Even as a record number of Indian films, 13 in all, played at the Toronto International Film Festival, much of the buzz was generated by the ten films from Mumbai in the City to City section that showcased a new indie industry producing movies with grit and edge and remarkably global in sensibility.
The highest profile Indian films were certainly Sri Devi's comeback English Vinglish directed by Gauri Shinde, Anurag Kashyap's Gangs of Wasseypur saga, and Dibakar Banerjee's Shanghai, but a group of debutant directors may just have stolen the show. In fact, underscoring just how globally conscious these new filmmakers are was the reality that four of these projects — Ship of Theseus, The Bright Day, Mumbai Cha Raja and Shahid actually had their world premieres in Toronto.
The maximum attention was garnered by newcomer Anand Gandhi's philosophical venture, Ship of Theseus, touted by TIFF's artistic director Cameron Bailey as his "hidden gem" among the City to City brigade.
Gandhi said, "I was hoping to make a film that's not just going to be labelled an Indian film reaching out to diaspora or people outside but it was meant to be a film for viewing by a global audience." He may well have succeeded as the film, three narratives with an unusual linkage, has been acquired by the Amsterdam-based Fortissimo Films for global distribution.
The National Film Development Corporation or NFDC's managing director Nina Lath Gupta, who was at TIFF, said, "Festivals do play a very important role in global positioning. They play a huge role in going beyond traditional markets."
Also in the mix was The Bright Day, which won its share of praise, by another first-time director, Mohit Takalkar. He too welcomed the opportunity for such exposure, as he said, "Frankly speaking, I never thought my film would be invited or appreciated on such a big platform." The Bright Day is a road movie, but one that's very much about self discovery.
Some of the credit for these films will go to Anurag Kashyap, the godfather of this new indie breed. And also to NFDC. The company's initiative Film Bazar, may just have proved a finishing school for many of these films, with half of the City to City contingent having benefited from it.