Enthusiastic response to Indian film festival

Abu Dhabi's first Indian Film Festival has been showing to packed audiences since it opened on Sunday.

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ABU DHABI // Abu Dhabi's first Indian Film Festival, hosted by the Indian embassy and the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage, has been showing to packed audiences since it opened on Sunday. The 10-day festival features regional films as well as Bollywood productions and Emirati documentaries. All are being screened at the embassy.

"We are very thrilled with the results. There has been an excellent turnout," said Talmiz Ahmad, the Indian ambassador. Films such as Veer-Zaara and Jodhaa Akbar were shown to packed audiences, and many other art films were also well attended. Mr Ahmad said: "Whoever was there stayed till the end. The Indian community were exposed to films that were not in their personal language, and as a result, they were exposed to other aspects of Indian cinema."

However, Mr Ahmad said he hoped to attract more Emiratis to the screenings. "I would like to introduce Indian cinema to people who are not familiar with it. This is after all, a window to other cultures." A number of Indian directors and producers whose films are being showcased are visiting Abu Dhabi for the festival, including Yash Chopra, who runs one of Bollywood's biggest production houses and has been producing films for more than five decades. Mr Chopra directed Veer-Zaara, which showed on opening night.

"For a lot of them, even though they have been to Dubai many times before, this was their first visit to Abu Dhabi. They are very thrilled and we're talking about how to institutionalise the relationship," said Mr Ahmad. The directors are said to be keen to collaborate with Emirati producers and train Emirati youth in filmmaking. "I see this as a positive outcome of this development. This would make the team truly international filmmakers," Mr Ahmad said.

Cultural figures from the UK, India and the UAE will gather over the weekend to host seminars on aspects of Indian cinema ranging from UK and Gulf audiences for Bollywood movies to the preferences of different audiences for the various kinds of Indian films. Sangeeta Datta, a writer and filmmaker who teaches at the Centre for Advanced Studies at the University of London, will talk about contemporary Bengali cinema on Friday, examining the legacy of Satyajit Ray, a renowned filmmaker who won an Oscar for lifetime achievement.

As part of her presentation, Ms Datta will discuss contemporary Bengali directors such as Rituparna Ghosh, who have worked with English scripts and Bollywood actors, while keeping the premise of their films firmly based in West Bengal. Rachel Dwyer, professor of Indian Cultures and Cinema at the School of Oriental and African Studies at London University, will challenge the notion that Indian cinema was "pure and without western influence" in its early form in the 1940s by pointing out the influence upon it of world literature and politics. @Email:sbhattacharya@thenational.ae