In its third year, the New England Bollywood Film Festival takes on Concord.
The festival, organized by Dan Szczesny (who’s also a Hippo co-founder), has its Red River Theatres premiere on Saturday, Oct. 26, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. This year’s headlining film is Saawariya, a comedy/romance in the “Baz Luhrmann” style and the first co-production by Hollywood and Bollywood, Szczesny said. He hopes this new venue allows the festival to reach out to more audiences.
“We love Wilton [where the festival has been the past two years], and they’ve been very good to us. But Wilton is a little bit off the beaten path,” Szczesny said. “Red River Theatres is centrally located ... [and it] is designed for independent and world cinema. That’s what they do best.”
He and his wife, Meena Gyawali (who is from Nepal), began the festival because of New Hampshire’s Bollywood void.
“I’ve always been a fan of world cinema in general. New England simply doesn’t have a Bollywood industry. Occasionally, down in Boston, you can see some newer Bollywood films, but there was nothing like this, literally, in New England,” Szczesny said.
The void was significant, Szczesny said, because the Bollywood film industry is bigger than Hollywood by leaps and bounds. He said it seemed odd that the Granite State had neither a festival nor theater that regularly played Bollywood films, especially when you consider how many people from the subcontinent live in southern New Hampshire.
“It’s a fascinating, worldwide industry that has reached the United States only in pockets — in Chicago, L.A., New York … So we thought we’d give it a try to see if there was anyone interested in it. And there was,” he said. “We had pull from all over Southern New Hampshire and parts of Boston. They were folks who just liked world cinema, regardless of their heritage. Part of the reason we wanted to move to Concord, too, is because Concord is sort of known as this melting pot of more artsy, progressive cinema buffs.”
The folks at Red River Theatres were happy to take on this already successful festival.
“We’re a community-based nonprofit cineplex and we’re always excited to bring in a different program which, in return, brings in diverse audiences,” Red River Theatres Executive Director Shelly Hudson said.
The film Saawariya (translated means “My Love”) was chosen as this year’s feature because of its mass appeal. It’s styled in a classical, over-the-top sense that fans of Moulin Rouge, The Great Gatsby and Chicago can enjoy.
“This year, because we’re moving and because I assume we’re going to have a brand-new audience, we wanted to bring a film we thought would appeal across certain cultural boundaries. We hope it will be approachable to anyone who just loves good cinema,” Szczesny said.
The 2007 Hindi flick will have English subtitles and is loosely based on White Nights, a Russian short story by Fyodor Dostoevsky. It’s often characterized as a comedy/romance, but its writers’ and directors’ intention was mass appeal.
“I hesitate to characterize a Bollywood movie because the whole point of a Bollywood movie is that there’s no category for it. Bollywood movies are movies that have a little bit of everything for everyone,” he said.
The festival will also feature a 45-minute montage before the film and food from the India Association of New Hampshire.