According to Priya Sharan and Jai Balakrishnan, Indian culture and movies are closely linked.
Both are part of the management team behind New Brunswick Film Cluba non-profit organization that brings together the Indian community of New Brunswick and other Atlantic Provinces by showing the most popular Indian films in local cinemas.
“We’re connecting with our own people, and the community is sitting together, watching together, having fun, like we used to enjoy at home. It’s something that’s a one-of-a-kind experience.” , said Sharan, the manager of the club. who works as an IT consultant in Moncton.
She added that the positive response from the community is what has kept the club going since its debut in 2018.
Balakrishnan, a chemical engineer in Fredericton and the club’s communications director, said the club helps Indian immigrants find community in the province.
The club is an offshoot of the Edmonton Movie Club, which handles the licensing of films from New Brunswick’s iteration screens.
Last weekend, the club celebrated the start of Diwali with a double feature of Tamil films at Vogue Cinemas in Sackville. They showed the spy thriller Sardar, romantic comedy follow-up Prince.
In India, the two films are part of a “Diwali clash” for the top spot at the box office, according to The Indian Express newspaper.
Driven by a passion for cinema
In India, festivals like Diwali are often accompanied by highly anticipated releases from the country’s biggest stars, Sharan said.
“For every festival, we definitely get together as a family, as an extended family, we all go to the theater to sit down and watch a movie.”
If a big star has a release that doesn’t fall on a festival, “we make it a festival, even if it’s not a festival, so Indian culture and movies are intertwined,” she said.
For Sharan, movies have always been intimately linked to her life. Her father is an actor in South India. As a child, she loved to visit her sets. She arrived in Canada in 2018, after living in Dubai for many years.
Balakrishnan has been in New Brunswick since becoming a student at UNB in 2005.
His passion for cinema is so strong that it once brought him across the border. In 2018, one of his favorite South Indian stars, Rajinikanth released a movie titled 2.0.
“I tried desperately to get him to New Brunswick, and I couldn’t,” he said.
“So I drove to Westbrook, Maine, near Portland, Maine, early in the morning at five o’clock. I went to the show there and watched the movie and came back the same day. ”
When Sharan arrived in 2018, she was looking for a way to see Indian films in New Brunswick. She met Balakrishnan and they decided to join forces and start the club.
“My family, Jai’s family, we all love watching movies…then we realized the whole community wanted something like this, so we thought, why not? Why not do it?”
Gather the community
According to Balakrishnan, the atmosphere during one of their screenings “is electrifying”.
Sharan said the experience is something people dream about.
“When people come in, [they] watch and relax for the two-and-a-half or three-hour movie and then connect with their friends and family there and feel like you’ve come home,” she said.
“You know, it’s something we miss sometimes.”
In recent years, channels like Cineplex have started showing Indian films, but Sharan said they have a narrow reach.
Most Indian films released by Cineplex are Hindi cinema, said Sharan, better known as Bollywood. She said people sometimes assume Bollywood is the only film industry in the country and Hindi is the only language.
According to the latest census, 122 languages are spoken in India by 10,000 or more people.
“We have films in all parts of India, in all parts of India. So what we’ve done is…we focus on all Indian films,” Sharan said.
So far they have screened films in five different languages.
As people from different parts of India immigrate to New Brunswick, the club has been asked to screen films in specific languages, Sharan said.
“We’re trying to get this movie for them,” she said. “So they get their day off, you know, watching this movie with their community.”
In the 17 years since Balakrishnan arrived in the province, he has seen the Indian population grow and change, thanks to things like the federal Atlantic immigration program.
He said cultural initiatives like the New Brunswick Movie Club are important in attracting and retaining immigrants.
“Food, entertainment and recreation, like kids’ activities and that kind of stuff is very, very important,” he said. “And we feel [they are] extremely essential for immigrants like us to get to know this place.”
Sharan said he found community support, but wishes there were more theaters available in the province to hold screenings.