FTV News, Cambridge: Caleidoscope 2017, the largest Indian Film Festival in New England, was held between Sep 8th through 10th at MIT and Apple Cinemas, Cambridge. A total of 14 contemporary, acclaimed feature films, shorts and documentaries were screened in two prominent, prestigious locations, Apple Cinemas and at Stata Center, MIT. The event was co-organized by Calcutta Club USA of Acton, MA and the MIT Sangam graduate students association.
A nine member jury panel evaluated the films across multiple categories over the 2.5 day festival. Said judge and actor Sujoy De, “we were going back and forth” for over an hour to select awards recipients. Ultimately, Sanal Sashidharan’s Malayalam film Sexy Durga and Kaushik Ganguly’s Bengali love story Bisorjon clinched the top honors, as announced at the awards dinner on Sep 10th. Other major categories were won by popular 2017 films like A Death in The Gunj by Konkona Sensharma and Marathi feature Half Ticket by Samit Kakkad. Juried prizes included both a trophy and a cash award. Full Caleidoscope 2017 results are available at www.calfilmfest.org.
The most popular film of the event, as expected, was Alankrita Shrivastava’s Lipstick Under My Burkha, which drew a record audience of 230 people. Nalini Sharma of Sharon, a sponsor of Caleidoscope, was struck by this film – “Indian Independent Cinema is alive and thriving… impressive to see the sophistication with which some hard hitting and raw topics have been dealt with.” Said Koushik Chakraborty of Belmont – “Most of the Indian films in this genre become preachy and sloganeering; Lipstick is an exception…it remains with you even after you leave the theater…these films made on a shoestring budget can become a serious contender to masala blockbusters.” Overall, the festival was attended by 800 people.
The film industry felt buoyed at the success of Caleidoscope and optimistic about the future of Indian cinema in USA. Director Suman Ghosh, whose recent disputed film on Amartya Sen, called “The Argumentative Indian” was shown at the festival, remarked, “this year, the films were all of very good quality – please continue to maintain this standard.” Dir Sarbari Choudhury came from Phoenix, AZ; her documentary Broto Alpona won the best Documentary Award. She said, “the audience interaction on the presented films was very informative and refreshing. Caleidoscope was a very well organized festival with a great variety of excellent films.” Director Tanni Choudhury of Rhode Island, who was conferred the Hope Award for her work on AIDs survivors in Beyond had high words of praise for the organizers whose hard efforts “created a remarkable milieu of established filmmakers, big actors, new ventures and engaged audiences united beyond borders in their love of cinematic storytelling.” Filmmaker Kaushik Ganguly, Samit Kakkad as well as actors Jaya Ahsan, Vikrant Massey and others tweeted and posted about their awards, leading to Caleidoscope being covered in several national newspapers in India and Bangladesh.
For Chitro and Ruma Neogy, founders of Calcutta Club USA, Caleidoscope 2017 provided reaffirmation of their belief that novel experiments often find a way to success if pursued with sincerity and clarity of vision. The couple, who both work full time in the software industry acknowledged it was arduous work executing on the idea across three continents but are happy that in three years, Caleidoscope now stands well recognized as a premier Indian film festival. “If we feel an idea is unique and has merit, we often to try it out,” said Neogy. “In most projects, we do not have prior experience. We define the desired outcome and features and apply sound project management principles to execute on that concept. Our sponsors and members have always been super supportive.” Ajay Jain, a club member who managed the festival judging activities said “We actively collect feedback from jury to ensure our quality improves every year.”
Caleidoscope 2017 introduced several new dimensions such as an academic institution collaboration with MIT and a big focus on picking top rated films.” Dr Arundhati Tuli Banerjee, Executive Director of the office of philanthropic partnerships at MIT, said: “I was impressed with the energy and commitment of the club to creating a vibrant cultural platform for the diasporic community in the New England region. Caleidoscope brought a set of diverse and intriguing films to the local audience in Boston, and I look forward to exploring potential collaborations with the group in the context of the films I teach in my class.”
Calcutta Club USA, the host of Caleidoscope, is a small Boston based organization established in 2015, with the charter of promoting Indian art, lifestyle, cuisine and literature. It also organizes several other uniquely popular public events – Sanskriti Literature Fest and Cuisinier Live Culinary Competition. More information on the club and its activities can be obtained at www.calcuttaclubusa.com.