The London Asian Film Festival by Tongues on Fire is a festival dedicated to expressing the drive and spirit of independent cinema from South Asia. The festival provides a unique platform for Asians working in film and media around the world. Our screenings and events include feature films, documentaries, short films, panel discussions, and educational and community screenings.
Founding directors Dr Pushpinder Chowdhry and Mrs Harvinder Nath conceived the festival in 1999. The films featured are usually independent or arthouse cinema, as opposed to more popular Bollywood films. Both Pushpinder and Harvinder recognised the impact of films that that tackle challenging issues on society, as entertainment is intertwined with important political and social messages.
Over the years, Tongues on Fire has brought the work of acclaimed talents in cinema including award-winning filmmakers. Some of our special guests include Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding, The Namesake), Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham), Aparna Sen (15 park Avenue) and Meera Syal (Anita and Me), actors Shabana Azmi, Nandita Das, Madhur Jaffrey, Kiron Kher and Bollywood legend Helen.
Highlights of previous festivals:
This year’s London Asian Film festival has been yet again outstanding with 10 days of films, masterclasses, special events and the star studded Closing Gala Award Ceremony at Britain’s prestigious BAFTA 195 Piccadilly venue. The Tongues on Fire team have outdone themselves with an exceptional programme launching at the recently refurbished Regent Street Cinema, birthplace of British Cinema and closing at the British Academy of Film and Television Awards.
The films and response to films has been monumental from the pin drop silence following the screen of Pakistani film Manto to the emotive Q&A following I am Nojoom, Age 10 and Divorced. The jewel in the crown were the awards presented on Sunday 13th March at the closing gala from Award for Scriptwriting to India’s superstar novelist Chetan Bhagat through to Outstanding Film. Of note was Award for Contribution to Asian Cinema presented to hugely successful independent actress Tannishtha Chatterjee. The awards ceremony was concluded with a tribute to the exceptional Saeed Jaffrey by long-time friend and writer Farrukh Dhondy. Farrukh then presented wife Jennifer Jaffrey with an oil portrait of Saeed commissioned by and on behalf of Tongues on Fire, organisers of the London Asian Film Festival.
Audiences have hailed this year’s edition of the London Asian Film Festival as an unmitigated triumph as it brought together myriad different elements to keep audiences captivated. Europe’s oldest showcase for independent South Asian cinema successfully married the mainstream with independent cinema and, once again, provided a prominent platform for up-and-coming filmmaking talent whilst celebrating one of the most iconic figures in Indian cinema.
The Festival certainly did “powerful” exceptionally well: opening with the Pakistani drama ‘Dukhtar’ – a harrowing tale on child marriage – and concluded with ‘Bhopal: A Prayer for Rain’, the tragic tale of the world’s greatest industrial disaster. In between there were plenty of marquee films, not least Shonali Bose’s outstanding drama on disability and sexuality in India, ‘Margarita with a Straw’, and Ketan Mehta’s visual spectacle ‘Rang Rasiya’.
The festival is known for its’ non-film events as well and among the highlights this year was ‘Women in Media’ – a day-long discussion was a nod to the Festival’s commitment to female empowerment and women’s issues, which featured acclaimed filmmaker Nisha Pahuja and among others.
It wasn’t all terribly serious. The audience vote overwhelmingly for two events that were true celebrations of the essence of cinema – entertainment. The masterclasses and ‘Razzmatazz’ events featuring the inimitable Farah Khan and the utterly unforgettable musical tribute on closing night to the legendary Rajesh Khanna by the talented Navin Kundra.
The 2011 Festival opened with a Opening Gala at BFI, Southbank, which was a star-studded occasion with the likes of Sanjay Suri and Onir attending with the screening of the Opening Night film, ‘I Am’.
The 13th London Asian Film Festival featured many interesting and enthralling films such as ‘When Harry Tries to Marry’, ‘Peepli Live’ and ‘Ashes’. These films were well recieved by our audience and were well attended. We also had the pleasure of having the famous award winning costume designer Bhanu Athaiya, whose credits include dressing the cast of Gandhi and Lagaan. She carried out a Costume Design Masterclass at BAFTA for us last year which was a huge success and was enjoyed by all who attended.We also had an acting masterclass carried out by the interesting and talented actor/producer Sanjay Suri which was an amazing event.
The Closing Night Awards Ceremony and Dinner was an extravagent black-tie event held at BAFTA with the best of the festival’s line up being featured for awards and talent such as Juhi Chawla, Rahul Rai, Gurinder Chadha, Ajay Naidu and Heather Burns .
Abhishek Bachchan opened the 12th London Asian Film Festival with a ‘BAFTA Interview’ and he announced he was becoming Tongues on Fire Honorary Patron which we felt was a great honour!
Our fantastic Opening Night Gala featured the lovely Jaya Bachchan who recieved our prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award for her outstanding contribution to cinema spanning over three decades. The event was hosted by British TV and film actors Rizwan Ahmed and Neerja Naik and was attended by amazing talent such as Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Shyam Benegal, Meera Syal, Sharmila Tagore and Soha Ali Khan to name but a few.
We featured a multitude of cinematic flavours like An Act of Terror, Life goes on and Shyam Benegal’s Well Done Abba! just to give a taste of what independent cinema offers. We were delighted to present an acting masterclass with Abhishek Bachchan and a director’s workshop with Shyam Benegal which were fantastically successful and very popular amoung the festival crowd!
The 2008 Festival was a year to honour the lovely ladies that grace our screens and show their viewpoint of working in a male dominated industry. We had the glamourous Opening Night Gala at BAFTA where our Opening Film ‘Hope and A Little Sugar’ had it’s London Premier. This exciting premier was attended by the director Tanuja Chandra and actress Mahima Chaudhry from ‘Hope and A Little Sugar’.
This was then followed by ‘The World Unseen’ which was made by an all-women crew who did us proud and created an amazing film which we showed to our amazing audience who loved every minute! We had the honour of having the director Shamim Sarif and producer Hannan Kattan who presented a Q&A session for the film.
We also featured other riveting and exciting tales such as ‘ AIDS Jaggo’, ‘Vanaja, ‘I for India’ and many more! We also had packed workshops with a director’s masterclass led by director and writer Tanuja Chandra and of course an exciting industry seminar which brought together writers, directors, actors and producers to discuss the experiences of film making. This event was hosted by the lovely ladies Tanuja Chandra, Mahima Chaudhry, Hanan Kattan and Shamim Sarif.
As keeping with our theme this year, we featured ‘In Conversation With Meera Syal’ who let us in on a lot of her secrets of surviving in this industry! We also featured a photographic exhibition called ‘Reel Women’ which shows the journey of Tongues on Fire, it’s role with the women who it helped show both in front of and behind the camera and cinema screens.
Our Closing Night featured the enchanting film ‘Dosar’ which was a huge hit with everyone and helped end the festival leaving everyone wishing for more!
For more about us and the work we have carried out, please contact us at: [email protected]
Tongues on Fire has developed links with a number of cinemas, schools, arts and community organisation around London and we do film screenings throughout the year as well as during the annual March festival.