India’s popularity at international film festivals is growing by leaps and bounds with the country’s cinema making its presence felt worldwide. As a result, there has been an increase in the Indian celeb footfall at these festivals.At the 66th Cannes Film Festival too, starting May 15, Bollywood will have a strong presence. Vidya Balan, for instance, is part of this prestigious festival’s nine-member jury, headed by Hollywood director Steven Spielberg. Actor Nandita Das is also part of the Cannes jury for short films. The festival will open with The Great Gatsby, which has Amitabh Bachchan in a cameo. The actor will also attend the opening ceremony and his daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, a regular at Cannes’ red carpet, too will accompany him. Directors Karan Johar, Anurag Kashyap, Zoya Akhtar and Dibakar Banerjee will walk the red carpet for Bombay Talkies, which is the official Indian selection at Cannes. Other Indian films to be screened include Ugly, Dabba and Monsoon Shootout.
"The world at large is waking up to Hindi cinema. Even at Cannes, you see a lot of India. When I first went to Cannes some 10-15 years ago, there was hardly any Indian presence. But things have changed now. Toronto is big for India. Last year in Toronto, 10 Indian films were screened," says film critic Anupama Chopra.
This trend has been started by Indian filmmakers, who are making festival-friendly movies. “We are now making movies with different sensibilities. There are independent movies with global appeal and this is resulting in a greater Indian presence,” adds Anupama.
Onir, whose directorial, I Am, got screened at 30 festivals worldwide, makes an interesting observation. “People’s interest in Indian cinema has increased. There is a growing need for independent cinema, not only within India, but outside as well,” he says.
Supporting Onir’s point, Indu Shrikent, director of Osian’s Cinefan Film Festival, says, “Indian films have suddenly taken centre stage as the content and the whole style of filmmaking has turned innovative. Gangs of Wasseypur and Kahaani are good examples of this change.”
This festival culture has given way to easy international marketing of films. “Festivals are a good place to market your film as people from all over the world are there. This year at Cannes a lot of weightage is being given to Indian films because of the completion of 100 years of Indian cinema,” says TP Aggarwal, President of Indian Motion Pictures’ Producers Association.
The festival culture is growing
While Kolkata, Goa, Mumbai and Thiruvananthapuram have been hosting international film festivals since long, cities like Chennai, Kochi, Ahmedabad, Patna, Hyderabad and Jaipur stepped into this league in the last one decade. “Film festivals are mushrooming all over the world, including India. We’ve a festival in almost every major city now,” says Indu Shrikent, director of Osian’s Cinefan Film Festival.
Gone are the days when only festivals of Cannes, Toronto, Berlin and Venice were considered prestigious. Now festivals like Marrakech, Cairo, Rotterdam and Melbourne are picking momentum. Filmmaker Onir points out that the increase in awareness about festivals is responsible for this change. “People have become more aware now. Not just the big ones, people are also going to the less popular festivals,” he says.