Mumbai filmmakers will have an exciting new international platform this year to showcase their work. The Toronto International Film Festival’s 2012 City To City programme has selected Mumbai as its city of focus. Ten films, made by filmmakers working in the city, will be premiered at the festival.
TIFF, as it is popularly known, is one of the world’s leading film festivals. Artistic Director Cameron Bailey on this year’s Mumbai mantra:
Why was Mumbai chosen as the city in TIFF’s 2012 City To City programme?
I’ve been coming to India for a few years now and seeing the evolution of Indian cinema. Earlier we were looking at art house filmmakers who worked outside of Mumbai. Then we began to show Bollywood films and had great success with that. Recently, we’ve turned to ‘Hindie’ cinema. That is directors who are making films that are drawing on the vast creative talent here but the films are not so commercial. They are edgier and rooted in reality. All of which made me feel that this is the right time to put an even greater spotlight on this city.
Which cities did Mumbai defeat?
We do get lobbied a little bit. The shortlist included Moscow and Tokyo. But I just felt that this is the right moment for Mumbai.
What do you find most exciting about films coming out of Mumbai?
What I find exciting is the sheer film making energy in this city. It’s even more than Los Angeles. So many people are so passionate about making films here. You can feel that. There is a great sense of rivalry and competitiveness. People respond to what is happening, they want to put their own stamp on art.
So do you ever find yourself caught in the industry camps and rivalries?
The luxury and privilege I have is that I pop in and pop out and I never have to choose a camp. I have great relationships here but they are based on the work and not on which camps people belong to.
Which filmmakers are you looking to tap for this? And will it be more Hindi cinema or Bollywood?
We will show 10 films. And unlike previous years, we hope to show 10 new films. We are opening the doors for submission today. We are looking for feature length feature work and also documentaries. But yes, there will be Bollywood. It should be a mix. We hope to introduce the industry to the wider world that attends the festival. We hope that this is a bridge.
Do you believe that the Western audience can enjoy Bollywood or is it too much of an acquired taste for them?
I think it’s a great taste to acquire. Once you try it, you will find that it has wonderful things to offer. Anyone who tips their toes in will find things they like. But like any cinema with a strong genre, you have to know the rules.
You were an early champion of Indian cinema. How did you discover it?
I began in the university as a film critic, looking at the great Indian classics by Satyajit Ray. When I began programming for TIFF, I got to know the great art house filmmakers like Buddhadeb Dasgupta and Adoor Gopalakrishnan. I came to Bollywood quite late. But I loved the musical sequences more than anything else instantly. They are the most exciting part of any film. It’s when you see the ingenuity, the craft, the colour. The item number won me away right away. It’s hard to resist an item number!
How many submissions are you expecting?
Honestly, I’m expecting scores of films to come at me right away.
Anupama Chopra is the acclaimed author of several books on Hindi cinema and Hindustan Times’ film critic.