Councilmember Roger Berliner (Montgomery) Talks Bollywood Film Series

Man Behind the Bollywood Film Series: Montgomery County Councilmember Roger Berliner

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Rockville, Maryland – The American Film Institute (AFI) Silver Theatre and Cultural Center in downtown Silver Spring of Montgomery County will be hosting the Best of Bollywood Film Series from April 7-15, showcasing 8 recent Bollywood hit films that reflect the latest trends, stars and topics of Hindi cinema.

The films feature some of the biggest stars of Bollywood today such as Aamir Khan, Akshay Kumar, Sonam Kapoor, Rajkummar Rao, Sonakshi Sinha, Sidharth Malhotra, Ayushmann Khurrana and Akshaye Khanna among many others. For more information, please visit:  Bollywood Film Series.

India America Today spoke to Montgomery County Councilmember Roger Berliner to learn more about this important initiative that seeks to showcase Bollywood movies in Montgomery County and the DC area.

How did the idea for the festival come about?

The idea for the film festival came about as the product of conversations I had with the AFI Silver Theatre and leaders from the Maryland-India Business Roundtable to bring mainstream Bollywood films to the Montgomery County and DC audience as an entertaining cultural experience.

MD Film Fest Pic 1Montgomery County is one of the most diverse jurisdictions in the nation, and the Indian community is an important part of our county. In fact, we have roughly 40,000 residents whom are Indian-American and for them, watching Bollywood films is more than just a favorite hobby – it is a link to their roots.

This is also a way to celebrate not only our diversity in Montgomery County, but also the contributions and global impact that Bollywood films have. Being one of the largest film industries in the world, I felt that recognizing this work through the festival was important.

Last year, the AFI Silver did a screening of 3 IDIOTS and BIG IN BOLLYWOOD where Indian-American actor Omi Vaidya from these films was in attendance. Were doing those screenings a part of this initiative?

Yes, doing those screenings was the first step toward moving forward on the Bollywood Film Festival. It was exciting to have Omi Vaidya attend and it was heartening to see a diverse audience, comprised of Indian-Americans and other communities, that loved both films. It was a great source of encouragement to continue to move forward on making a bigger Bollywood film festival happen.

Can you tell us a little bit about the movies that will be shown at the festival?

The films that will be shown in the film series are new, from 2017-2018, and are a reflection of the issues, stars and style of cinema which are gaining more prominence in India today. There are films like PAD MAN, SECRET SUPERSTAR and TOILET which cover important social issues affecting women in India.

MD Film Fest Pic 2There are thrillers like ITTEFAQ, romantic comedies like BAREILLY KI BARFI and SHUBH MANGAL SAVDHAAN, dramas like MUKKABAAZ and political satires like NEWTON as well, so there is a little something for every audience member based on their interests.

While many of these films are musicals, which is one of the components that make Bollywood films very popular, they are also more rooted in real storytelling than fiction.

What has been your personal connect with Bollywood films?

Many years ago I watched the film LAGAAN, and I was completely in awe of its ability to put a compelling story, music, powerful performances, emotion and sports into one epic movie. LAGAAN was what introduced me to Bollywood movies and I have had a deep appreciation and fascination for them ever since.

Have you faced any challenges while putting this initiative together?

There were no challenges at all putting this initiative together. All pieces fell into place perfectly and I commend the leadership of the AFI Silver for helping make that happen.

The AFI Silver is one of the most important arts institutions that we have in the County and is a leader in promoting films from around the world. Because of their passion for work such as this, in addition to having the infrastructure to hold unique film festivals, I knew that they would be a great partner.

Also, seeing the enthusiasm and mutual interest in doing this festival from leaders in the Indian community such as Mr. Elisha Pulivarti of the Maryland-India Business Roundtable, the foundation was set for what I believe will be a memorable event in our county.

What is the vision that you have for this festival?

My hope is that it continues to grow and meet the Indian community’s interest of watching mainstream Bollywood films while also exposing wider audiences to experience and appreciate these movies.

Our county is all about sharing culture and recognizing the importance of the arts, such as the visual arts. I hope that Montgomery County continues to expand its reputation as a hub for the arts in our region through initiatives such as this.

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