Beyond Bollywood

Indie Meme's new film series highlights family ties

The World of Goopi & Bagha

With school back in session, it's easy for family outings to slide off the weekly agenda, but Indie Meme has lovingly curated a film series perfect for the whole gang. Three feature films and a short offer a family-friendly chance to experience Indian culture without having to travel 9,000 miles, complete with Hindi lessons, animation magic, flatulent jokes, father-son cocktails, and dance lessons from a genie.

The quirky and poignant ways of Indian independent filmmaking are a far stretch from the usual Western perceptions of Bollywood. "They are all unique indie films which don't fit the traditional mold of popular cinema," says Indie Meme founder Alka Bhanot. The goal behind Family Film Month, says Bhanot, is "to share the common cultural upbringing of the South Asian immigrant families with their children, and provide an opportunity for the entire family to be able to enjoy some offbeat cinema together. [We] hope that children from non-South Asian families enjoy watching stories set in worlds very different from their own."

Since 2013, Indie Meme (a fiscally sponsored project of the Austin Creative Alliance for 2015) has been actively screening South Asian independent films and connecting them with distributors. After positive feedback at last year's screening of Kaphal (Wild Berries), Indie Meme sought programming for another children's film, and Goopi Gawaiyaa Bagha Bajaiyaa (The World of Goopi & Bagha) was a shoo-in. Geared toward kids ages 7-12, this animated story follows two wacky musicians whose antics result in banishment to a ghost-filled forest, where the fierce Ghost King grants them boons for their enchanting songs. Mesmerizing animation mixes with hand-drawn art, rendering vibrant, jewel-toned figures at a crossroads somewhere near a Pablo Picasso painting, Tim Burton's stitched characters, and the endearing oddities of Alice in Wonderland.

Bhanot explained that the desire for a film that "skews younger in its appeal" paved the way for Pappu Ki Pugdandi (Pappu's Path). Pappu's parents have a vision of greatness for their awkward youngster who's struggling to adjust at his new prep school. Frenemy problems are universally relatable, and parental worry pulls at the ole heartstrings ... and then a strange, jolly genie is sprung straight from a busted wine bottle to teach Pappu some life lessons. "The short film, 'Life,' was added for the good grown-ups who bring their little munchkins, making the programming more for the entire family," notes Bhanot.

For older teens, there's Brahmin Bulls, which tells the story of L.A. resident Sid, a young architectural designer struggling with marital woes, and his dad, Ashok, a tenured Boston professor who makes a snap decision to attend a conference, meet up with a long-lost lover, and crash at Sid's place. Sid and Ashok's individual struggles – cat custody, sudden illness, retirement, demotion, and love stuff – are made more difficult by their steely interactions with each other after years of pent-up emotions. Starring Sendhil Ramamurthy, Roshan Seth, Mary Steenburgen, Justin Bartha, and Michael Lerner, Brahmin Bulls is a funny, moving look at two men working toward their own truths on a path that might desperately require father-son bonding. The filmmakers will attend a pre-screening happy hour and post-screening Q&A.

On sharing films children (and their adults) might otherwise not encounter, Bhanot explains, "It's fascinating to see kids who speak another language, living in a very different world from ours still feel what we would feel in the same situation. Kids get that the concepts of justice, equality, fairness are universal. It creates a certain acceptance and empathy for another way of life."

Indie Meme's Family Film Month runs from Sunday, Sept. 6, through Saturday, Sept. 19, at Southwest Theaters Lake Creek. A discounted festival pass is available for the series; individual tickets range in price. Visit for tickets and more information.

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Indie Meme, Alka Bhanot, Goopi Gawaiyaa Bagha Bajaiyaa, Pappu Ki Pugdandi, Brahmin Bulls

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