The Toronto International Film Festival 2023 is fast approaching. With over 100 movies, the sheer volume is every cinephiles dream, and every movie critic’s nightmare. But it’s a problem critics myself love to have. But speaking personally, the Indian and South Asian movies at TIFF 23 are something I am definitely looking forward to.
Take A Look At The Most Anticipated South Asian Movies At TIFF 23.
A Match Kicks Off The South Asian Movies At TIFF 23
Jayant Digambar Somalkar’s feature debut chronicles the experiences of a young woman yearning to determine her own future in a world where patriarchal traditions deprive women of agency and arranged marriage is presented as the only option for self-betterment.
Arranged marriages have been the topic of many movies coming out of the South Asian movie industries. So it’s not a surprise that one of the South Asian movies at TIFF 23 takes a hard look at the concept from the perspective of a woman in India. The unique part of this film is also that its cast is primarily non-actors, providing a more honest look into its story.
A Road To A Village
This moving, insightful drama from director Nabin Subba delves deep into the dreams and struggles of a rural Nepali family when a road connects their once-remote village to the modern world — and introduces them to novelties both tantalizing and perilous.
This movie explores the industrialization of the world through the story of a remote village exposed to the outside world through developing infrastructure. The story is about a family whose business is in hand-crafted goods. But the coming of culture and technology into their village threatens their livelihoods. I think it’s going to be an interesting exploration of how advancement affects the little guy.
Dear Jassi Is The Director’s First South Asian Movie At TIFF 23
With his first film set in India, Tarsem Singh Dhandwar returns to the big screen to tell the shocking true-life tale of a young couple desperate to be together. Tarsem Singh Dhandwar’s first story set in India tells the true-life Romeo and Juliet tale of a young couple who are desperate to be together but are kept apart by time, distance, and familial expectations.
The most interesting part of Dear Jassi is the director, primarily a Hollywood director known for films like The Cell, Immortals and Mirror Mirror, is debuting in Indian cinema. The story is in India and is a love story, which feels like a departure for the director who has dabbled in mostly genre films.
I Am Sirat
Caught between duty and self-determination, Sirat Taneja is a transgender woman who must act as her mother’s son when at home in New Delhi but can be the woman she really is with her friends and at work with the Government of India. A collaboration between director Deepa Mehta and Sirat, the film focuses around Sirat’s lens. Shot on smartphones, Sirat controls her narrative and makes it accessible to us.
This film is unique as it’s a documentary, but made in collaboration with the subject, Sirat herself, and acclaimed filmmaker Deepa Mehta. While documentaries are not something I usually experience, the subject matter and creative talent behind I Am Sirat make this a must-watch.
In Flames Looks Stunning
In Karachi, medical student Mariam (Ramesha Nawal) is struggling. She’s still dealing with the fresh loss of her grandfather and doing her best to support her grieving mother (Bakhtawar Mazhar) and brother (Jibraan Khan) while preparing for her upcoming exams. An estranged uncle (Adnan Shah Tipu) re-enters their lives and declares himself their new patriarch, making noises about handling their finances out of the kindness of his heart. Mariam’s mother is grateful for the help; Mariam can see disaster looming.
While In Flames sounds like an emotionally moving and personal story, I’m curious about the looming and mysterious aspect of the synopsis. It’s peaking my curiosity and I’m excited to see how the story unfolds.
Kill Is One Of The Most Anicipated South Asian Movie At TIFF 23
In Nikhil Nagesh Bhat’s relentless martial arts thriller, a passenger train bound for New Delhi becomes a bloody battleground of brutal close-quarters combat as a pair of commandos square off against a 40-strong army of invading bandits.
Probably the most mainstream studio film of all the South Asian movies at TIFF 23, Kill is very interesting. Produced by mega-Bollywood producer Karan Johar, Kill sounds like an insane action movie with a love story behind it all. With choreographers from other insane action movies, this one is at the top of my list.
Lost Ladies Is The Return Of A Former TIFF Filmmaker
Set in 2001 in rural India, this sophomore romp by Kiran Rao (Dhobi Ghat, TIFF ’10) finds two young brides hilariously entwined in a riot of mistaken identities. New brides Jaya (Pratibha Ranta) and Phool (Nitanshi Goel), veiled in their crimson, filigreed marital saris, are accidentally swapped when Phool’s timid groom Deepak (Sparsh Shrivastava) mistakenly escorts Jaya out of their overnight train. Now, self-possessed and secretive Jaya temporarily enters Deepak’s joint family, while docile and fragile Phool finds herself abandoned at a remote railway station.
Another film that explores marriage within South Asia, Lost Ladies comes from the mind of filmmaker Kiran Rao. Rao’s debut in Dhobi Ghat is one of the most memorable films of all time. So can’t wait to see what she does this time around.
Thank You For Coming Sounds Hilarious
Smart, successful, and respected, Delhi food blogger Kanika Kapoor (Bhumi Pednekar) is what you might call a hapless romantic. A serial monogamist, she’s spent her entire adult life seeking a satisfying love match — both emotionally and physically. But no matter the partner, and no matter how enthusiastic the relationship, she’s never been able to have an orgasm… and it’s become so damaging to her self-image that she’s about to throw away her dreams of a fairy-tale romance and settle for a devoted but painfully dull suitor.
While this seems like a raunchy comedy, Thank You For Coming sounds like an amazing good time with an incredibly talented cast. Indian films about female empowerment and sex-positive vibes can become a little preachy or heavy-handed, but here’s hoping this one turns out well.
The Queen Of My Dreams
In 1999, the sudden death of her father Hassan (Hamza Haq) sends queer Muslim grad student Azra (Amrit Kaur) flying back to her ancestral home in Pakistan, where her stern mother Mariam (Nimra Bucha) demands she play the role of the perfect grieving daughter. But through flashbacks to Mariam’s own life in Karachi 30 years before, we see the connections uniting mother and daughter, starting with their shared love of the Bollywood star Sharmila Tagore.
Another South Asian movie at TIFF 23 is Queen Of My Dreams, which sounds like a powerful movie story about mother and daughter. The main character being queer also add an element to the story that feels ominous given the attitudes in Pakistan about the LGBTQ community.
Yellow Bus Rounds Out The Most Exciting South Asian Movies At TIFF 23
Ananda (Tannishtha Chatterjee) and Gagan (Amit Sial) emigrated to the Arabian Gulf from India in search of new opportunities and a better life for their family, which soon grew to include daughters Ravina and Anju. But their dreams shatter when Anju, their youngest, dies after being forgotten on a school bus in the sweltering desert heat.
While seemingly tragic, the story of Yellow Bus sounds intriguing and quite incredible. With an incredible main lead in Chatterjee, the movie sounds exciting and riveting. And has definitely made the list of most anticipated South Asian movies at TIFF 23.
What South Asian movies are you most looking forward to at TIFF 23? Let me know in the comments below. And make sure you’re following me on Twitter (X) at @theshahshahid for more TIFF 23 coverage and reviews of all these movies.