The Habitat Film Festival seeks to present the best of Indian cinema from the year gone by.

Due to the overzealous efforts of several diplomatic missions on the one hand, and the presence of film festivals like Persistence Resistance and Open Frame on the other, audiences in Delhi can, from time to time, access the best of contemporary world cinema and Indian documentary cinema. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of films in regional languages.

Habitat Film Festival, which begins this Friday, tries to redress this situation. Held at India Habitat Centre, it is one where “regional cinema occupies centre stage and mainstream cinema features as the exception rather than the rule.”

“When we started, there were a whole lot of film festivals but their headliners were mostly foreign language films. We felt Indian cinema was being sidelined, and as a result Delhi audiences were losing out on the best of regional cinema,” says Vidyun Singh, the programmes director of India Habitat Centre. “The idea was to create a festival which celebrates the wide variety of Indian cinema, and not just Bollywood.”

The festival opens with Rajat Kapoor's “Ankhon Dekhi”, and over the next 10 days sees the screening of 40-odd films from various regions and languages. The Marathi films include “Jayjaykar”, whose depiction of the social status of transgenders acquires fresh currency in the wake of Supreme Court's judgment recognising them as the third gender, and the National Award winning “Fandry”, Nagraj Manjule's look at the corrosive effects of caste through the eyes of a young boy. The Bengali selection comprises, among others, “Jatiswar” and “Apur Panchali”. Both revisit signposts of Bengali culture – Anthony Firingee, the 19th century poet of Portuguese origin and Subir Banerjee, the child actor who played the role of Apu in “Pather Panchali”. There are four films from the Northeast, including the Assamese “Paani”, the Khasi “Ri”, the Mizo “Khawnglung Run” and “Crossing Bridges”, also a National Award winner and perhaps the first film made in the Sherdukpen dialect. Also being screened are “The Good Road”, the Indian entry for Best Foreign Language film at the 86th Academy Awards, and the acclaimed Tamil film “Soodhu Kavvum”.

In addition to these, the festival also has a retrospective component, and this year it pays tribute to Aparna Sen, through screenings of “Yugant”, “The Japanese Wife”, “Paroma”, “Antaheen”, “Mr. and Mrs. Iyer” and “Goynar Baksho” among others.

The director, who explored the boundaries of desire in her work, will interact with audiences on May 17.

(The Habitat Film Festival is on from May 9 to 18. For details, click here.)