Tongues on Fire: Beyond Bollywood

Just in case you haven’t got enough to keep you occupied after reading Sarah’s article on International Women’s Day,  I have one more event for you to take a little peek at:

The annual Tongues on Fire Asian Film Festival was launched last Friday (5 March) and moves away from the flamboyance and melodrama of popular Bollywood to celebrate the grittier arthouse cinema of the Indian Subcontinent. Unlike the escapism of Bollywood, these films commentate on social and political issues affecting its diverse communities all around the world.

The festival was originally started as a platform for empowering women from South Asian communities who wouldn’t normally have any access to film as viewers or creators. It’s a unique opportunity to watch independent Indian films that would otherwise probably never get any exposure in the UK.

Previous years have included appearances from prolific Asian female guests such Mira Nair, Gurinder Chadha, Meera Syal, Shabana Azmi, and Madhur Jaffrey.

This year Tongues on Fire celebrates its 12th year by paying homage to one of the empresses of Indian cinema, Jaya Bachchan (also known as Jaya Bhaduri and wife of infamous Amitabh ‘Big B’ Bachchan). At the launch of the festival, Mrs Bachchan was awarded with a Lifetime Achievement Award for her contribution to Indian film throughout her three-decade career.

Happily coinciding with International Women’s Day, Tongues on Fire will be showing an array of Bachchan’s past films at the Nehru Centre in Mayfair, London. The ‘Jaya Bachchan’s Retrospective’ was launched on Saturday with her most recent film, Lovesongs: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, and continues throughout the week with her much earlier works including Kora Kagaz, Guddi, Abhimaan, Uphaar and Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa. This is extra exciting for me, as I’ve only ever watched these on VCR with disastrously wobbly audio and visual quality..!

Here’s a little preview in the form of a song called ‘Piya’ from the movie Abhimaan, which is about a famous singer’s jealousy as his wife’s singing career overtakes his own:

There’ll also be a talk entitled Women in Film with film maker Shyam Benegal. Benegal’s films have received international acclaim since the 70’s, and he’s one of India’s most well-respected film-makers, so it’ll be interesting to see what he has to say about the changes in the role and portrayal of women in Indian cinema.

There are, of course, tonnes of other films, talks and events featured as part of the Tongues on Fire festival. Some are specifically aimed at giving an alternative South Asian female perspective, and some looking more broadly at different Asian experiences. Nevertheless, in a subcontinent where traditional gender roles are having to go through a massive upheaval in a rapidly globalising world, the role of women in these communities is under constant scrutiny. Whether it’s a film about about sports, gangs or dancing, you’re bound to find a varied and diverse view of Asian women all over the world today.

The Tongues on Fire Asian Film Festival is currently running until 14 March 2010.
More info and an introductory note from the director Dr Pushpinder Chowdry can be found at their website.

By: Roshni Goyate, 08.03.2010 | Comments (1)
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  • [...] Sarah, the editor of this illustrious online magazine, gave me the opportunity to write about the Tongues on Fire Asian film festival as part of the International Women’s Day features for Uplift. Check out the feature here. [...]

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