India's Film Bazaar Targets Mainstream Projects

NFDC-Solaris Images
(Left to right): National Film Development Corporation MD Nina Lath Gupta, Ministry of Tourism secretary Parvez Dewan and Prasad Labs deputy GM Sridhar Gopalan award film-maker Kanu Behl the DI Prasad Lab award for his film "Titli".

The government-backed annual incubation and networking event, which has had such successes as India's Oscar entry “The Good Road,” this year featured sessions on the portrayal of women in cinema and the country's presence at the Cannes festival.

GOA, India – The seventh edition of the government-backed National Film Development Corporation's Film Bazaar once again provided a networking opportunity for India's budding independent film scene to connect with both domestic and international film professionals.

The four-day event concluded with two developing projects winning prizes. Co-produced by well-known filmmaker Dibakar Banerjee and leading Bollywood banner Yash Raj Films, Kanu Behl's work-in-progress Titli (Butterfly) received the Prasad DI prize from Chennai-based post-production services group Prasad Film Lab.

The Spark, directed by Rajesh S. Jala – which is at the scripting stage – was awarded the 1,000,000 rupees ($15,800) Incredible India Development prize, provided by the Ministry of Tourism.

"We have seen growth at the event, both in terms of participants and the way projects have been developed, hoping for more mainstream acceptance," said NFDC MD Nina Lath Gupta who was featured in The Hollywood Reporter's 2012 Women in Entertainment international spotlight.

Film Bazaar has had recent success stories like India's Oscar entry The Good Road and the much-acclaimed The Lunchbox, which will be rolled out in the U.S. in December by Sony Pictures Classics. The specialty label picked up Ritesh Batra's directorial debut at Cannes as part of a buyer frenzy fueled by positive reviews.

Both projects were co-produced by NFDC as is one of its new offerings, Anup Singh's Qissa, which was well-received at its Toronto premiere and won an award at the recent Mumbai Film Festival.

In all, about 40 projects were incubated at this year's event.

Some of the major announcements included Brahman Raman, the English-language debut of edgy Kolkata-based director Q (short for his full name Quashik Mukherjee). The director's credits include controversial 2010 Bengali language cult film Gandu.

Brahman Raman will be produced by U.K.-based Riley Productions headed by filmmaker Steve Barron, whose work includes music videos such as Michael Jackson's iconic “Billie Jean,” while his producing credits include Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Meanwhile, New York-based sales agency BGP – founded by former New Line executive Bill Straus – picked up North American rights to The Good Road as the film begins its Oscar campaign.

An Indian-U.S. artists collaborative, Dark Frames, also introduced itself with artists including Oscar winning sound designer Resul Pookutty (Slumdog Millionaire) and acclaimed BAFTA-nominated veteran Indian actor Victor Banerjee.

Dark Frames is founded by U.S.-based filmmaker Raj Amit Kumar with the team including producer Michele Weisler (The Ring) and lawyer Michael Golland (Crazy Heart), among others.

“Our focus is on strong, edgy films with a strong social message,” said Kumar who just directed Blemished Light, which is about "identity and violence set in two stories between New York and Delhi.”

“We want to create films that are closer to reality and deal with taboo subjects in a straight-forward way,” added Banerjee who also stars in Blemished Light. Dark Frames has partnerships with U.S. indie consultancy Circus Road Films, Italian sales agency The Open Reel and India's Luminosity Pictures.

One of the highlights of the Bazaar was the presence of leading figures from the Festival de Cannes, including festival director Thierry Fremaux.

His packed session – moderated by Indian director Sudhir Mishra - discussed the journey of global and Indian cinema at Cannes, starting with 2002's Devdas, the first-ever Bollywood premiere at the festival.

Another panel discussed the portrayal of women in cinema, a hotly debated topic given the recent spate of much publicized attacks against women in India.

As reported earlier, the latest case to hit the headlines are allegations against leading editor Tarun Tejpal of Tehelka magazine who is accused of sexually assaulting a young employee during the magazine's recent THiNK event in Goa where speakers included Robert De Niro.

Qissa lead actress Tilottma Shome said that women have been “hypersexualized in cinema, but the cure can come from the same place as the disease.”

Similarly, at another panel featuring filmmaker and popular actor Farhan Akhtar, when asked by a female audience member if he would ever consider making a film about violence against women referring to last December's fatal gang-rape of a young Delhi woman, Akhtar said: “Perhaps at some point, yes. And this needs to be dealt with sensitively.”

Looking ahead, NFDC's Gupta is hoping to attract more mainstream projects to the Bazaar, “We would like to feature projects, which could have the potential of having a bigger impact at the box office while introducing a new cinema sensibility.”