HOME’s annual season dedicated to independent Indian cinema returns with a twist this year. To tie in with the arts centre’s year-long Celebrating Women in Global Cinema initiative, Not Just Bollywood’s 2019 edition is comprised entirely of films directed by women. The season is curated by UK-based film scholar Omar Ahmed and HOME’s Head of Film Rachel Heywood – and in a new twist, there’s also a partnership with local Bombay café, Dishoom, who will present an Indian cookery workshop as part of the festivities.
As in previous editions, there is tremendous variety to be found within the programme. Deepa Mehta’s controversial and rarely-screened ‘Elements’ trilogy variously explores homosexuality in contemporary India (Fire, 1996), the horrors of Partition (Earth, 1998), and religion (Water, 2005). Such trailblazing work sits alongside three debut features which reflect the increasing prominence of women filmmakers in independent Indian cinema. Konkona Sen Sharma’s A Death in the Gunj (2016) is an acclaimed period piece; Rohena Gera’s Sir (2018) is a fairy tale set in contemporary Mumbai, while Anu Menon’s Waiting (2015), “offers a philosophical commentary on death, love and social media.”
As in previous editions, there is tremendous variety to be found within the programme.
Meanwhile, the evocatively titled Lipstick Under My Burkha from leading writer-director Alankrita Shrivastava takes sexual desire, resistance and patriarchal oppression as its subjects in telling the story of four small-town Indian women. Initially banned by censors in India, the film is one (alongside Waiting and Sir) of an ongoing wave that season co-curator Omar Ahmed cites as celebrating the “New Woman” in India today.
The concept is the subject of The University of Warwick’s Dr Saba Hussain’s illustrated talk “The New Woman and Contemporary Indian Cinema” scheduled for 28th September. It looks to be an essential companion to this year’s season, promising an insight into the impact of the #MeToo movement on Indian society and cinema, the rise of on-screen resistance and the growing power of the female audience at the Indian box office.