Showbiz & Celebrity / TIFF 2018: 12 South Asian Films That You Must Watch Out For

TIFF 2018: 12 South Asian Films That You Must Watch Out For

Showbiz & Celebrity Sep 14, 2018

Dev Patel, Riz Ahmed, Nandita Das and Abhishek Bachchan are just a few of the South Asian stars who lit up the Toronto International Film Festival this year. Here are 12 South Asian films that caught our eye. 

Toronto has once again rolled out the red carpet for the world’s myriad cinema scenes. With the largest lineup of any of the major film festivals, TIFF offers a little something for — and by — everyone. This year, South Asian talent has been well-represented on both sides of the camera — Dev Patel, Riz Ahmed, Anurag Kashyap, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, and many more were on hand promoting Bollywood romances, gritty little indies and over-the-top throwback kung-fu extravaganzas! Here are the South Asian films we’ve been keeping an eye on at this year’s fest.

 

Hotel Mumbai

12 South Asian Films That You Must Watch Out For
12 South Asian Films That You Must Watch Out For: Dev Patel in Hotel Mumbai. Photo Credit: www.tiff.net

A veritable fixture at TIFF the past few years, Dev Patel returned to TO heading up this fact-based thriller about the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, focusing in on the staff, tourists and various other shelter-seekers at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel as they band together to survive a brutal, unrelenting onslaught of violence from heavily armed Islamic extremists (which ultimately left 164 people dead). Australian director Anthony Maras assembles a stacked ensemble for his debut feature, including Armie Hammer (Call Me by Your Name), Nazanin Boniadi (Homeland), Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter) and Anupam Kher (The Big Sick).

 

The Wedding Guest

12 South Asian Films That You Must Watch Out For
12 South Asian Films That You Must Watch Out For: Dev Patel (yes, again) in The Wedding Guest. Photo Credit:  www.tiff.net

It was a super-busy week for Patel, as the Oscar nominee was also headlining this slow-burn neo-noir thriller from acclaimed U.K. director Michael Winterbottom (The Trip). Here, he plays a mysterious young Brit who journeys to Pakistan for a wedding. But no ordinary guest is he. Instead of a set of wine glasses, he’s bringing a duffle packed with handguns, duct tape and twist-ties. And he’s got eyes for the bride (Padman’s Radhika Apte).

 

Maya

12 South Asian Films That You Must Watch Out For
12 South Asian Films That You Must Watch Out For: Aarshi Banerjee and Roman Kolinka play unlikely lovebirds in Maya. Photo Credit: www.tiff.net

The latest from French actress-turned-director Mia Hansen-Løve centres on a 30-year-old war correspondent (Roman Kolinka) suffering from PTSD in the wake of being taken prisoner in Syria. Shaken to his core, he seeks a way forward by returning to the place he grew up: India. Once there, he forges an unexpected bond with his godfather’s college-age daughter (Aarshi Banerjee), which gives way to a tender romance.

 

The Lie

12 South Asian Films That You Must Watch Out For
12 South Asian Films That You Must Watch Out For: Peter Sarsgaard and Mireille Enos star in Veena Sud’s The Lie. Photo Credit: www.tiff.net

Veena Sud, the Canadian-born creator of such water-cooler TV series The Killing and Seven Seconds, partners with horror studio Blumhouse (Get Out, Paranormal Activity) for a thriller centred on one fragile family forced to keep an impossible secret. After their daughter (The Conjuring’s Joey King) inexplicably kills her friend on the way to a ballet recital, two estranged parents (Mireille Enos and Peter Sarsgaard, both Killing alums) do what they must to cover up the crime and protect their daughter. But the weight of this sin coupled with the suspicions of the victim’s father (The Expanse’s Cas Anvar) threaten to drag them all down.

 

Husband Material (Manmarziyaan)

12 South Asian Films That You Must Watch Out For
12 South Asian Films That You Must Watch Out For: Taapsee Pannu and Vicky Kaushal are young and in love in Anurag Kashyap’s Husband Material. Photo Credit: www.tiff.net

The big, buzzy Bollywood offering at this year’s fest comes from Indian maverick Anurag Kashyap (Gangs of Wasseypur), who here applies his subversive flair to a traditional romance flick. Taapsee Pannu stars as Rummi, a young woman torn between adventure and expectation. Living with her family in Punjab state, she wants to be a dutiful daughter, but she also wants blue-haired hunk Vicky (Vicky Kaushal); they carry on a passionate, secret affair, which becomes complicated when her family presents her with their preferred, matchmaker-approved partner, Robbie (Abhishek Bachchan, back on the big screen for the first time in two years). Suddenly, Rummi’s got a life-changing decision to make.

 

Manto

12 South Asian Films That You Must Watch Out For
12 South Asian Films That You Must Watch Out For: Nawazuddin Siddiqui plays an iconic Indian scribe in Nandita Das’s Manto. Photo Credit:  www.tiff.net

Nandita Das returns to TIFF with a biopic of oft-celebrated, oft-persecuted Indian writer Saadat Hasan Manto, brought to life here by the great Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Das traces the black days that would inform Manto’s raw, unflinching short stories, which sought to capture the brutal reality of everyday life in the wake of Indian independence and the subsequent partition. He was devoted to portraying the world as it was, and the world punished him for it.

