Indie direction for band of Indian helmers
EmptyCANNES -- While Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan attends the Marche du Film screening of his movie "Cheeni Kum" (Less Sugar), up the boulevard a new generation of Indian filmmakers is rocking to the bhangra beat at the Croisette Beach.
Calling themselves the Indian Independent Filmmakers Worldwide (akin to the American indie scene), this band of indie filmmakers is at Cannes to introduce their kind of cinema, far removed from the "masala" Bollywood style.
Spearheading the group, veteran director Ketan Mehta ("The Rising") says that the goal is to form a global network that would nurture emerging talent and foster India's indie cinema. "We want to create an organic and a collective voice," Mehta said at the launch party at the Croisette Beach.
Mehta introduced a lineup of young directors -- many of them first-time Cannes attendees, whose films are in development and/or production. Among them were Rajan Khosla ("Mother Tongue"), Deepa Sahi ("Colors of Passion") and Anjali Bhushan ("Apricot Sky").
This group of 50-some filmmakers, formed in March, includes filmmakers such as Sudhir Mishra, Anurag Kashyap and Rahul Dholakia, names familiar on the international film fest circuit. IIFW has set out ambitious plans to raise an indie fund of $100 million to finance films, awards and a festival. Plans also include a Web portal, theater chain and a sales agency specializing in indie films.
Meanwhile at the Cannes Market, business is brisk for Indian distributors.
Celebrating its 30th anniversary, Eros International's booth boasts titles such as "Drona," Eros' first co-production with Rose Movies; "Cheeni Kum"; and "Namastey London" (Hello London), a romantic comedy about a British brat and a "Funjabi" boy.
London-based iDream Independent Picture's lineup features crossover titles such as "Americanizing Shelley," "Karma Confessions and Holi" and the reincarnation love story, "Bombil and Beatrice." Rohit Sharma, president of international sales, said that they are repackaging Bollywood titles for the international audience. "We edit the songs out," he said. The company is doing extremely well in international sales with "Dalai Lama," a five-part documentary.
Sunstone Entertainment's Sanjay Jumani is busy selling steamy titles such as "Kama Tantra," and "Hottest M@il.Com," films that fare well internationally as well as in India, especially in rural areas. "There is more demand in villages for such films," Jumani said. From its vast Bollywood library, a package of 15 titles is sold to Iran and Romania by midfest.
A joint venture partner with Sony Pictures Entertainment for the past 15 years, Shemaroo Entertainment, set up its booth for the first time at the market promoting the animation film, "Ghatothkach: Master of Magic."
The company is also buying non-English language films for India. "There is now an audience developing in India for Iranian, Brazilian and Chinese films," Shemaroo's Hiren Gada said. The company is collaborating with the French Consulate in India to create a cinema club.
India's presence is further seen at the busy India Pavilion, promoting not only films but Assam tea and Peroni beer. In addition, the Cinema du Monde sidebar includes seven alternative films from masters such as Mani Ratnam ("Guru") and Rituparno Ghosh ("Dosar").
Meanwhile, at the AmPav, New York-based Prashant Shah's Bollywood Hollywood Production is offering "insourcing services" -- assisting Bollywood and other European filmmakers with below-the-line services in the U.S. and helping U.S. and European producers with postproduction in India. By midfest, Shah signed up with producers from Croatia, Sweden and Japan to assist with filming in the U.S. and in India.