Once Upon a Time in Calcutta received two awards – best director for Aditya Vikram Sengupta and best actress for Sreelekha Mitra – at the 2022 edition of the New York Indian Film Festival, which also honoured Faraz Ali’s Shoebox with the best film trophy. 

The seven-day film gala, which came to a close on May 14, featured and awarded films from India and the Indian Diaspora.

The awards were announced on Saturday night on the NYIFF’s official Instagram page.

Sengupta’s Once Upon a Time in Calcutta is based on true events and is the filmmaker’s homage to modern-day Kolkata. The Bengali language movie highlights the aspirations and struggles of people gasping for breath in an ever-expanding metropolis.

In the Hindi film Shoebox, Ali explores a young woman’s complex relationship with her father as the world around them changes drastically. It was the second centrepiece of the festival following Bani Singh’s Taangh/Longing.

The best actor award went to Sacred Games star Jitendra Joshi for his performance in Nikhil Mahajan’s Godavari. The Marathi film is billed as a philosophical exploration of life and death and borrows its name from the titular river that flows from Nashik, Maharashtra to the southern states of the country.

Debutante Singh’s Taangh/Longing won the best documentary feature trophy. The movie chronicles the life of the director’s father Grahnandan ‘Nandy’ Singh who was part of India’s hockey team that won the gold medal in the 1948 London Olympics against former colonisers England as well as traces his friendship with teammates that goes back before the Partition of 1947.

For Kicking Balls, Vijayeta Kumar earned the best documentary short award. The film explores the journey and sisterhood of 200 teenage girls from three small villages in Rajasthan playing football.

Ritesh Sharma’s The Brittle Thread, a trilingual drama in Hindi, English, and Hebrew, won the best debut film award at the gala. Set in Sharma’s hometown Varanasi, the story follows the street dancer Rani and handloom weaver Shahdab, who are both fighting the hardships of life.   Kuldip Patel’s “Powai” won the best screenplay honour. The Mumbai-set film follows the struggle of three women from diverse socio-economic strata trying to realise their dreams and claim autonomy in a chaotic, patriarchal, and unforgiving urban landscape.

Shah and Hirnaya Zinzuwadia of the Gujarati language children’s film Gandhi & Co. were named best child actors.

Amrita Bagchi’s short film Succulent, which questions the possibility of the commodification of human affection, went home with the best short narrative award.

Being held virtually for the third year in a row, the festival, presented by the Indo-American Arts Council (IAAC), featured 60 screenings including 18 feature narratives, six documentaries, and 36 short films. The NYIFF celebrates alternative, independent cinema from the global Indian community and brings this collection of films to the New York audience.