Veteran Bollywood producer-director Subhash Ghai has brought a sizeable and exciting sampling of the future of Indian cinema to the Short Film Corner of the 62nd Cannes Film Festival.
As many as nine short films made by students of the Mumbai-based Whistling Woods International, the institute conceived and set up by Ghai in Goregaon's Film City, are being showcased here.
The Bollywood showman is in Cannes with three of these students - Chirag Arora, Vishnu Shyam (both directors) and production coordinator Aditi Anand.
Among the films that are being screened here are Sarvesh Mewara's News, which won an award at the last Pune International Film Festival, Chirag Arora's Gir Gaya, winner of two prizes at the Asmita Film Festival in Chennai, and A Writer's Affair directed by Vishnu Shyam.
As one would imagine, these nine films do have rough edges but they not only straddle a wide range of cinematic styles and themes, they also reflect the refreshing exuberance and unpredictability of youth.
"These short films are really exciting pieces of cinema," says Ghai. "They represent the future of our cinema."
These films, he reveals, have already travelled to various festivals. "We chose nine of the 20 films that the first batch of Whistling Woods students have made strictly on the basis of merit," he says.
He adds that while some teachers of Whistling Woods provided logistical and technical support to these budding filmmakers, these films were conceived and executed independently by the students.
"We did not get into the creative process at all and allowed them to explore their ideas entirely on their own," Ghai says.
Aditi Anand, production coordinator of a few of the nine films and a student of Whistling Woods, reveals that somebody from the Cannes Short Film Corner had seen a film from the institute and asked them to head to the film fest.
"It was she who suggested that we should get our films to Cannes. That is why we are here," she says.
Ghai feels that today's generation of young filmmakers is much better placed than he was during his Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) days to come up with quality work.
"These youngsters have far greater exposure and the freedom to do what they want. They are free to follow any school of filmmaking - from Kurosawa to Manmohan Desai, from Godard to Satyajit Ray. They are, therefore, far more confident than we were four decades ago. There is no confusion in their minds," he says.