Three to see at LFF if you like... Indian films

Cary Rajinder Sawhney recommends three hot tickets at the BFI London Film Festival: a film by an established director, a great debut and a wild card.

Cary Rajinder Sawhney

The new film from an established director…

Rajma Chawal

Rajma Chawal (2018)

What’s it about?

A newly widowed father and his teenage son move to old Delhi. As they can’t converse, the dad hatches a plan, pretending to be a pretty girl on Facebook to pull his son into a dialogue with him. The plan works until the real girl whose profile he’s taken turns up.

Who made it?

Leena Yadav started as an editor before moving into writing and directing. After TV dramas and commercial Hindi films (Shabd, Teen Patti), she directed the indie film Parched (2015), a story of four Rajasthani women that premiered at TIFF and has been internationally acclaimed.

What’s special about it?

A hybrid of Indian commercial and indie styles, Rajma Chawal offers Bollywood-style brushstrokes of humour and pathos, obligatory dance scenes and a pageant of spectacle in the narrow lanes of old Delhi. Yet, at the same time, Yadav adds a realistic grit to the story. She presents an image of an India trying to reconcile itself with technological change, with western-style individuality opposing family values, alongside a multi-faceted portrait of young Indian womanhood.

The much-loved veteran Bollywood star Rishi Kapoor gives a charming performance as the father who’s struggling to cope. 

See this if you like…

Parched, Kapoor and Sons

The breakthrough…


Tumbbad (2018)

What’s it about?

Set during the Raj era, Tumbbad is about the cursed family of a now deserted village. The conniving, illegitimate son of the squire is obsessed with unearthing a fabled ancestral treasure. But what he discovers deep beneath the earth are riches guarded by a dark godly force.

Who made it?

Producer-star Sohum Shah came to prominence with the acclaimed drama Ship of Theseus (2012), directed by Anand Gandhi and previously premiered at the LFF. Tumbbad is directed by Rahi Anil Barve, who made the award-winning 2017 short film Manjha, and Adesh Prasad.

What’s special about it?

Tumbbad is one of the few Indian films that’s truly, nail-bitingly scary. Most Indian horror is focused on buckets of gore and antique special effects. By contrast, Tumbbad is a well-told story, stunningly shot, with a great soundscape and a score by BAFTA-winning video game composer Jesper Kyd (Hitman: Contracts, Assassin’s Creed series).

Most essentially, for a Tomb Raider-like tale of a trapped monster guarding riches, the VFX are world class. They’re the work of Swedish Wingate Films (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Antichrist, Melancholia).

A word too for Soham Shah’s commanding central performance as the twisted antihero.

See this if you like…

Ship of Theseus, Hide & Seek (Lapachhapi)

The wild card…

Namdev Bhau in Search of Silence

Nmadev Bhau in Search of Silence (2018)

What’s it about?

Pensioner Namdev can’t take noisy Mumbai or his jabbering family any more so sets off on a quest for a fabled Himalayan retreat – Silent Valley. On the journey, he’s adopted by a chatterbox kid, who begins to show him a new perspective on life.

Who made it?

Dar Gai worked in theatre and acting in Ukraine before moving to Mumbai, where she worked her way into writing and directing films, commercials and TV. She made her breakthrough last year with Teen Aur Aadha, made with her producer-partner Dheer Momaya.

What’s special about it?

This quirky and beautifully observed black comedy recalls the Coen brothers in its depiction of idiosyncratic characters locked into their private worlds who are forced to work together for a common purpose.

The film takes us on a journey from the cacophony of urban Mumbai to the far Himalayan mountains, during which we witness the turning point of two lives: the older man on his quest to escape and a young lad with his own revelation to come to terms with.

See this if you like…

Teen Aur Aadha, Fargo

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  • BFI London Film Festival

    BFI London Film Festival

    A big thank you to all our Members who supported this year’s Festival, which welcomed over 600 filmmakers from all over the world to London.

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