Leena Yadav’s ‘Parched’ has sparked an enviable record. It is the opening film of four festivals namely, The Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, The London Indian Film Festival, The Indian Film Festival Stuttgart and the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne. And it premiered at 2015 Toronto.

London — The 7th London Indian Film Festival, with Cary Sawhney at its helm and aided by programmer Naman Ramachandran (noted journalist and scriptwriter), opened their ten day event on July 14, with ‘Parched’. The film found a packed, appreciative audience that was lively, vocal and generous with its applause.

In attendance was one of the main producers and supporters of the film, Ajay Devgan, plus a close to ten-strong cast and crew representing the film. They included director Leena Yadav and her actors, the accomplished Tannishtha Chatterjee and the delightful 17-year-old Lehar Khan (she plays the silent, surly bride who smiles beatifically when at the film’s end, she is set free from her bondage), her actress mother Priyanka Khan (the two bond as mother and daughter in the film as well) and talented newcomer Chandan K Anand (the only decent young man among the despicable males in the entire film). Also present was another key producer of the film, Gulab Singh, who attended the film’s world premiere held at Toronto last year.

The post-screening discussion clearly indicated how strongly the audience was impacted by various aspects of the film. ‘Parched’ is the story of four women of varying ages living in an arid, backward region of rural Gujarat and their escape from a fraught existence of brutality and humiliation at the hands of their men folk. Leena deftly set the audience right when questioned about how women in India have no recourse when they are in such dire circumstances. She said that the film does not blame the men or the women featured in the film. They are victims, she said, each in their own way, of their own circumstance and compulsions. She concluded saying that the real problem is the conditioning of people which controls their actions and thinking.

The London Indian Film Festival is growing from strength to strength. In its 7th edition it will screen a wide range of films not only from India but in addition, recent films from the Subcontinent. The festival is now spread over as many as ten cinemas located all over London. And this year, part of the festival will also screen synchronously in two cinemas in Birmingham.

The films screened are in a wide range of South Asian languages that reflect the linguistic diversity of the UK's Indian and South Asian communities. The festival now also has sponsors rooting for it. Its main, title sponsor is the Bagri Foundation, a respected organisation based in London that supports South Asian arts and culture. Other key sponsors are the reputed Grange Hotels and Cineworld Cinemas as well as the British Film Institute.

The films featured are well represented with over 16 filmmakers invited to speak on their work. To name a few, there is director Munish Bhardwaj presenting the European premiere of his debut work ‘Moh Maya Money’ starring Ranvir Shorey and Neha Dhupia; Rinku Kalsi, whose film on mega star Rajnikant, ‘For The Love of a Man’ appears to be a festival favourite; Kranti Kanade, with his most recent work ‘CRD’; Shefali Bhushan, director of the Punjabi film, ‘Jugni’ and Sri Lankan director Kalpana Ariyawasa presenting his film ‘Premaya Nam’.

Ketan Mehta is expected in London later when his latest film ‘Toba Tek Singh’ closes the festival. There are interesting panel discussions as well, one with Sharmila Tagore and another with the many women filmmakers who are featured this year.

And Cary Sawhney, director of LIFF, announced on stage at the opening that Shekhar Kapur has come on board as the festival’s patron. 2016 LIFF features a conversation with him, titled ‘A Life with Elizabeth’.