We've got our eyes on the Indian and international desi indie film scene debuting at this year's Toronto International Film Festival. With films starring a mix of Indian and British cinema's most acclaimed and up-and-coming actors, this year's representation of desi film is a sigh of relief after last year's poor showing at TIFF (four mind-numbing hours of What's Your Rashee later…).

Look out for breakthrough performances by Prateek Babbar (Dhobi Ghat) and Kalki Koechlin (That Girl in Yellow Boots), as well as consistently great acts by Aamir Khan (Dhobi Ghat) and Om Puri (West is West).

Here's our list of films to catch during the Toronto International Film Festival, running until September 19. 

Dhobi Ghat
Saturday, September 18, 12:00pm TIFF Lightbox Theatre
A beautiful ode to Mumbai, Dhobi Ghat is Kiran Rao's directorial debut starring her husband, Aamir Khan in his most understated performance to-date, as well as the ever-so-talented Prateek Babbar (last seen in Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na) and newcomers Monica Dogra and Kriti Malhotra. Dhobi Ghat is like an antidote to Bollywood masala films. A brooding painter, a slum dweller/clothes washer dreaming of making it in Bollywood, a new bride just moved to Mumbai, and a New York native come "home" – Dhobi Ghat weaves the stories of each character's life together amongst a backdrop of Juhu Beach, monsoons and the delicate balance of relationships held between the upper, middle and lower class. A Jugni Style Recommended Film.
 
West is West
Saturday, September 18, 6:15pm Scotiabank Theatre
The sequel to dark British comedy, East is East, West is West has been ten years in the making. Set in Pakistan, the Khan family finds itself struggling amongst the same issues of culture, class, religion and gender – but in a new habitat. Om Puri shines as the conflicted, domineering patriarch, while newbie Aqib Khan is unbelievable as the trash-talking youngest brother of the family. Watch out for a breakout performance by Ila Arun as the first Mrs. Khan, left behind with her family of daughters 30 years ago.
 
That Girl in Yellow Boots
TIFF Premiere September 17, 9:00pm Elgin Theatre (additional showings over the weekend)
With Dev D, indie director Anurag Kashyup rewrote how we see Indian cinema, setting the film outside the common boundaries of Bollywood and presenting a gritty, urban adaptation of the immortal story of love lost, Devdas. Gone was the high-gloss melodrama, replaced with gut-wrenching performances by Abhay Deol as a modern day Devdas strung out on coke (and cementing his position as THE indie hero), and in her Indian cinema debut, Kalki Koechlin as the forelorn, flawed Paro. In That Girl in Yellow Boots, Kalki returns as a biracial woman looking for her father (played by Nasseuraddin Shah) in urban Mumbai. The dark story (which she co-wrote with Anurag Kashyup) follows her as she negotiates her way through the city and its people, including several men she meets along the way. 
 
Autumn
Friday, September 17, 2:45pm Scotiabank Theatre
"In Kashmir it is eternally autumn. Everything is on the cusp of destruction: parched leaves fall from trees, power lines spark ominously, while anger, fear and despair simmer beneath exhausted veneers" (Cameron Bailey, TIFF Co-Director). The Kashmiri conflict has been at the centre of several Indian films, but with Autumn, actor-turned-director-and-screenplay-writer Aamir Bashir tackles the contested region through the eyes of an artist telling a story he understands (Bashir is a Kashmiri native). Autumn follows Rafiq (Shahnawaz Bhat) as he tries to reconcile with his brother's disappearance. Watch for stunning camera work used to punctuate the emotions and circumstance in the film.
 
How to get tickets to sold-out shows: TIFF releases a limited number of tickets to each film the day of the showing at 7:00am. Call or visit their site at 7:00am the day of the show to buy tickets.
 
Story By: Manjot Bains  |  Photography Source: Toronto International Film Festival