In honor of Asian American Pacific Islander Month, we are featuring two filmmakers that have marked their paths in film. We are starting the month with Definition Please, followed by a conversation with director Sujata Day
When we meet Monica Chowdry in 2005, the eight-year-old is on top of the world as champion of Scribbs National Spelling Bee. Fast-forward to present day: grown-up Monica (writer-director Sujata Day) is still living at home in Greensburg, Pennsylvania with her ailing mom Jaya (Anna Khaja), making a living tutoring a new crop of future
overachievers while hesitating to make any big moves in her own life. Monica faces an unwelcome disruption in her mundane routine when her older brother Sonny (Ritesh Rajan) reappears from out of the blue. A sweet-natured, fitness-obsessed goofball, Sonny blithely refuses to address his bipolar disorder, and Monica is wary of embracing his presence lest they repeat past traumas.Known for her role on HBO’s Insecure, Day has crafted an assured directorial debut that pays loving homage to Bollywood fantasy while offering a refreshingly nuanced look at a complicated South Asian-American family. An effervescent, feel-good film packing a genuine emotional punch, Definition Please is a lovely meditation on mental health, culturalexpectations, and the universal challenges of growing up.
Date: Monday, May 16th, 2022
Time: 4:00 pm ET
Where to Watch: Watch Now on Netflix
With her infectious personality and unique sense of humor, Pittsburgh native Sujata Day has established herself as a performer, creator, writer, and director. Sujata is known for her starring role as CeCe in Issa Rae’s The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl. She’s recurred for four seasons on HBO’s Insecure. Sujata is a Sundance Lab fellow, Sundance Film Festival influencer, and HBO Visionaries Ambassador. She directs This Is My Story, a series in which LeVar Burton narrates tales of everyday racism. Sujata’s debut award-winning feature film, Definition Please, was acquired by Ava DuVernay’s Array and is currently streaming on Netflix.
Anna Khaja is perhaps best known for her role as ‘Indira’ on AMC’s The Walking Dead: World Beyond, and for playing ‘Jaya’ in the Netflix/Array film Definition Please. She is an award-winning actress, playwright and solo performer. Her play Shaheed: The Dream and Death of Benazir Bhutto about the Pakistani prime minister enjoyed an acclaimed and extended Off-Broadway run in New York. Time Out called her performance “a wonder”, The NY Times praised her as a “gifted actress” and Backstage said the play was “heart-stopping, engrossing, funny, and profound theatre.” Edge Magazine said Shaheed was “a one-woman triumph, and a testament to Khaja’s talent, capacity and gifts, of which Hollywood must take full notice.” She also recurs on The Good Place, Shondaland’s For the People, Madam Secretary, S.W.A.T., and Lethal Weapon. She is the recipient of the Google x Black List Storytelling Fellowship, a Sundance alum, and was selected for the Mentorship Matters TV Writers program. Anna also stars in the John Legend music video “Surefire” about borderless love, which won the 2017 MTV Music Award for ‘Best Music Video with a Message.’ Anna lives in Los Angeles with her husband, screenwriter Chris Rossi . She is Pakistani and Indian. She’ll be on this week’s upcoming episode of Hacks.
Originally from New York, you can see Ritesh Rajan’s work as the lead in Sujata Day’s new film Definition Please, as Farran in the Emmy award winning hit Russian Doll, and as the voice of Ken in Barbie: Dream House Adventures all on Netflix. Other credits include Disney’s The Jungle Book, Star Wars Rebels, NCIS LA, Station 19, and the Hulu original, Dollface. A graduate of NYU Tisch, Ritesh is currently living in LA and prides himself in making a difference both on and off the screen for South Asian diversity in the artistic world. He hopes his work will make a difference for future generations and inspire other South Asians to pursue the arts without fear and help break stereotypes about his culture. When he is not in front of the camera, Ritesh can always be seen dancing bhangra and hip/hop or practicing his martial arts, in pursuit of a lifelong goal of becoming a ninja.
Harsh Pundit, a pseudonym held by Harshal Alurkar, was born and brought up in India.
He pursued Software Engineering for undergrad and worked as Web Developer-Programmer for around seven years. Meanwhile, he also built a formidable portfolio of acting in Theater and short films, slowly taking upon responsibilities that of a Producer or an Editor, finally writing & directing his own films & videos. This brought him to New York to pursue higher studies in his field of passion at The New School, graduating with MA degree in Film & Media in Spring 2020. He is interested in formal experiments and technological extensions to film like VR and New Media, making visual artworks that are strongly philosophical in nature. He also regularly writes intellectual & analytical inquiries over media by way of Film & Art criticism, on his blog. On average, he watches one film everyday.
Special Thanks to Asian CineVision
This program will take place virtually as a webinar via Zoom. Please register in advance, and all registrants will receive a link to attend the webinar the day of the event.
We encourage you to download Zoom in advance.
NYWIFT programs, screenings and events are supported, in part, by grants from New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature.