Indian fest salutes Bajaria and Monga

Kaling has audience in stitches describing how her 'Project' got championed

There may not be a gay mafia or a Jewish mafia in Hollywood, but according to Mindy Kaling there is definitely an Indian ladies mafia.

At an Indian Film Festival Los Angeles luncheon honoring Universal TV’s Bela Bajaria and producer Guneet Monga , Kaling had the House of Blues audience, which included fest topper Christine Marouda and Participant Films’ Christopher Gebhardt, in stitches. She described how Bajaria championed her “Mindy Project,” which got picked up for a second season on Fox. “I gave her my script and she said, ‘Hey are you Indian? Let’s go show this to Kevin Reilly.’ And she smoked a cigarette. Just for the record no one should smoke.”

On a serious note, she added, “It was a fight to get this on the air and it wouldn’t have happened without someone passionately fighting for me.”

Bajaria accepted the honor thanking her parents for letting her pursue a career in showbiz when her Indian-American peers were studying to be “doctors, lawyers and engineers.”

When she started as a TV exec 17 years ago there were just a couple of Indian-Americans in showbiz, but her journey from East Africa to the U.S. via London gave her a wide perspective.

“I’m looking forward to a few scripts we have in development with Indian writers and producers, but we have a lot of work to do,” she said.

Monga accepted her award saying, “This is the first time I’m getting an award and I’m very excited.” Producer of such pics as Anurag Kashyap’s “Gangs of Wasseypur” and Michael Winterbottom’s “Trishna,” Monga said, “I have no personal dreams. My dreams are my directors’ dreams.”

Disney Intl. topper Andy Bird gave the keynote address. “I have no script, but I have thoughts. I always have thoughts,” he said. He talked about a confluence of events that make Indian films ready to appeal to a larger audience. “The time is ripe and I’m very confident that a global hit is ready to come from India and I’m confident we’re the company to do it,” he said. There are 22 films on the slate in Disney’s India subsid UTV Motion Pictures, which is more than the parent company has, he said.

The 11th edition of the Indian Film Festival Los Angeles opened Tuesday and runs through Sunday.

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