Indian short film “Destiny” wins Best Foreign Film at the Ridgewood Guild International Film Festival

by Alex Muller

Vikkramm Chandirramani has recently returned to India after his short film, “Destiny,” was screened at several US film festivals. The film won Best Foreign Film at the Ridgewood Guild International Film Festival, hosted annually in Ridgewood, New Jersey. Tony Damiano, President of the Ridgewood Guild, and Dorothy Fucito, Film Festival Chair and Submissions Director, presented the award.

Chandirramani, who wrote and directed “Destiny,” says he is “honored and grateful” to win Best Foreign Film. “Ridgewood is a prestigious festival,” he explains, “and they are people committed to celebrating the diversity of cinema by bringing films from all over the world under one roof.”

Now in its eighth year, the Ridgewood Guild Festival screened over 75 films, its largest selection yet. The festival also attracted some notoriety with Dolores Catania of The Real Housewives of NJ, who was a special guest.

“Destiny” has performed well at other festivals in the US and abroad. It won three awards at the Five Continents International Film Festival, including Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. It was a finalist at at the Niagara County Community College Film and Animation Festival in Buffalo, NY, where it was screened in both the drama and comedy categories; it was also an official selection at the Austin Spotlight Film Festival, among others.

“It is immensely satisfying to see our work recognized,” Chandirramani says. “My crew is thrilled at the award!”

The film stars Nikita Vijayvargia, a theatre performer from Delhi, Bhupendra Singh Jadawat and Monika Panwar, graduates from the National School of Drama. The crew includes assistant director Divij Sharma, cinematographer Kartik Katkar and sound designer Shantanu Trivedi; Katkar and Trivedi both worked with Chandirramani on his previous film.

Beyond the festival circuit, the film is performing remarkably well online, with 1.5 million views and 22,000 likes since its release in March. (You can watch the film and read our review here.)

“YouTube is an equalizer of sorts,” Chandirramani says. “It has democratized filmmaking. If people like a video, they share it and sometimes it takes a life of its own!”

Chandirramani notes how the accessibility of YouTube and other digital streaming platforms leads to audiences who are more willing to find new content, such as independent short films or, in his case, international productions.

At the same time, he explains, “it is much harder to hold the interest of people on YouTube because the next video is just a tap away. Someone watching a movie in a cinema will be reluctant to walk out midway, though that does happen!”

At just over 13 minutes in length, “Destiny” holds its audience’s attention, often by playing on expectations, toying with the tropes and trials of online dating and social media stalking.

“I’ve broken a stereotype,” Chandirramani explains. “A woman can be the aggressor. It doesn’t always have to be the man.”

While the film is a commentary on modern dating culture, it also explores the changing culture of India itself. “‘India’ is very diverse,” Chandirramani notes. “In cities like Mumbai, where my film is set, the young today are more liberal and tolerant because there’s been a great flow of information over the past decade or so since the popularity of the internet increased massively. When I look around I see that those in their twenties in cities are far more secular, open to new ideas and willing to embrace change.”

These themes are well-suited for a global audience, especially in the US, where many still associate India with everything from poverty (Slumdog Millionaire) and caricature (The Simpsons) to Bollywood romance or arranged marriages. For these expectations and more, “Destiny” is a colorful and charming contradiction.

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