The fortnight-long 32nd Toronto International Film festival kicks off on Thursday. And it’s going to be an Indian summer at the portal to the glittering North American market. As noted film critic Roger Ebert says, “Cannes may be the biggest, but Toronto is the most important.”
This year’s cornucopia offers the directorial work of Ken Loach, Ermanno Olmi, Carlos Saura, Claude Chabrol and the legendary Manoel de Olveira who at 99 sets out to show that Christopher Columbus may have been Portuguese. The roll call gets gaudy with gala presentations by the likes of Richard Attenborough, Woody Allen, Shekhar Kapur and David Cronenberg. There will also be special presentations of films by Sidney Lumet, the Coen brothers, Michael Moore and Brian de Palma.
In this firmament, will be some of our own luminaries: Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Rituparno Ghosh, Budhadeb Dasgupta and Shekhar Kapur. The festical will have nine films either made in India or with an Indian connection. Eight of them will be world premieres and one an international premiere. So, Bollywood will make its presence felt.
Ghosh’s The Last Lear tells of Harry (65), once a notable Shakespearean actor but now a bad tempered recluse (played by Amitabh Bachchan). A new-age film director, Arjun Rampal, manoeuvers Harry into his film which then becomes a turning point in many lives.
<b1>In the ‘Masters Section’, Gopalakrishnan has his Four Women (The Prostitute, The Virgin, The Housewife and The Spinster) with Nandita Das in the lead. In the same section, Dasgupta presents The Voyeurs in which four men spy on a young dancer.
In the ‘Mavericks Section’, Mira Nair will join hands with three Indian directors to present short films under an umbrella concept, Aids JaaGo. Mira is working with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The festival has got its timing right. It is the last major festival before the battle lines for the Oscars get drawn. Ebert estimates that three quarters of the main nominations will be on view at this celebration of cinema by Lake Ontario. The North American market for Indian films is valued at $50 million (Rs 200 crore).
For many productions, that’s their profit margin, or the buffer to dare and experiment — an issue of content and style as Indian cinema aspires to go beyond NRI and co-production markets, to break into the legitimate world bank of audiences.