Michelin-Star chef Vikas Khanna's directorial debut 'The Last Color', starring National Award-winning actress Neena Gupta, was screened at the United Nations headquarters here, with the aim to highlight the message of women empowerment, equality, and dignity for all. The UN screening on Friday was organized by the Society For Promotion of Indian Culture and Experience (Spice-Indian Club) under the United Nations Staff Recreation Council (UNSRC) that aims to promote India's artistic and cultural heritage within the world body's headquarters.
Gupta, who recently won several awards for her performance in the movie 'Badhaai Ho', flew in especially for the screening, which was attended by Under-Secretary-General for Operational Support Atul Khare, chef Khanna, UN staff and personnel and members of the Indian-American community. Set in the ancient Indian city of Varanasi, The Last Color is the story of 70-year-old widow Noor, played by Gupta, and her special bond with 9-year old Chhoti (Aqsa Siddiqui), a homeless girl who aspires to go to school and makes ends meet by performing stunts as a tight-rope walker and selling flowers.
Addressing the gathering before the screening of the movie, Khare shared a personal story of his late mother, a widow for almost 19 years before she passed away. He stressed that due to cultural norms and patriarchal societies, widows are treated differently than widowers and the experience for a woman whose husband has died is "very different" from what a man whose wife has passed away has to go through.
He highlighted the need for creating societies that help widows find productive engagement and employment, enabling them to lead a life of dignity. "I hope that at the end of this movie, when you go back, in your own way you will help bring a hopeful turn in the lives of neighbors, friends" and family and create a positive change, Khare said.
Gupta told PTI in an interview ahead of the screening that the film "shows a ray of hope" that little acts of kindness and positivity can help achieve anything. "I feel that if all of us start at home, to be nice to our staff, pay them better salaries, look after their children's education, then the whole world will change," she said.
On her role in The Last Color, Gupta said she realized that it was the magic of Banaras, "in that environment, I didn't have to do anything. Things just happened on their own." She described The Last Color as "a very important film" in her career. "I don't call it a film, it is some different experience of life. This is a film which will remain with me all my life. I will always think of Chhoti, of Banaras and of all the moments in the film."
Gupta, who will be seen in the Akshay Kumar-starrer 'Sooryavanshi', has her plate full with good projects and she wants to do the role of a female cop in future. "In the Indian entertainment industry, now is the time that good content is being made. It's amazing. It's a golden period for actors right now in India. Some amazing work is happening," she said.
On the screening of the movie, Khanna told PTI that his work being showcased at the UN "is one of the highest compliments" and he is proud that through the film, there can be a conversation about widows, their empowerment, street children, girls' education, transgender and equal rights. "The movie aims to bring a reform in a society where sometimes we are stuck in old traditions but we need to make way for the new ones. We should call out traditions which are suppressing people because everyone has a right to live and love," Khanna said, adding that the movie is a tribute to the countless widows who lived and died a colorless life. "Colour is a symbol of diversity and spring," he added.
Promela Suri, Spice-Indian Club President, said the movie, which is "the most organic work" of Khanna's life, is a simple story of love and friendship, capturing the richness of India and the occasion is a "celebration of women." The club said the screening aims to raise awareness to end all forms of discrimination against women and girls everywhere and to achieve gender equality and empower women and girls under the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN.
The film's teaser was unveiled at the Cannes Film Festival last year and has travelled to more than 50 film festivals across the world, including the New York Indian Film Festival, the 13th Annual Dallas International Film Festival, the annual Palm Springs International Film Festival and the Austin-based South Asian film festival Indie Meme Film Festival.
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