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Bollywood is sizzling: Miami University’s first Indian film festival

DIWALI DANCES The MU Indian Students Association presented their annual Diwali Show Saturday in Hall Auditorium. This year's theme was, "The Bachelor: Destination India."

Photo by Frank Roskam

By Madeleine Mary Laplante-Dube, For The Miami Student

The Center for American and World Cultures will be hosting Miami's first Indian Film Festival starting Tuesday, Nov. 4 and running until Nov. 7.

Set to show in 212 MacMillan Hall, each day of the week will feature two to three different films, with each showing beginning at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. respectively. The festival, "Women and Their Families: An Indian Lense," deals exclusively with issues involving women in India.

"We're looking at young women, middle aged women; we're looking at women and their relationships with their parents, their brothers, their sisters, their husbands," Mary Jane Berman, director of The Center or American and World cultures and one of the coordinators for this event, said. "We're looking at women facing modern day situations in an India that's changing, an India that is dropping many of its taboos."

While the eight films that will be shown during this four-day event deal with challenges that women face in India today, the films are anything but repetitive.

"These films are so diverse. When [students] come to at least some of these films, they will be getting a good glimpse of various issues," Lalita Satyal, a professor of Hindi at Miami and co-coordinator of the festival, said.

From the festival's two documentaries, "Pink Saris" and "The World Before Her" (which will be shown at both of Thursday's showings), to current films dealing with struggling relationships like the one depicted in "The Lunchbox" and the power of independence and growth as seen in "Queen," the issues confronted in each film are not clichéd, but constructive.

"[Queen] sets a very strong message for young girls - what they can do to change their course of action and that they don't have to be shattered. They can pick up the pieces and turn [a negative experience] into something more positive for themselves," Satyal said.

Together this past summer, Berman and Satyal worked together to sift through up to 20 different Indian films.

"We knew we wanted to do an Indian film festival. Indian films are huge. It's a huge industry," Berman said.

"[Bollywood] seems to be everywhere. People are doing henna, they're eating Indian food, they are loving Bollywood dances; the whole world is caught up in the Bollywood craze. India is so hot right now. Bollywood is sizzling," Satyal added.

The festival is not solely about the films either.

"My most favorite part that I'm looking forward to are the discussions that will go on after the films," Berman said.

Each film will be introduced by Pulkit Datta, a Miami alumna and a 2014 recipient of Miami's prestigious 18 of the Last 9 Young Alumni Award, which honors 18 exceptional young alumni who graduated in the past nine years. Datta worked with Berman and Satyal closely this past summer during the process of deciding films. His connections in the Indian film industry as well as his expertise of film in general ensure that this festival will be stocked fully.

"Producing, directing, screenwriting; yeah, there's not a thing he doesn't do," Berman said.

The film festival, while seemingly sudden, is not a random installment.

"Part of what we're trying to accomplish at Miami is providing people with a mastery of what's going on in the world," Berman said.

Not only that, but the festival provides itself as a tool to connect in an already-globalized society. Satyal found that while teaching her Hindi and Bollywood classes, both she and some of her students began to reconnect with their roots.

"After teaching Hindi, and also teaching the Bollywood course, I just felt like I was getting closer and closer to the culture that I had left behind a long time ago. And I just felt that I should do a little bit more with it," Satyal said. "We are hoping that [students] would enjoy some of these films, and we are hoping that they will learn about some of these issues that are discussed. And, perhaps, take it a little step further and do something about these issues."

The hope for this program is that it will widen Miami's perspective and highlight the global importance of Indian culture.

"You know how Shakespeare said what's in a name? A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet," Satyal said. "Well what's in a name - when you say Bollywood there's a lot in the name. Not to make Shakespeare be wrong or anything, but a name has a lot in it, especially if you're saying Bollywood."

Students are invited come 15 minutes early to test out some Indian snacks, as well as stay after and discuss with a panel of professors and speakers about each movie. For more information about this four-day festival, contact Mary Jane Berman at or Lalita Sayal at