Chicago South Asian Film Festival to feature rich variety of films

‘Ek Duaa’ a film being showcased at the Annual Chicago South Asian Film Festival. Photo: YouTube videograb from official trailer

The Chicago South Asian Film Festival (CSAFF) to be held between September 25 and October 2, 2021, announced its film lineup Sept. 11.

Organizers describe it as the largest festival of its kind in the Midwest. It is scheduled to present more than 90 films in a hybrid format virtually and physically in Downtown Chicago at the Showplace ICON Theater where the Red-Carpet Opening Night will be hosted.

Films from across South Asia are listed including a variety of regional languages, with a range of independent films, shorts, documentaries, events, and discussions for the whole week.

“This year’s festival will include some very special artists, panel discussions, moderated Q&A and several major upcoming film releases, Jigar Shah, CSAFF festival director is quoted saying in the press release. “I look forward to unveiling and launching our exciting lineup to all film lovers and community members – both old and new faces, our partners and sponsors who are passionate about cinema and have supported CSAFF every year. I’m also thrilled to welcome Ketki Parikh as the new President of CSAFF,” Shah added.

This year’s festival features more than 23 world premieres, 16-plus North American premieres and more than 60 films debuting their Chicago premiere.

The opening night and world premiere will be “Ek Duaa”, starring Esha Deol, a movie showing the discrimination that occurs with gender dynamics.  Also, the Short music video “Ae Savere” starring Soni Razdan and Taha Shah takes you on a musical journey of an untold story of a Kashmiri Pandit (priest) woman. Plus, actor Pooja Batra will walk the red carpet and speak about her film “Padmavyuha” with director Raj Krishna.

Films opening for the first time in the United States include “One-way Glass” from United Kingdom, the story of a migrant Pakistani woman trapped in a violent, sexless, loveless marriage; “Zero Kilometer” by Shamas Nawab Siddiqui on the journey of a woman; Indrani Ray’s “Love in the times of Corona” shows one lockdown, three women and three empowering stories featuring Natasha Rastogi, Shibani Dandekar, Dipannita Sharma, Adil Hussain, and Shekhar Ravjiani.  Actors such as Pankaj Tripathi with his film “Laali “and Vipin Sharma with “Naap and Missing”, as well as other films such as “Unwoven threads of Kashi”, “Midnight Delhi”, “Sand & Snow”, “Conception”, “Koko”, “When the music changes” will make their way to Chicago.

Other highlights include “Samanantar” (The Parallel) by Niraj Kumar Mishra which were chosen by Oscars and BAFTA Award Winner Resul Pookutty (Slumdog Millionaire) will be presented.

The ‘Centerpiece’ film, according to organizers, is “Americanish” by Iman Zawahry, one of the first hijabi American-Muslim filmmakers in the nation, starring High Maintenance (HBO), Mr. Robot (USA) Aizzah Fatima who will be attending in person, The Society (Netflix), Madame Secretary (CBS) famed Salena Qureshi, The Big Sick, Brown Nation (Netflix) famed Shenaz Treasury.

Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Monsoon Wedding famed Lillete Dubey, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist (NBC) famed Kapil Talwalkar and many other renowned artists will be attending, the press release said.

Regional films include “Searching for Happiness ” by Suman Ghosh in Bengali; Tamil film “Myth of a Good Girl” starring Akshara Haasan and Usha Uthup; “Yesterday’s past” by Nila Madhab Panda; “Ghar Ka Pata” by Madhulika Jalali; “Montur Montoh” an Assamese film; “Blue Bird” a Kannada film; and “The Other side of the River” a Gujarati film, among others.

“Sheer Qorma” an LGBTQ film by Faraz Arif Ansari which has won worldwide awards, will be among the showings, starring Bollywood legend Shabana Azmi, as well as Divya Dutta, Swara Bhasker, Jitin Gulati, about belonging, acceptance, identity, family, and how it all comes together under one roof with out-of-the-box characters,

Other LGBTQ films such as “Sab Rab De Bande” by Sukhdeep Singh which brings forth the various challenges that LGBTQ Sikhs grapple with; “Em ergence: Out of the Shadows ” about three men expressing their sexuality within conservative South Asian families; and “Confusion” from Nepal.

The festival will begin with a spotlight on shorts like “Checking out” by popular Tiktok stars Vick Krishna and Piyali Syam, “Shadows” by Ria Tobaccowala,, Maya by Canadian film maker Jacquile Kambo, Mragendra Singh’s film “Sulochana” “Noor and Layla” by Fawzia Mirza, films like “Proof”, “Me/Her”, “Chasing Dreams”, “The Last Date”, “A Nicknam e”, “Upside Brown” showing various genres. This year festival is proud to introduce web series content “Akelay Sath Mein” and local Chicago based web series “Chai Guys Com edy”.

Documentaries and films to be featured include Canadian film “Range of eMotion” about a bodybuilder and personal trainer; “Ela– Breaking the Boundaries” by Swapna Kurup showing Ela Shah’s body of work spanning over four decades; and personal stories starring Kal Penn.

Each session of shorts will conclude with a moderated Q&A discussion with filmmakers arriving from all over the globe. The closing documentary film for the festival is “Shut up Sona” made by Deepti Gupta featuring Sona Mohapatra is a film about a feisty female artist’s unrelenting fight for an equal space in modern day India.

The CSAFF which is held in late September, was founded in 2010 and is organized by the Chicago South Asian Arts Council Inc. For more information visit



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