 

The Sisters Brothers

12 South Asian Films That You Must Watch Out For
12 South Asian Films That You Must Watch Out For: Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Reilly are on the trail of Riz Ahmed in The Sisters Brothers. Photo Credit: www.tiff.net

This offbeat, darkly comedic, ultimately profound Western from director Jacques Audiard (Dheepan) has already garnered a fair bit of Oscar buzz. John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix star as the titular gunslingers, who are hired by a crime boss to hunt down a prospector played by Riz Ahmed, continuing his rise up Hollywood’s A-list ranks. Also on the prospector’s trail: a detective played by Ahmed’s old Nightcrawler co-star Jake Gyllenhaal. On a collision course, all four of these wanderers will go through an unexpected and transformative journey.

 

Circle

12 South Asian Films That You Must Watch Out For
12 South Asian Films That You Must Watch Out For: The cycle of abuse that led to a gang rape is explored in Jayisha Patel’s short doc Circle. Photo Credit: www.tiff.net

Journalist Jayisha Patel offers us a 15-minute glimpse into the life of Khushbu, the 13-year-old survivor of a gang-rape orchestrated by her own grandmother, a woman who also turned her into a child bride and bombards her with constant derision — all part of a cycle of abuse passed down from generation to generation. While situations don’t come much bleaker, this intimate short doc also aims to be a testament to “the human spirit and its resilience, at the darkest hour.”

 

The Man Who Feels No Pain (Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota)

12 South Asian Films That You Must Watch Out For
12 South Asian Films That You Must Watch Out For: Abhimanyu Dassani sets out to kick a whole lotta butt in Vasan Bala’s The Man Who Feels No Pain. Photo Credit: www.tiff.net

Six years ago, director Vasan Bala brought his directorial debut to TIFF — a gritty, poignant crime drama called Peddlers. Now, he’s back with a markedly different effort — the first Indian film ever to screen as part of TIFF’s infamous Midnight Madness lineup. Which of course means you can expect things to get downright batty. The movie centres on a young man (Abhimanyu Dassani) born without pain receptors — a  medical condition that leads him to a life of isolation with his overprotective father and hippie grandpa. Gorging himself on classic action movies, he secretly trains himself in the art of cinematic kung-fu and becomes obsessed with vanquishing evil-doers and competing in a 100-man brawl.

Premiering this very night, it’s an irreverent, madcap beat-’em-up that infuses Bollywood, Hollywood and Hong Kong action, offering, as the TIFF organizers aptly put it: “the punches of Bruce Lee, the kicks of Jackie Chan and the dance moves of Chiranjeevi.”

 

Reason

12 South Asian Films That You Must Watch Out For
12 South Asian Films That You Must Watch Out For: India’s violent move away from secular democracy is profile in Anand Patwardhan’s documentary Reason. Photo Credit: www.tiff.net

Anand Patwardhan’s latest documentary is said to offer an exhaustive, incisive looks at how India has transformed from a secular democracy into a society increasingly defined by “power, caste and religious belief — lines that are enforced increasingly by violence.” Over eight chapters, Patwardhan touches on the effects of religious nationalism, the assassinations of crusaders against oppression, while also connecting what’s happening in India to similarly troubling scenarios playing out across the world.

 

Bulbul Can Sing

12 South Asian Films That You Must Watch Out For
12 South Asian Films That You Must Watch Out For: Director Rima Das returns to TIFF with Bulbul Can Sing. Photo Credit. www.tiff.net

Acclaimed Village Rockstars director Rima Das is back at TIFF with a gorgeously shot coming-of-age drama about a vivacious teen girl named Bulbul who, along with her friends Sumu and Bonny, struggles with young love, the burgeoning spectre of adulthood and finding her true self while growing up in a restrictive rural village.

 

The Field

12 South Asian Films That You Must Watch Out For
12 South Asian Films That You Must Watch Out For: An impoverished labourer strives for a more fulfilling life in Sandhya Suri’s The Field. Photo Credit: www.tiff.net

Director Sandhya Suri’s dramatic short follows a poor farm worker named Lalla (Mia Maelzer) who longs to break out of her soul-crushing lot in life and takes a big chance to make that dream a reality.

 

BONUS FILM: 

The Sweet Requiem

12 South Asian Films That You Must Watch Out For
12 South Asian Films That You Must Watch Out For: A chilling past is brought to bear in Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam’s refugee drama The Sweet Requiem. Photo Credit: www.tiff.net.

A young Tibetan woman (Tenzin Dolker) living in India is forced to confront her torturous journey as a refugee by the sudden arrival of the man who betrayed her and her father while they were making that treacherous march across the Himalayas toward a better life. Directed by the duo of Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam (who previously gave us Dreaming Lhasa back in 2005), it’s a tender, deliberate, beautifully lensed meditation on exorcising the ghosts of the past.

 

Main Image Photo Credit: www.tiff.net

 

 

Matthew Currie

Matthew Currie

Author

A long-standing entertainment journalist, Currie is a graduate of the Professional Writing program at Toronto’s York University. He has spent the past number of years working as a freelancer for ANOKHI and for diverse publications such as Sharp, TV Week, CAA’s Westworld and BC Business. Currie ...

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