The Hippo


Jul 16, 2019








Attend the New England Bollywood Film Festival

Where: Red River Theatres, 11 S. Main St., Concord
When: Saturday, May 9, from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Admission: $12, includes an all-day pass to the screenings
Contact:, 224-4600

Something for everybody
New England Bollywood Film Festival turns 5

By Kelly Sennott

In its fifth year, the New England Bollywood Film Festival brings a bit of old and new to its audiences at Red River Theatres.

On the menu this weekend are two feature-length films. One is a classic 1968 romance/adventure called Kismat, which event organizer (and associate Hippo publisher) Dan Szczesny said is like the Bollywood take of a James Bond movie, the result of which is kind of a fun, goofy, “so bad it’s good” flick.
The main feature is the 2010 international hit, Once Upon a Time in Mumbai, a 1970s-set period gangster drama, which, while modern, has throwback elements to the classic Bollywood era like bright colors, music, dance and fast action. It follows requests Szczesny has been receiving to stick more modern films in the festival.
“A lot of modern Bollywood movies now are becoming more Westernized. There’s not as much dance, and there’s more drama. I try to stay away from that,” he said. “What I wanted to do was open the festival with a ‘golden age’ of Bollywood film, and then show something that’s really sort of modern but still fits in with the Bollywood tone and spirit,” he said.
Red River Theatres marketing manager Angie Lane thinks the festival is a good taste of what Bollywood’s all about. 
“We’re the only Bollywood film festival in New Hampshire. It’s a really fun event,” she said. “While Bollywood is not at all a reflection of the Indian culture as a whole, I think you can really kind of touch on another culture by seeing the art they create.”
Szczesny has visited Nepal with his wife Meena Gyawali, and while she’s the native, Szcesney is the Bollywood fan. (“She fast-forwards through the music — that’s how she and her father used to watch it — but my argument is that it’s the most important part of the film!” he said.)
The films are very long — about three hours each — but interjected between the two will be an Indian-themed lunch from House of India. It will occur within the screening room, during which a collection of classic Indian dances will play.
“In India, when you’re going to a film, the expectation is that it’s going to be an all-day or afternoon affair, not something you cram into your spare time,” Szczesny said. 
Besides more music and dancing, you also get more character development in those three hours. The tradition of Bollywood screenings, Szczesny said, comes from the way films were shown in its early days. Film trucks traveled the country to tiny, middle-of-nowhere communities, and in order to collect wide audiences, filmmakers made sure the movies had something for every kind of audience member — fight scenes, romance, chase sequences and comedy while still remaining family-friendly. 
Szczesny said the festival has occasionally drawn in audiences from the Indian culture, but for the most part, its viewers are Westerners looking to see something different. As it’s actually the only Bollywood festival in New England, he hopes to draw crowds from beyond the Merrimack Valley.
Also at the festival will be a Nepal earthquake relief collection box  that will go to the Himalayan Rescue Association, a British organization that provides doctors and medical research.
The earthquake, Szczesny said, has affected the couple personally; the pair married in Nepal, which is chronicled in Szczesny’s The Nepal Chronicles, but the trails the couple hiked are now impassable, and Gyawali’s family, though now safe, lived right in the middle of the action. He said the HRA is a very respectable organization that’s been around since the ‘70s.
As seen in the May 7, 2015 issue of the Hippo.

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