Toronto International Film Festival 2023: Three Indian movies bag honours

‘Dear Jassi’, directed by Tarsem Singh, won the Platform category award for its ‘poignant portrayal of a subject matter that still affects large portions of individuals forced to live under the inhumanity of bitter caste systems’.
A scene from Dear Jassi
A scene from Dear JassiTIFF
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The Toronto International Film Festival 2023 came to a close on September 17. Nearly 300 films were shown on 23 screens day and night in the heart of the city, accompanied by various musical performances, while trade pavilions and food outlets were set up.

Among the six Indian films selected for screening, three garnered accolades making Toronto Indians proud to be a part of the festival. The prestigious Platform category award was clinched by Dear Jassi, directed by Tarsem Singh Dhandwar. Tarsem, as he’s popularly known, is no stranger to the American film world, thanks to the previous five features, a television series, and hundreds of advertisements to his credit. The film received a cash prize of $20,000 for its brilliant picturisation of a love story and its tragic turnarounds. Newcomers Yugam Sood and Pavia Sidhu played the lead roles of Mittu and Jassi respectively. This film was pitted against nine other quality titles from nine countries to come out with flying colours.

Eminent filmmakers Barry Jenkins, Nadine Labaki, and Anthony Shim who constituted the jury of the Platform category had a tough time selecting the winner. Their statement read: “'Dear Jassi was a unanimous choice for this year's Platform Award for its honest and poignant portrayal of a subject matter that still affects large portions of individuals forced to live under the inhumanity of bitter caste systems. The film perfectly blends craft, purpose and faith in its audience, creating a richly cinematic world that is steadfastly realistic. The young leads, Yugam Sood and Pavia Sidhu, are by turns breathtaking and, in performances that pull no punches, heartbreaking. Altogether an emphatic work by director Tarsem Singh Dhandwar and his many wonderful collaborators; a film that would be worthy of accolades in any section and which we enthusiastically welcome into the pantheon of winners in this Platform section.”

A scene from A Match
A scene from A MatchTIFF

The Marathi film A Match (Sthal) won the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema (NETPAC) award. Directed by Jayant Somalkar, this heartwarming tale about the ordeals of arranged marriage is set in a village in Maharashtra. The NETPAC award was instituted to promote Asian cinema and bring global attention to independent and non-mainstream films with a focus on discovering new talent.

“'The jury commends the courage of this year’s winner, debut feature director, for taking a risk and delivering a story that’s enlightening and entertaining. The director worked with a cast of non-actors that not only resulted in a stellar performance but achieved a level of authenticity to drive home the social message. An immersive portrayal of life in an Indian village, highlighting its oppressive patriarchal customs, the NETPAC award this year goes to: A Match by Jayant Somalkar,“' the jury note read.

In the Midnight Madness section of the festival, Nikhil Nagesh Bhat's Kill, an action thriller set in a moving train, secured second place.

“We’re grateful to all the audience members, artistes, industry professionals, and supporters who graced Toronto’s cinemas, red carpets, meeting spaces, and streets,” said Cameron Bailey, TIFF CEO. “'As we recognise award winners today, we thank everyone who contributed to this glorious collective gift,” he added.

“From the most revered veterans to the freshest new voices, this year’s festival played host to the diverse range of filmmakers Toronto is known for,” said Anita Lee, TIFF’s chief programming officer. “And Toronto’s filmgoers turned up in huge numbers to be part of the celebration. We’re grateful to our film jurors for their valuable contributions, for championing emerging talent, and for enriching the film community with their expertise and passion,” she added.

The 48th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival concluded with free screenings of award-winning films at various venues.

Suresh Nellikode has written fiction for Malayalam periodicals like Mathrubhumi and Kalakaumudi. He’s also been a contributor to The New Indian Express and Khaleej Times. He currently lives in Canada.

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