Cannes: Indian Studio Yash Raj Hits Big With Two Titles in Selection

The Bollywood banner's debut Hollywood co-production "Grace of Monaco," starring Nicole Kidman, will open the festival, while its indie co-production "Titli" is a Camera D'Or contender.

NEW DELHI — While Indian cinema will have a slightly lesser presence at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival — after India served as the official guest country of the 2013 edition — veteran Bollywood banner Yash Raj Films is having a moment, with two titles in this year's official selection.  

The studio's recently established Los Angeles-based outfit YRF Entertainment co-produced the upcoming fest's opening-night film, Grace of Monaco, starring Nicole Kidman as Grace Kelly.

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And YRF's co-production Titli (Butterfly will screen in the Un Certain Regard section — the only Indian film selected for competition at Cannes this year. The directorial debut of Kanu BehlTitli is the first of a multiple-title co-production pact between YRF and influential director Dibakar Banerjee via his indie banner Dibakar Banerjee Productions.

Set in the badlands of Delhi, Titli revolves around its title character, the youngest member of a violent car-jacking brotherhood, who plots a desperate bid to escape the "family business." The film stars Ranvir Shorey, Amit Sial and newcomer Shashank Arora.

Titli is a film about family, roots, and the ghosts within our most intimate relationships,” Behl said after the film's selection at Cannes was announced. “It's an extremely personal film. The journey to the core of the film has been a difficult and exciting one, and I'm looking forward to it going out into the world.”

Titli’s success at Cannes is the way forward for Indian cinema,” said Banerjee, “A hot new talent, one of India’s biggest studios and an independent production house pooled their strengths to present a raw, intense, rooted, yet universal Indian narrative to the world — not Bollywood, but simply world cinema from India.”

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London-based international sales and finance outfit WestEnd Films recently acquired rights to Titli. The deal was led by Guneet Monga, producer of last year's breakthrough Indian indie and Cannes Un Certain Regard contender The Lunchbox.

Expectedly, YRF's ambitious foray into Hollywood with Grace will be closely watched. A co-production between Stone Angels and YRF Entertainment, the Olivier Dahan-directed biopic is due for release later this year by The Weinstein Company.

“I knew from the moment I read the wonderful script, penned by Arash Amel, that we had something special in Grace of Monaco, and watching Nicole Kidman bring that character to life only increased my excitement about the project,” said YRF Entertainment head Uday Chopra when the film was selected to open Cannes, adding, “I feel proud that YRF Entertainment in its first release in Hollywood has managed to reach this milestone. My only regret is that my dad [the late director-producer Yash Chopra, who passed away in 2012] is not alive to see this happen.”

As an actor, Uday Chopra recently featured in YRF's record-breaking Bollywood blockbuster Dhoom 3.

Meanwhile, YRF Entertainment recently optioned Seducing Ingrid Bergman, the Chris Greenhalgh novel that dramatizes the real-life affair between legendary actress Ingrid Bergman and war photographer Robert Capa. The book will be adapted for the screen by Amel, who will co-produce with Chopra.

YRF was established in 1970 by Yash Chopra, who directed and produced some of Indian cinema's most successful and acclaimed films, such as Waqt, Deewar and more recently, hit titles from superstar Shah Rukh Khan, including Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge and Jab Tak Hai Jaan, among others. The studio is headed by Chopra's elder son Aditya Chopra.

While it's difficult to speculate on what other titles could have been possible Cannes contenders this year, the last two years have seen Indian film making its presence felt at Cannes. These include 2013's acclaimed The Lunchbox and 2012's two-part epic Gangs of Wasseypur by Anurag Kashyap. The Un Certain Regard section has featured films like Udaan (2010) and Miss Lovely (2012), though India hasn't bagged a Palme d'Or since Satyajit Ray's Pather Panchali won in 1956. And the country's last Camera d'Or win came in 1999 for Murali Nair's Marana Simhasanam (The Throne of Death).