South Asian Talent Incubator 1497 has selected the finalists for its second annual 1497 Features Lab.
The organization was founded in 2020 by Adeel Ahmed, Lipica Shah, and Kamran Khan to support and uplift talent of South Asian descent and challenge their historical exclusion from and underrepresentation in the American film and television industry. The name 1497 signifies the year before colonization began in the geographic area now known as South Asia.
The inaugural year launched the Feature’s Lab with mentors Aneesh Chaganty, Maryam Keshavarz, and Gurinder Chadha.
“I really enjoyed meeting and mentoring the writers on this program,” said Chadha. “It’s a two way process. Mentees come to mentors for advice and guidance but Mentors like me often go away being inspired by them and the process! Authentic South Asian voices are rare in our industry so I’m delighted Adeel and his team at 1497 are going strong with a batch of new writers gain this year. Good luck to all.”
The Features Lab will ultimately guide three new mentees through a multi-tiered, holistic process to support their own development and that of their feature films. Each mentee will first workshop their script with Adrienne Weiss, a Sundance filmmaker and veteran script consultant.
The mentees will create roadmaps for their own careers through mentorships with award-winning filmmakers Deepa Mehta, Nisha Ganatra, and Minhal Baig.
After two rounds of evaluation by an independent Reader Committee and the 1497 team, these ten finalists represent the top of this year’s applicant field.
“Once again, we were delighted to see such an abundance of talent on display,” said Ahmed, Shah, and Khan in a joint statement. “The diversity in genres and themes that we’ve seen speaks to the desire to challenge what qualifies as a “South Asian” story, change the narrative about what stories South Asians are “allowed” or “qualified” to tell, and just as importantly, how we see each other in roles and stories that we’ve never seen before.”
A selection committee will now work to narrow down the finalists to the three mentees who will participate in the Lab. This year’s lab will be part virtual and part in person in New York City. The three chosen mentees will be announced on March 3.
The finalists and their projects can be read below.
Ambarien Alqadar – Bird Woman
Ayesha dreams of a new life as she waits for her beloved Imam father to return home from a decade-long, unjust prison sentence. When she stumbles into an FBI counterterrorism sting that threatens her family and community, Ayesha must turn to a magical creature from her childhood to survive.
Jaclyn Backhaus, Purva Bedi, and Mahira Kakkar – Preeti Popped It
Preeti Popped It follows three South Asian BFFs who have grown apart since college and reunite for a cross country road trip to their dead friend’s funeral.
Bushra Burney – Jameela at the Bat
After failing to make her high school baseball team, Jameela starts a cricket league in her California school district after becoming inspired by a Bollywood film. Tensions rise when the star player of the baseball team, Jameela’s older brother, becomes her rival on the quest to prove the league’s legitimacy.
Runjeev Ignatius – Rathbone
After John Wilkes Booth kills President Lincoln, the trauma causes all three witnesses to go mad. After 18 years of torment, one of them is driven to recreate the murder. Based on a true story.
Micah Azam Khan – When Fire Came From The Sky
Set in a Fictionalized Fantasy version of Pakistan: After her father dies, A Girl sets out to take revenge on the Dragons that killed him but everything changes when she meets a dragon.
Maham Khwaja – Auntie Express
Maryam, a widowed Pakistani American auntie recently diagnosed with early onset dementia, gathers her closest friends to take a road trip with their successful food truck, Auntie Express, to her gay son’s upcoming wedding.
Prashant Nashi – Nice to Meet You
When an Indian immigrant couple in their sixties decide to enter a trial separation after forty years of marriage, their adult twin children take it upon themselves to bring them back together—if their own relationships don’t fall apart first.
Urvashi Pathania – Bleach, Please
Nandini is an ambitious Indian-American teenager who plots to have her skin color lightened before she starts at Yale so she can have the white privilege needed to succeed in her dreams of becoming an investment banker.
Nishanth Ramasubramanian – Christmas Without Parole
On a lonely Christmas Eve shift, a gaffe-prone prison guard in danger of losing her job must foil the escape attempts of a cunning prisoner… whom the other inmates suspect to be Santa Claus.
Iesh Thapar – Alien Kulture
A British Indian youngster growing up during Margaret Thatcher’s racially divided Britain, battles the conservative trappings of society and his insular-minded older brother, in order to pursue his musical dreams and unlikely punk-rock ambitions.