FILMFEST: Canadian festival shines spotlight on Indian women directors

Published: November 8, 2012

Aamir Khan stars as Arun in Dhobi Ghat. Submitted photo


India is known internationally for its extravagant cinema productions, but a wealth of quality films exist outside the country’s celebrity-fuelled Bollywood culture.

A film festival currently underway at the University of Saskatchewan celebrates these somewhat lesser known films during free weekly screenings in the arts tower. All the films are directed by women. Provided to the university by the High Commission of India in Canada, the Festival of Women Directed Films from India ends Nov. 25.

Satya Sharma, associate professor of anthropology at the U of S, says the films are all outstanding.

“(They are) serious films dealing with realistic situations – portraying the life of women, corruption in government, personal relationships and often with oppression or poverty in the background.”

All but one of the six films is in Hindi, India’s main language. The other is in Marathi and all have English subtitles. Sharma says there are many examples of regional cinema productions in India, apart from the Bollywood film industry in Mumbai. In the early 1970s a new wave of cinema started in India, known as art cinema. In stark contrast to Bollywood movies, independent female directors began making a name for themselves with thought provoking work.

“Some imminent women took the lead there and what we have in the festival is the work of six different women directors,” explains Sharma.

One of these films, Dhobi Ghat, is an unusual romance story set in one of Mumbai’s poorest areas. The film portrays the different social situations in India and why caste still constrains so many people. A famous Bollywood actor named Aamir Khan received international acclaim for his role and created a stir throughout India about the issues raised in Dhobi Ghat.

Sharma says understanding India’s culture is increasingly more important, as its economy grows and more people are travelling there.

“We live in a global world. India and China have become big actors in this global world. India’s economy is among the 10 strongest economies in the world. India is one of the biggest clients of Potash (Corp) and of many agricultural products from Saskatchewan.”

He hopes the festival’s films will encourage people to move away from stereotypical images of the country.

“People portray India either in totally black worlds or totally white; a glamorous world with rich people or a country full of poverty.”

Both are a reality in India, but as a tourist one may never travel to the rural areas and villages where two-thirds of the country’s population lives. Sharma says many of the films at the U of S festival show a rural ethos, which is quite different from the culture in the cities.

Women’s status in India is improving, albeit slowly. The film industry was traditionally male-dominated and most of the films were male-orientated. Sharma says women directors are becoming more common, along with movies that deal with women’s issues. He feels this is an indicator of change for the country.

“Women provide a very different kind of sensitivity and portrayal of culture that often male directors miss.”

A Festival of Women Directed Films from India is held each Sunday at 2 p.m. in 241 Arts on the U of S campus, from Nov. 11 to Nov. 25.



A 2002 Marathi language film directed by Sumitra Bhave and Sunil Sukthankar. It deals with the guardian spirit of the house.


A 2004 Bollywood movie directed by South Indian actress Revathi, which deals with the issue of AIDS.


A 2010 Indian-Hindi drama film directed by Kiran Rao in her directorial debut. It’s an unusual story of romance in a very poor part of Mumbai.


Merv Bayda and Kal Dosanjh

Ask One Surrey’s Merv Bayda and Kal Dosanjh how they will fight crime in the city

  VANCOUVER DESI Crime is the number one issue in Surrey municipal elections. Vancouver Desi will chat with two cops — Merv Bayda and Kal…
Continue Reading »


Surrey resident says the involvement of Sikh soldiers in WWI has not been taught in schools

KRISTI ALEXANDRA SURREY NOW SURREY — Coming up on the hundredth anniversary of the First World War this Remembrance Day, images of poppies, Canadian maple…
Continue Reading »

California-India-Sikh massacre

India’s 1984 Sikh massacre arises as issue in contested California congressional race

FENIT NIRAPPIL THE ASSOCIATED PRESS SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Anger around a 30-year-old religious clash in India that left thousands dead has crept into one of…
Continue Reading »


Nepal closes popular trekking route where 38 died in snowstorms after new climbers set out

By Binaj Gurubacharya THE ASSOCIATED PRESS KATMANDU, Nepal – Nepalese officials closed a section of a popular Himalayan trekking route Sunday after rescuers, overwhelmed with…
Continue Reading »

Today in History – Oct. 19

Advance THE CANADIAN PRESS Today in History for Oct. 19: On this date: In 1216, King John of England died after consuming what was described…
Continue Reading »

Merv Bayda and Kal Dosanjh

Ask One Surrey’s Merv Bayda and Kal Dosanjh how they will fight crime in the city

  VANCOUVER DESI Crime is the number one issue in Surrey municipal elections. Vancouver Desi will chat with two cops — Merv Bayda and Kal…
Continue Reading »

Don't Miss...


False confession leads police to arrest new suspect in sexual assault of 9-year-old Surrey girl

FRANK LUBA VANCOUVER DESI A man who confessed to the sexual assault of a nine-year-old girl in Surrey has been released and a 28-year-old man…
Continue Reading »

Dilwali Fest

Diwali Fest kicks off with IndiGlam fashion-fusion show (w/ video)

LARISSA CAHUTE VANCOUVER DESI It was a classic mother-daughter argument that propelled Surrey’s Raji Khaira into a career of fashion design. Khaira, 25, grew up…
Continue Reading »

Vancouver Desi

Canada Place caught the eye of man who builds models in chalk (w/gallery)

LARISSA CAHUTE VANCOUVER DESI When Jagdeep Singh Bihal moved to Vancouver from India two years ago and did some sightseeing around the city,  it was…
Continue Reading »


Diwali organizer inspired by memories of Mumbai revelry

LARISSA CAHUTE VANCOUVER DESI Vancouver’s Rohit Chokhani can still recall his childhood in Mumbai when Indian streets would light up with fireworks and life would…
Continue Reading »


Surrey’s unlicensed Radio India to cease broadcasting in 120 days

PETER O’NEIL POSTMEDIA NEWS GATINEAU, Que. — One of B.C.’s “Pirate Radio” broadcasters boasted earlier this month of his powerful political connections, a vast public…
Continue Reading »

Bollywood Latest

Priyanka Chopra

Gallery: 20 Bollywood celebrities in their best and worst avatars

VANCOUVER DESI Every Bollywood star has come under fire for their style choices at  some point in their careers. Here we’ve taken a quick look…
Continue Reading »

reality TV

Himesh Reshammiya to record songs with reality show ‘India’s Raw Star’ contestants

IANS Mumbai – Composer Himesh Reshammiya, who made an appearance on the reality TV show “India’s Raw Star” as a guest mentor, was so moved…
Continue Reading »


Bollywood role came without any effort: Jennifer Winget

SUBHASH K. JHA IANS  Mumbai – Like many of her peers from television, Jennifer Winget is ready to move to the big screen. However, unlike…
Continue Reading »