Imagine picturesque hills covered in green cedar trees, with every chant from the Tibetan temples and every passing monk on the slim streets,  the food so good it will make you want to eat all the time and movies on a big make shift cinema screen in a school auditorium that leave you yearning for just a little bit more.

Only you don’t have to imagine all this if you have lived all of the above at the Dharamshala International Film Festival or DIFF as it is popularly referred as.



This year too, the 6th DIFF had a stellar line up in their extremely intimate setting at the Tibetan Children’s Village (TCV) with Shubashish Bhutiani’s Mukti Bhawan – Hotel Salvation as opening film with a beautiful ceremony that had a lovely musical performance by the students of TCV and Rima Das’s Village Rockstar as the closing film on a chilly Sunday evening where celebrated actor Konkona Sen Sharma along with The Hungry Director Bornila Chatterjee were cheering on non stop for the filmmaker; before everyone was to head to celebrate the closing of one of the best festivals in the country which had no red carpet and the focus was completely on the films and discussions about the films.

Ritu & Tenzing

A truly Avant-Garde festival from India that was founded by filmmaker duo Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam under the mountain umbrella for the local communities to witness the cinema of the world has now become one of the most vendible festival of the country for film enthusiasts, locals, and international travellers some of who just come over to attend the festival.

The heart and soul of the festival, the directors of the film The Sweet Requiem have created something so meritable that there is nothing that I have seen to compare.

The location of the festival aside, the films aside the beauty of this very film festival is in the conversations it gives impetus on. Films that some of the regulars in the film festival circuit might have already watched while some took the liberty to miss them specially because DIFF was in their calendar.

My personal highlights were the little I could watch between my duties as a Pandolin representative talking to film makers, interacting with journalists, hanging out with new and old friends in the heart of Mcloed Gunj.

I started my festival, like everyone with a screening of Mukti Bhawan in presence of the leading man Adil Hussain. This was probably the second or third viewing for the most people I knew, but it couldn’t stop people from celebrating the work of the then 23 year old Shubhashish and the nuances he brought in a rare moment in history of Indian Cinema where one discusses the deepest symbiosis, transfer of power and relationship between a Father and his son.

LtoR - Rahul, Rinzin, Maheen, Bornila, Ekavali, Sayani, Rasika, Ritu, Konkona, Ankur

LtoR – Rahul, Rinzin, Maheen, Bornila, Ekavali, Sayani, Rasika, Ritu, Konkona, Ankur

There were amazing panels on The State of Independent Films, Masterclass by Adil Hussain and I wanted to do something on the side of my own with all the amazing women Filmmakers at the festival and I reached out to each one of them one by one to come be a part of a discussion on Women in Films. I got Mauli Singh – The Festival Publicist to arrange them at one place and after 2 failed attempts we finally had a small window with the best of the best on the roof top of a Tibetan temple between the two screening halls at the festival.

My friend and journalist with the Huffpost India, Ankur Pathak join me as moderator along with me. The panel Konkona Sen Sharma (A Death In The Gunj)Ritu Sarin (When Hari Got Married and founder – director of DIFF)Sayani Gupta (The Hungry)Rasika Duggal (The School Bag), Bornila Chatterjee (The Hungry)Ekavali Khanna (What Will People Say), Maheen Mirza (Turup) and Rinchin (Turup) touched on a diverse range of topics such as equal pay for women and bridging the gap between mainstream and independent cinema. (It will be on our youtube channel by end of week)

Sayani, Konkona & Karma

Sayani, Konkona & Karma

DIFF is as Indie as it gets. Be it Lijo Jose Pellissery’s Angamaly Diaries  or Pushpendra Singh’s Ashwatthamma or Dheeraj Jindal’s The School Bag led by Rasika Dugal or the norwegian director Iram Ul Haq’s What will people Say. 

The spirit of Dharamshala in an extended weekend of a film festival is the soul festival of films. You can’t find the love, spirit and combined knowledge of the film makers present, transferring to everyone present in any other setup like at the Dharamshala International Film Festival.

The festival closed for me with music, food, friends and a lot of discussions about how films should be made & watched and how a festival should be along with a promise to always be at every DIFF ever.