The Association of Los Angeles Physicians of Indian Origin and the Smart Village Initiative hosted the International Gujarati Film Festival at the AMC 30 movie theater in Orange, Calif., June 7-9, the first of its kind in Southern California.

The three-day festival, which was attended by hundreds of movie fans, mostly Indian Americans, showcased about 21 technically sound Gujarati movies focusing on diverse subjects. Some of the films played at the fest, which seeks to unite Gujarati people, have also broken box office records in India. Also screened were several documentaries, including a mini-series on the life of Mahatma Gandhi.

The opening night featured a glitzy red carpet reception for the celebrities that included a host of filmmakers and actors from the industry. Sporting a beautiful gown and a beaming smile, actress Monal Gajjar was among those present at the event.

Gajjar headlines the cast of “Reva,” a popular film about a young man’s journey from the U.S. to the banks of Narmada. Watching the film, said a press release, was a surreal experience for the audience members who were deeply engrossed in it.

Fans also got an up-close look at actor Malhar Thakkar. The young and dynamic actor, loved by zillions of fans, was seen exchanging wishes with them throughout the reception.

Several of Malhar’s films, including “Saheb,” “Shu Thayu?”and “Sharto Lagi Malha,” were shown at the festival.

Umesh Shukla, who directed and produced “102 Not Out,” was also present at the festival.

“Our goal behind this festival is to spread the word about Gujarati cinema throughout the world particularly in the U.S. Next leg of IGFF is in New Jersey next weekend,” said Shukla.

“ALAPIO is involved in providing free medical care and surgeries to poor people in Southern California for the last five years. So far, we have treated 1600 patients in our clinic in Downey for free,” said Dr. Bharat Patel, president of ALAPIO. “We also have performed 160 free surgeries at the Beverly Surgery Center for people who cannot afford to have it done in other facilities.”

Patel also added that this is their way of giving back to society which made them who they are.

In the past, ALAPIO has raised funds through Bollywood shows featuring stars like Pritam, Shreya Ghoshal, and Arijit Singh, among others.

“ALAPIO believes in giving back something substantial to donors in return for their support. The Gujarati Film Festival is one way of raising funds and giving great entertainment to audience and donors,” added the press release.

Jay Vasavada, legendary philosopher and writer in Gujarati, was also present. He advocated for the intermingling of cultures through cinema.

Throughout the festival, attendees were seen either watching the various films or engaging in discussions with the stars and filmmakers.

Southern California-based Dr. Anil Shah, founder of the Smart Village Initiative, who was also on the board of the International Gujarati Film Festival, said that a film festival like this is a “very healthy way of promoting Gujarati culture and making it available to old as well as young people,” adding, he is very passionate about transforming India’s villages. He said that he hopes to improve sanitation and other amenities like technology and education in these villages through the initiative.

Other board members from Southern California included Ujval Zaveri, Pravin Kola and Alex Bhagat.

The festival was conceptualized and structured by India-based Kaushal Acharya. The press release said that after working so hard for this festival, Acharya was very happy to see the interest of public and the enthusiasm of the local team which helped put it all together.

The last day saw the screening of several films followed by an award ceremony and a gala banquet at the Delta Marriott Hotel in Anaheim, Calif., which was attended by 300 guests.

At the banquet, Bharat Patel, who served as the master of ceremonies, welcomed the guests and thanked the sponsors of the program.

The major sponsors included 27th Investment from Atlanta Georgia, Vadilal Ice Cream, CH Jewelers, Shemaroo media company, EB-5 visa company by Meit Shah, Kanu Patel, financial advisors and Bhindi Jewelers.

The program concluded with a performance from Nauzad Sadry and Rahul Pandit. (See separate photospread for additional photos from the event.)

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