One hundred years of India cinema will be celebrated in the Indian Centenary Film Festival running from October 19 to 21 at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld.
Supported by the Indian Embassy, the festival features 10 films, from the first Indian feature Raja Harishchandra from 1913 to modern Bollywood blockbusters. In addition to the Hindi-language Bollywood movies, India's other film industries are represented as well, including Sandalwood (Kannada language), Kollywood (Tamil) and Tollywood (Bengali).
Highlights include the 1958 Satyajit Ray classic Jalsaghar, 1971's Anand with Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan and 1965's epic crime-and-romance drama Guide.
Admission is free. However, as is the routine for these "free" film festivals, the price you pay will be standing in line. So get ready to queue up at a table in the theater lobby for the tickets, which will be handed out 30 minutes before the showtime. If you aren't there early, you might end up with an uncomfortable seat in the very front row or perhaps even worse, no ticket at all. Given the popularity of Indian films and the devotion for cinema-going by Indian audiences, I would expect long lines to start forming perhaps an hour or two, or maybe more, before showtime.
Thursday, October 18 (opening night, invitation only)
- Raja Harishchandra – The first Indian feature film, this 40-minute silent depicts a noble and righteous king who first sacrifices his kingdom, followed by his wife and eventually his children to honour his promise to the sage Vishwamitra. Showtime is 8pm.
- Maqbool – Irfan Khan stars in this award-winning 2004 Hindi adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth. He's a lieutenant for a powerful Mumbai underworld figure whose ambitions could well be his own undoing. Tabu, Pankaj Kapur, Naseerudin Shah and Om Puri also star. Screens after Raja Harishchandra.
Friday, October 19
- Jalsaghar (The Music Room) – This 1958 Bengali-language classic is by one of the great auteurs of world cinema – Satyajit Ray. His fourth film, it chronicles the last days of a zamindar, a class of aristocrats. He'd rather spend time listening to music and staging spectacles than managing his flood-ravaged lands and dealing with the government, which is abolishing the zamindari system. Screens at noon.
- Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (Straight from the Heart) – Aishwarya Rai, Salman Khan and Ajay Devgan star in this epic Bollywood arranged-marriage drama about an classical Indian musician who falls in love with his teacher's daughter. It won many awards, including National Film Awards for Best Music Direction and Best Choreography. Screens at 2pm.
Saturday, October 20
- Kannathil Muthamittal (A Peck on the Cheek) – This much-acclaimed 2002 Tamil-language romance, set partly in Sri Lanka, is about a husband and wife torn apart by the Sri Lankan unrest. Showtime is noon.
- Gulabi Talkies – The life of a fiftysomething Muslim woman living in an island fishing village changes when a color television is introduced and her hut becomes a hub for the community. The actress Umashree won a National Film Award for her portrayal in this 2008 Kannada-language film from director Girish Kasaravalli. Showtime is 2.40pm.
- Anand – Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan star in this 1971 drama that's been ranked by Indiatimes Movies as one of the "Top 25 Must See Bollywood Films". It's about a cancer patient (Khanna), who believes in living life to its fullest, and his relationship with his doctor (Bachchan), a bitter, pessimistic man. Showtime is 5.05pm.
Sunday, October 21
- Dr Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani (The Journey of Dr. Kotnis) – This 1946 Hindi-language drama is based on the heroic life of Dr. Dwarkanath Kotnis, portrayed by V. Shantaram, who is sent to China during World War II to provide medical assistance to the troops fighting against the Japanese. Showtime is noon.
- Corporate – Industrialists (Rajat Kapoor and Raj Babbar) tangle for dominance in the food-and-beverage sector in this 2006 drama, but their rivalry is intensified by romance between junior executives (best-actress winner Bipashu Basu and Kay Kay Menon). Screens at 2.30pm.
- Guide – Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman star in this 1965 Hindi drama, which is based on a critically acclaimed novel by R.K. Narayan. Considered to be one of the masterpieces of the Indian cinema, it was India's submission for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 38th Academy Awards. Told as a flashback, a released convict recalls how his life as a tour guide of historic sites became complicated when he fell in love with the married daughter of a courtesan. Screens at 5.20pm.