Indian films win major accolades at TIFF | World News - Hindustan Times
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Indian films win major accolades at TIFF

Sep 18, 2023 12:11 PM IST

With top honours in two prestigious categories and another accolade in one of the festival’s most popular sections, Indian productions had a banner year at the 48th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival or TIFF.

With top honours in two prestigious categories and another accolade in one of the festival’s most popular sections, Indian productions had a banner year at the 48th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival or TIFF.

Still from the Marathi film, A Match, which won the NETPAC Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. (Courtesy TIFF)
Still from the Marathi film, A Match, which won the NETPAC Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. (Courtesy TIFF)

Director Tarsem Singh Dhandwar’s first feature in eight years, Dear Jassi, set mainly in Punjab, captured TIFF’s juried competition section, Platform Award. Debutant director Jayesh Digambar Somalkar’s Marathi feature, A Match (Sthal), won the Network for the Promotion of Asian Pacific Cinema or NETPAC Award, also selected by a jury. Meanwhile, the mainstream Bollywood thriller KILL emerged as first runner up for the People’s Choice Midnight Madness Award.

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Dhandwar made his directorial debut in film with The Cell in 2000, which garnered an Oscar nomination. He went on to direct four more features, the latest being Self/less in 2015. He had already gained renown for his music videos for acts like REM and Lady Gaga and ad films for major brands. The Punjabi film, Dear Jassi, is based on the true life story of a honour killing of an Indo-Canadian, 25-year-old Jaswinder Sidhu, a resident of Maple Ridge in British Columbia. Jassi’s family hired killers in Punjab in 2000 after she eloped with Mithu, considered an unsuitable match. In its statement, the Platform jury said, “Dear Jassi was a unanimous choice for this year’s Platform Award for its honest and poignant portrayal of a subject matter that still affects large portions of individuals forced to live under the inhumanity of bitter caste systems throughout the globe.”

The director, better known as Tarsem Singh, said there was “nothing honourable about honour killings.”

He told the Hindustan Times after the announcement of the award, “If there’s anything I would ask for, specially from Indians, is please redefine it.”

The film is spare, stark and disturbing. “Murder is a very disturbing thing. You can camouflage it and call it honour killings, but it is murder and all the more so gruesome when it’s a family member,” he felt.

He added though he loved Hindi films, he made Dear Jassi in this style and was glad it was appreciated at TIFF and by the Platform jury.

The NETPAC jury described Somalkar’s A Match as an “immersive portrayal of life in an Indian village, highlighting its oppressive patriarchal customs.”

The director told the Hindustan Times he and his “entire team, am thrilled and honoured to receive” the award. “This is for our love, belief and passion for good cinema! I dedicate this award to all the brave women who challenge their adverse circumstances,” he added. It depicts the clash between a young woman’s aspirations and societal pressure for an arranged marriage.

KILL is the highest profile film of the three, and was the first runner up in the People’s Choice Midnight Madness Award, which is based on voting by the audience. The goriest film to have ever emerged from India, one of its producers, Karan Johar, has described it to media as “blood porn.”

The festival’s most coveted prize, the People’s Choice Award, was snagged by American Fiction directed by Cord Jefferson.

The 48th edition of TIFF, North America’s largest movie event, began on September 7 and concluded on Sunday,

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Anirudh Bhattacharya is a Toronto-based commentator on North American issues, and an author. He has also worked as a journalist in New Delhi and New York spanning print, television and digital media. He tweets as @anirudhb.

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