Beyond Bollywood — 15th Indian Film Festival of Houston Celebrates in Style

IFFH Founder Sutapa Ghosh (center front) with the IFFH board members.

From a phenomenal opening sequence featuring a NASA astronaut welcoming the audience to the 15th Indian Film Festival of Houston, featured screenings of 3 world premieres and an Oscar-nominated film, Q&A with filmmakers, to an elegant Awards Night and black-tie sit-down dinner at the Asia Society Texas Center, guests were treated to what was fittingly billed as one of Houston’s 4 best events in the first quarter of 2023.

The Festival showcased several strong films, as diverse as the Indian diaspora. Among the first-rate contemporary films screened in the modern Brown Theater, All That Breathes directed by Shaunak Sen received the 2023 IFFH Jury Award for Best Documentary Film. It is also up for an Oscar at the upcoming 95th Academy Awards. The Storyteller, director Ananth Mahadevan’s wise and mischievous movie about art, traditions, love, and, of course, storytelling, won the 2023 IFFH Jury Award for Best Feature Film. In his acceptance, Ananth said that the film was a tribute to Satyajit Ray on the centenary of his birth.

Sutapa Ghosh (center) with Jose Grinan (left), Leslie Burkle and Sam Merchant.

Preet, directed by Jayesh Jaidka, won the 2023 IFFH Jury Award for Best Short Film, made a strong cinematic statement as a psychological drama. Tikdam, director Vivek Anchalia’s directorial debut received a Special Recognition Award from the IFFH 2023 Jury for its realistic portrayal of migration set in a small hill town. The Festival also honored Gordon Quan with a Humanitarian Award and Actor, Director, Producer Deven Varma with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Festival itself is the brainchild of Founder Sutapa Ghosh whose vision is to look beyond Bollywood and introduce Houstonians to Indian cinema.  According to Ghosh, voted one of the 100 Most Creative People in Texas, the Indian Film Festival of Houston is for everyone who seeks quality cinema. “Houston has become a very diverse and multicultural city. The food scene, the cultural scene, in last 15 years has changed remarkably. It’s an Indian film festival, but it’s for all human beings.”  Several members of the local Consular Corps were present through the Festival.

The decade plus partnership with the Asia Society Texas Center provided a stunning background for the 3-day Festival from February 23-25, 2023. Apart from the film screenings, the Festival featured live Q&A sessions with filmmakers, enchanting music by the Moodafaruka band, elegant decorations by Décor One, cocktail receptions and a black-tie sit-down dinner from Verandah Progressive Indian Kitchen and live entertainment from Rhythm India Bollywood Dance Company who performed a live medley of heart-stopping dances including the Naatu-Naatu song which has also been nominated for an Oscar.

Governor Greg Abbott and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner sent Letters of Congratulations to the Festival on its 15th anniversary and a Proclamation to Sutapa Ghosh, Founder of the Indian Film Festival of Houston.  Congressional Representatives Wesley Hunt and Al Green also recognized Ms. Ghosh for her ongoing contributions to arts, culture and business in Houston and Texas.