NOW Live from the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center

Hollywood Comes to Bollywood

This post is a part of our awesome #GivingTuesday 2014 Showcase! See what else we’ve done this year.


The lineup from the Beyond Bollywood Film Festival

In conjunction with the Beyond Bollywood exhibition, the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center partnered with the National Museum of Natural History to present the Smithsonian Beyond Bollywood Film Festival, which showcased the work of Indian Americans in short and feature length films. The films explore issues specific to the Indian American experience, such as migration, the pressure to assimilate, and the endurance of cultural connections to India. Beyond those regional particularities, each of the films explores issues common to all Americans, such as love and family, intergenerational conflict, aging, and gender roles.


Sendhil Ramamurthy, Mahesh Pailoor and Anu Pradhan speak with APAC Curator Masum Momaya about their film, Brahmin Bulls.

In addition to the films themselves, the Smithsonian Beyond Bollywood Film Festival featured appearances by and conversations with many of the films’ creators and stars. This tremendously accomplished group included director Mahesh Pailoor, whose thesis film for the prestigious American Film Institute was shown at over 20 international film festivals, garnering a number of awards and honors. In addition to Mr. Pailoor, the Smithsonian Beyond Bollywood Film Festival welcomed Sendhil Ramamurthy, who, in addition to starring in Mr. Pailoor’s feature Brahmin Bulls, has pursued a diverse career in international cinema and on London’s West End stages. Mr. Ramamurthy has also achieved mainstream success in America as a film and television star known for taking non-stereotypical roles, including roles in two massively popular television dramas — NBC’s Heroes and the USA Network’s Covert Affairs.

Closing the festival was a screening of the feature film The Namesake. Based on the best-selling novel by Pulitzer Prize winning author Jhumpa Lahiri and directed by Mira Nair, whose credits include Monsoon Wedding, The Namesake explores themes of migration and identity; tradition and change; courtship, marriage, and divorce; and intergenerational conflict through the story of two first-generation immigrants from Kolkata and their American-born children. The film features starring roles by two of India’s most popular film stars, Irrfan Khan and Tabu.


Actor Kal Penn speaks with moderator Shilpa Davé about The Namesake.

After the screening, one of the stars of The Namesake, Kal Penn, joined the audience for a conversation about the film. As an actor, scholar, and civil servant, Mr. Penn has a diverse body of experience. Mr. Penn has held a number of high-profile jobs in President Barack Obama’s administration, including serving as co-chair of President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign and occupying a number of positions in the White House Office of Public Engagement, where he is now General Director. Mr. Penn balances his political career with a flourishing acting career, including starring roles in the popular Harold & Kumar series of films. Mr. Penn is also known for his starring role in the television medical drama House and a recurring role on the television comedy How I Met Your Mother. In 2008, Mr. Penn taught a course titled “Images of Asian Americans in the Media” at the University of Pennsylvania and is currently pursuing graduate studies in international security at Stanford University.


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