee to reach out to an old producer friend of his and ask for $50,000. The friend came through. The rest is, Bhonsle.

“My basic nature (since childhood) is that I am very stubborn,” Bajpayee told the crowd. “If I decide to do something, I go for it whether I fail or succeed. I was passionate about this film (Bhonsle).”

“An artist is nothing without the vision of a director,” Bajpayee continued. “The director can have 25-years of experience or five or no experience at all. There was this director (Devashish Makhija) who had talent, a great script and a story to tell. This story is about a burning topic (migrants). And what’s unique about this story is that we’re talking about people who’re immigrants in their own country. Producers were wary of the subject and no one wanted to produce it…it was then I decided, no matter what this film will be made.”

Wikipedia pages are not exactly literary sources, but Bhonsle’s Wikipedia page is surprisingly well-written and detailed. It offers some never-published facts including one that says the director shot several scenes “in closed narrow spaces as Makhija wanted to ‘create a sense of suffocation.’”

Poster of Bhonsle, a Hindi film showcasing the issue of migrants
Bhonsle, a Hindi film which tackles the issue of migrants and migration through sensitivity, was screened at IFFSA-Toronto, May 9. The film’s lead actor Manoj Bajpayee was on hand for a talk.

Gurinder Chadha’s Blinded by the Light wows the audience in Toronto

Gurinder Chadha is imminently likable.

Dressed in a fiery tangerine and cream coloured salwar-kameez and sporting a cheery smile, Gurinder talked about her yet-to-be-released film, Blinded by the Light in Toronto recently.

The film was Inspired by a true story, based on Sarfraz Manzoor’s memoir, Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock N’ Roll.

Gurinder took on the helm as a director. The screenplay duties were shared by Manzoor, Gurinder and Paul Mayeda Berges (Gurinder’s husband). The film, set to the music and lyrics of Bruce Springsteen, captures the racial climate of the ‘80s in Britain.

Blinded by the Light is about how Javed (Viveik Kalra), a British teen of Pakistani descent, discovers Springsteen’s music, and in the process finds his own voice.

Well-known filmmaker Gurinder Chadha (R) was in Toronto for the International Film Festival of South Asia (IFFSA)-Toronto. Here she’s in conversation with Jake Dheer, member of IFFSA’s advisory council and senior manager, OMNI TV. Photo Toronto Desi Diaries.

Gurinder’s strength as a director is unmatched when it comes to telling stories of the South Asian diaspora. In Bend it like Beckham, she wove a rich and deft narrative using two large strands: culture and soccer, and in Light, she replaces soccer with music.

“It seemed as if presently there’s a common thread (of racism) and a lot of divisions around the world,” Gurinder observed. “This film will hopefully bring us together as humans and show there are more things that connect us than those that divide us.”

Gurinder’s face lights up when she talked about how Springsteen chuckled during the film. When it ended, he hugged and kissed her on her cheek.

“He loved it,” she said. “He loved it because he knew it wasn’t about him…”

Blinded by the Light is slated for release on August 14 and will be distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. The stage production of Bend it like Beckham, a musical, will make its North American debut in Toronto at the Bluma Apple Theatre, in downtown Toronto, from December 7 to 24.

For information on films screening during IFFSA-Toronto, visit here.

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