Shefali Shah, Jaideep Ahlawat, and director Avinash Arun Dhaware emerged as the top honorees at the prestigious 2023 New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF), a celebration of new Indian cinema among the diaspora and global audience. The four-day gala, held from May 11 to 14, showcased a lineup of 35 films, including dramas, documentaries, and short films, that exemplified the depth and diversity of contemporary Indian cinema.
The festival culminated with an award ceremony where the winners were announced across categories such as Best Actor, Film, Director, and Screenplay. “Saudi Vellakka” took home the coveted Best Film award, while Avinash Arun Dhaware received the Best Director award for his critically acclaimed film “Three of Us,” starring Shefali Shah, Jaideep Ahlawat, and Swanand Kirkire. Shah and Ahlawat were honored with the Best Actress and Best Actor awards, respectively, for their exceptional performances in “Three of Us,” which served as the festival’s opening film.
The festival’s closing title was “Goldfish,” featuring Deepti Naval and Kalki Koechlin. Other noteworthy winners included “Follower” for Best Screenplay, “To Kill a Tiger” for Best Documentary (Short & Feature), “Birah” for Best Short (Narrative), and Leslie Shampaine, who received the prestigious Best Documentary by a Woman award for “Call Me Dancer.” Additionally, “Footprints On Water,” starring Adil Hussain, earned the distinguished title of Best Debut Film at NYIFF, as recognized by the Film Critics Circle of India.
One of the festival’s highlights was a special New York screening of Rahul Chittella’s acclaimed film “Gulmohar,” featuring renowned actors such as Sharmila Tagore, Amol Palekar, Manoj Bajpayee, and Simran. The screening was followed by a Q&A session moderated by NYIFF Festival Director Aseem Chhabra, featuring the film’s team.
The NYIFF, considered North America’s longest-running and most prestigious Indian film festival, returned to a physical format this year after being held virtually due to the pandemic. Festival Director Aseem Chhabra expressed that the event aimed to celebrate new Indian cinema and emphasize diversity and cultural representation in films.
Rakesh Kaul, Vice Chairman of the Indo-American Arts Council (IAAC), highlighted the festival’s focus on tackling complex social issues and promoting the work of emerging and established female filmmakers, who are redefining the role of women in the Indian film industry. Suman Gollamudi, Executive Director of the Indo-American Arts Council, emphasized how the festival provided an ideal platform to appreciate the rich cultural heritage of AAPI communities during Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month in May.
Featuring films in ten languages spoken across India, including Bengali, English, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Malayalam, Marathi, Nagpuri, Punjabi, and Tamil, the NYIFF offered a unique opportunity for audiences to explore and appreciate the diverse cinematic voices emerging from India. Dr. Nirmal Mattoo, Chairman of the Indo-American Arts Council, regarded the festival as a must-watch event for anyone interested in Indian cinema and its global impact.