BRATTLEBORO — Independent features writer and journalist for cinema and performing arts Vidhi Salla is hosting the town's first Bollywood Movie Night, part of the Stone Church's Socially Curious Summer Series.
The movie - Queen (2014) - is “one of the rare feminist Bollywood films that are so few that are made in India, and this one was highly regarded, it was hugely successful,” said Salla, who co-organized the show with Robin Johnson, the venue's owner.
She wanted to show an Indian film from contemporary times, one that could connect more deeply to the audience.
“It is so relatable for not only a majority of Indian women, but women all over the world who have traveled alone for the first time outside of their country,” Salla said.
“It managed to bring all sorts of crowds of all ages to the theaters to watch a film because usually what happens is when there is a female protagonist, then people think it's a chick flick,” she added.
Queen “managed to balance that and change a lot of the atmosphere in Indian cinema,” Salla said.
A taste of everything
Prior to the event, Salla will give a 10-minute cultural introduction to the film.
Refreshments and Indian snacks will be served courtesy of chef David Smith, with table seating and service available.
“The chef and the Stone Church have been very enthusiastic about preparing an Indian snack to serve to the audiences during the movie screening, and food and refreshments are a very important part of the movie culture in India,” Salla said.
One of the dishes will be pakoras - veggie chickpea fritters accompanied by spicy cilantro dip.
Beyond the screen
Salla is trying to create an experience that goes beyond the typical routine of watching a movie.
The experience will be “very different in the sense that, first of all, the venue is different. It's in the Stone Church; it's not in a movie theater.”
“The other really cool and interesting thing about this event is the handicraft bazaar, which is basically like a pop-up shop of Indian handicraft goods,” said Salla, whose own handicraft business - Vidism - will be a part of this experience.
On sale will be handcrafted Indian goods, such as shawls, tablecloths, bedsheets, and silver jewelry, which Vidhi has sourced directly from the makers.
“I'm trying to bring like a slice of India in terms of the content in the film, and the sensorial experience of eating Indian food, and also buying Indian goods,” she said.
Future new experiences
Salla's first collaboration of showing movies took place remotely during the pandemic in December 2020 with Epsilon Spires.
“Along with Jamie Mohr, the creative director of Epsilon Spires, I started Vidhi's Bollywood Film Club, where audiences could watch the film online over two weeks and then participate in a Zoom discussion.”
Salla also derived inspiration from her radio show - Vidhi's Bollywood Jukebox - on WVEW-LP every Thursday from 3 to 5 p.m.
Epsilon Spires has also received a Brattleboro Town Arts Fund grant, which will be used to host the screening of the Indian film Ship of Theseus (2012) on Aug. 27.
The film will be shown at the Backlot Cinema as another collaboration between Salla and Epsilon Spires.
“I'm grateful to the local community, WVEW, and organizations such as Epsilon Spires and The Stone Church for having faith in my curation and for supporting me through Indian cinema,” Salla said. “I look forward to meeting and making more Bollywood fans at this event.”