Three Indian Movies win TIFF 2023 Awards

As the breeze of September ushers in the season of change, Toronto City’s ‘festival of festivals’ in the form of the international film festival came to a close yesterday. In the heart of the city, on 23 screens, nearly 300 films were screened throughout the day and night, accompanied by various musical performances, trade pavilions and eating outlets in King Street West.

dear jassi
A still from “Dear Jassi”

Among the six Indian films selected for screening, three garnered accolades that made Toronto Indians proud to be a part of the festival. The most prestigious award in the Platform category was clinched by the film ‘Dear Jassi,’ directed by Tarsem Singh Dhandwar. Tarsem, as he’s popularly known, is no stranger to the American film world, although he’s an Indian, thanks to the previous five features, a television series and hundreds of visual advertisements to his credit. The film received a cash prize of $20,000 for its brilliant picturisation of a love story and its tragic turnarounds. Newcomers Yugam Sood and Pavia Sidhu played the lead roles of Mittu and Jassi respectively. This film contested nine other quality titles from nine countries to come out with flying colours.

Tarsem Singh Dhandwar
Tarsem Singh Dhandwar – Director of Dear Jassi

Eminent filmmakers Barry Jenkins, Nadine Labaki, and Anthony Shim constituted the Platform jury, who had a tough time arriving at the final conclusions. Their statement read: ”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. The film perfectly blends craft, purpose and faith in its audience, creating a richly cinematic world that is steadfastly realistic. The young leads, Yugam Sood and Pavia Sidhu, are by turns breathtaking and, in performances that pull no punches, heartbreaking. Altogether an emphatic work by director Tarsem Singh Dhandwar and his many wonderful collaborators; a film that would be worthy of accolades in any section and which we enthusiastically welcome into the pantheon of winners in this Platform section.”

The Marathi film “A Match” (Sthal) won the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema (NETPAC) award for the best Asian film. Directed by Jayant Somalkar, the film is a heartwarming tale of the hard side of arranged marriages set in Dongargaon, a village in Maharashtra’s Chandrapur District. This award was instituted to promote Asian cinema and to bring global attention to independent and non-mainstream films focusing on the discovery of new talent.

Somalkar and Shefali
Jayant Somalkar (Director) & Shefali Bhushan (Producer) – A Match

”The jury commends the courage of this year’s winner, debut feature director, for taking a risk and delivering a story that’s enlightening and entertaining. The director worked with a cast of non-actors that not only resulted in a stellar performance but achieved a level of authenticity to drive home the social message. An immersive portrayal of life in an Indian village, highlighting its oppressive patriarchal customs, the NETPAC award this year goes to: A Match by Jayant Somalkar, ” the jury note read.

In the Midnight Madness section of the festival, Nikhil Nagesh Bhat’s ‘Kill’, a thriller inspired by a real-life train robbery in a moving train, secured second place.

”We’re grateful to all the audience members, artistes, industry professionals and supporters who graced Toronto’s cinemas, red carpets, meeting spaces and streets, ” said Cameron Bailey, TIFF CEO. ”As we recognize award winners today, we thank everyone who contributed to this glorious collective gift,” he added.

Actor Yugam Sood and Meenakshi Shedde
Actor Yugam Sood & Meenakshi Shedde, Senior Programme Advisor -TIFF

“From the most revered veterans to the freshest new voices, this year’s festival played host to the diverse range of filmmakers Toronto is known for,” said Anita Lee, the TIFF Chief Programming Officer. And Toronto’s filmgoers turned up in huge numbers to be part of the celebration. We’re grateful to our film jurors for their valuable contributions, for championing emerging talent, and for enriching the film community with their expertise and passion,” she added.

With the free screenings of award-winning films at various venues, the 48th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival concluded.

Suresh Nellikode is a film critic

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