In what represents a significant first for the Indian movie industry, leading international sales agent Fortissimo Films has picked up the global distribution rights of Dev Benegal's Hindi film Road, Movie.
Presented by The Indian Film Company (TIFC) in collaboration with Studio 18, Road, Movie is based on a Benegal screenplay that had made it to the prestigious L'Atelier selection of the Cannes Film Festival two years ago. It was here that the writer-director had found the film's Hollywood co-producers, Susan B. Landau and Ross Katz, whose credits include Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation.
Road, Movie stars Abhay Deol, Tannishtha Chatterjee and Satish Kaushik. And Michael J. Werner, co-chairman of Fortissimo Films, says it is a story told in a truly "universal" style by Benegal, who has earlier made films like English, August and Split Wide Open.
Werner feels Road, Movie is just the sort of Indian film that can travel around the world and generate a major buzz for the world's largest movie industry.
"It is 'Cinema Paradiso' set in India, a uniquely indigenous story told in a style that is remarkably universal," he said.
"There is renewed interest around the world in Indian stories thanks to the super success of Slumdog Millionaire. The agents who distributed the film are looking for the next Slumdog Millionaire, and those that didn't are desperate to find their own Slumdog Millionaire," Werner said.
For Fortissimo, which has in the past handled the international distribution of Deepa Mehta's Bollywood Hollywood, which in Werner's words "is a Canadian film", the focus has usually been on Asian cinema made outside the Indian subcontinent.
"Hitherto, we as a company have had limited familiarity with Indian cinema," he pointed out. "Indian producers are generally focussed on the domestic market."
Sandeep Bhargava, CEO of TIFC, believes that the insularity of Indian cinema needs to be done away with.
"We are now looking at an international audience that goes beyond the diaspora. It is a happy augury that a new breed of globally-oriented Indian directors is steadily emerging."
Werner too feels it is high time Indian filmmakers worked towards "touching the hearts and wallets of international sales agents".
Road, Movie has made a beginning. The Fortissimo co-chairman asserts that there could be more excitement up ahead for Indian cinema.