2014-06-02 / .

Indian child trafficking saga opens London film festival

London: A hard-hitting film about the brutalities of India's illicit child trafficking industry opened the London Asian Film Festival (LAFF) here. 'Lakshmi', based on the real-life story of a 14-year-old girl kidnapped from her village in Andhra Pradhesh and forced into prostitution, has been written and directed by Nagesh Kukunoor. "This is the kind of film that changes you. It will move and repulse audiences but I don’t think it would be possible to be dismissive about child trafficking after this," said Kukunoor, who also takes on the role of a nasty pimp in the film. "I would just like to say that the violence in the film is all clever editing, I have never hit a woman in my life," he told an extremely moved audience at the end of the film's UK premiere at Tricycle Cinema in London yesterday.

In her real life avatar, Lakshmi goes on to eventually testify in court against her traffickers, setting a precedence for such cases in the legal arena. "It is a kind of scarring that one would live with for a long time. However, Lakshmi now is a happy, intelligent woman working at the same rescue shelter which gave her refuge," added the director behind successful off-beat films like 'Hyderabad Blues' and 'Iqbal'. 'Lakshmi' kicks off a 12-day celebration of independent South Asian arts and cinema across London as it returns for a 16th year. Among other highlights of this year's festival include 'Remembering Yash Chopra' - where Pam Chopra, the wife of the late Bollywood filmmaker, and actor Anupam Kher will be in conversation with Rachel Dwyer, Professor of Indian Cultures and Cinema at London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) here on Saturday.

Dr Pushpinder Chowdhry, organiser of the festival, said: "The late Yash Chopra is regarded as the king of romance in Indian cinema who presented the notion of falling in love with a sense of aspiration, escapism and adventure. His love for Britain is evident in his iconic films like 'Lamhe' and 'Jab Tak Hai Jaan' as he leaves behind a unique legacy of visual aesthetics that continue to inspire a new generation of filmmakers." This year's LAFF, which is presented by not-for-profit organisation Tongues on Fire and runs until June 14, also includes a tribute to another late Indian filmmaker - Rituparno Ghosh - in association with In Focus Film Society. The high point will be a special screening of 'Jeevan Smriti', Ghosh's last completed feature and a tribute to the legendary Rabindranath Tagore, next week.

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