Premiere of ‘Pareeksha’ leads digital Indian Film Festival in UK

Raj Baddhan

Senior Editor


The Bagri Foundation London Indian Film Festival and Birmingham Indian Film Festival have joined forces to offer a spectacular showcase of films and ‘In Conversation’ interviews by leading South Asian talent from 25th June to the 5th July.

This includes the UK premieres of much awaited films including Bollywood Director Prakash Jha’s upward mobility schooling drama ‘Pareeksha’, the searing gangster feature Moothon and the ‘American Pie’ style comedy The MisEducation of Bindu, among others.

After being challenged by the global pandemic, the festival has morphed into an online offering with as the UK and Europe’s largest showcase of Indian Subcontinental cinema, showcasing the UK’s lockdown audiences a free programme, filled to the brim with great movies including rarely seen classics such as Kerala stalwart, Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s BFI Sutherland Trophy winner Elippathayam (Rat-Trap), Bengali master, Buddhadeb Das Gupta’s epic award-winning tale Uttara (The Wrestlers) through to the visually ravishing widescreen vista of Sturla Gunnerson’s documentary Monsoon.

By complete contrast are new conversations with some of India’s hottest Bollywood talent including Ayushmann Khuranna who talks candidly about his rapid rise to fame from Vicky Donor to latest hits Article 15 which world premiered at the festival last year, through to the pan-Indian heroine of all seasons Vidya Balan, who discusses her new short film Natkhat and the importance of safeguarding women’s rights, while acclaimed character actor Adil Hussain gives rare insights into his craft.

The festival finishes with conversations by some of the world’s best loved Indian talent including Hollywood star Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire, Love Sonia) and Canadian director Deepa Mehta (Fire, Earth, Water) talking about their careers. Each of these unique conversations will be available online peppered throughout the festival giving our audience exclusive access to some A-list talent


Mixing it up further, the festival explores issues around Black Lives Matter and racism with a rare screening of the timeless, Mississippi Masala. Starring a young Denzel Washington and Sarita Choudhury, Mira Nair’s classic film explores issues of race, class and privilege as an Indian woman born in Africa and raised in America, falls in love with a black African American man in rural Mississippi.

On Saturday 27th June 8pm to midnight UK time, the festival will present an exclusive UK premiere of Prakash Jha’s family film Pareeksha. Inspired by real events, the film starring Adil Hussain explores one teenager’s passion to study, in spite of being poor and the lengths a father will go, to seeing his son’s aspirations come true. This inspiring film highlights some of the gaping social inequalities facing many low income families around the developing world.

The acclaimed film Moothon directed by Kerala child actress & film star turned director Geetu Mohandas, is produced by Cannes darling Anurag Kashyap; a gritty, fast paced, slum gangster story with a surprising LGBTQ+ romance seeded within, exploring conflicting emotions of love and loss.

The MisEducation of Bindu directed by Prarthana Mohan is a coming of age comedy, starring Hollywood rising star Megan Suri, indie actor David Arquette and Priyanka Bose who also stars in Pareeksha. Tackling issues such as bullying, fitting in and identity, the film focuses on the peculiar and chaotic world of teenage misfits as the naïve Bindu arrives in an American high school and disastrously gets a crush on the wrong boy.

The Satyajit Ray Short Film Competition showcases the best of South Asian and Diaspora cinema from emerging filmmakers. This year’s competition consists of 8 films from countries including India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The programme this year includes the UK premieres of TIFF hit ‘Darling’ in which a dreamy trans girl vies for the spotlight at an erotic dance theatre in Lahore, ‘Roqaia’, where a young girl finds herself in the middle of media frenzy after surviving a terrorist attack and ‘Migratory’, which was made during the Covid-19 lockdown.

The festival runs from 25th June to 5th July and some films are strictly time limited showings so please check the festival website for details. Feature and short films will only be available in the UK while the exclusive interviews will be viewable world-wide.

Cary Rajinder Sawhney MBE, Executive & Programming Director of the festival says, “We are delighted that we have been successfully able to move the festival into a digital offering during the UK lockdown and especially want to thank the generous film companies, actors and directors who have contributed their time and effort to help us achieve this high quality free site, which we aim to evolve into the future so that more people across the UK can view Indian indie cinema. As well as classic LIFF films, we have some amazing new UK premieres that will continue LIFF’s reputation for showcasing the best of South Asian cinema.”

Ben Luxford, Head of BFI Audiences says, “We are delighted to support LIFF’s ambitious plans to present the festival online and, by doing so, ensure that this year’s programme of South Asian cinema reaches an even wider audience.”

Alka Bagri, trustee of the Bagri Foundation says, “It is with great excitement that we celebrate the launch of a virtual festival for our sixth year as title sponsor for LIFF. In this unusual year, LIFF has responded swiftly and creatively to ensure a wide range of fantastic features, talks and interviews. Some are from the archives, with past hit films, whilst others are exciting new releases accessible for only a few hours. We congratulate LIFF on a stellar line-up!”

At A Glance
Thu 25th June
In Conversation with Ayushmann Khurrana – 6pm onwards – GLOBALLY VIEWABLE

Thu 25th June
Satyajit Ray Short film competition – UK ONLY – ALL DAY from 6pm to end of festival 5th July

Fri 26th June
Moothon 8pm-10pm UK Time – UK ONLY – TIMED

Sat 27th June
Pareeksha 8pm to 12 midnight – UK ONLY – TIMED

Sat 27th June
In Conversation with Adil Hussain – GLOBALLY VIEWABLE from 6pm

Sun 28th June
Natkhat – UK ONLY – ALL DAY

Sun 28th June
In conversation with Vidya Balan – GLOBALLY VIEWABLE from 6pm

Sun 28th June
One Crazy Thing – UK ONLY – ALL DAY

Tue 30th June
In conversation with Pratibha Parmar & Shabana Azmi – GLOBALLY VIEWABLE from 6pm

Wed 1st July
In conversation with Deepa Mehta – GLOBALLY VIEWABLE from 6pm

Thu 2nd July
Mississippi Masala – UK ONLY – ALL DAY

Thu 2nd July
Mira Nair – GLOBALLY VIEWABLE from 6pm

Fri 3rd July
Moothon 8-10pm UK Time – UK ONLY – TIMED

Sat 4th July
The MisEducation of Bindu – UK ONLY – ALL DAY

Sun 5th July
In conversation with Freida Pinto – GLOBALLY VIEWABLE from 6pm

Sun 5th July
Breaking Barriers: The Casteless Collective – UK ONLY – ALL DAY