India may be the biggest producer of cinema, but Indians hardly get to see some of the greatest films made outside the country. Some of distributors such as Universal, Fox and Columbia, say there are not enough screens even for the 1200-odd made-in-India movies, produced with unfailing regularity year after year. Many of these remain in the cans for years, sometimes for ever.
Anurag Kashyap’s Ugly is a recent example. It premiered at Cannes in May 2013, but could be released only the other day, and that too not at every centre. The film could not find a screen in Chennai – where Rajnikanth’s Lingaa has been monopolising the theatrical circuit for three weeks in a row. And with a flood of Tamil movies (Shankar’s I and Gautham Vasudev Menon’s Yennai Arindhaal among others) ready to rush out of the labs in the next couple of weeks, Chennai may well miss out on some films in languages other than Tamil.
There is one movie that may find it hard to get into Chennai, maybe even India. Thomas Vinterberg’s much anticipated Far From The Madding Crowd. Although this Thomas Hardy classic has been filmed before, it will be interesting to see how Vinterberg handles the story -- set in Victorian England and about headstrong Bathsheba Everdene, who is desired by three very different kinds of men. One is a sheep farmer, the other a reckless sergeant and the third a moneyed bachelor.
Vinterberg is of course an exceptional auteur, who along with the enfant-terrible of Danish cinema, Lars Von Trier, had founded Dogme 95 – a set of rules that sought to strip movies of their artifice. No props, no artificial lighting and no make-up. It is another thing that Dogme 95 did not survive for long.
But Vinterberg – with or without his new doctrine – continues to make captivating films. His last, The Hunt, made in 2012 is a haunting narrative of a deer hunting community. A teacher there – grappling with his divorce – is accused of molesting a small girl, who is his student and the daughter of his best friend. Vinterberg explores the subject with brilliant subtlety and takes us through the traumatic experience of a man who turns overnight into an outcaste.
Vinterberg’s earlier Celebration is an explosive tale of a family that gets together to commemorate the 60th birthday of the patriarch, but ends up pulling scandalous skeletons out of the cupboard.
Vinterberg is not just a great helmer, but also an engaging story teller. One can be sure his Far From The Madding Crowd will be riveting. The exceptionally sensitive actress, Carey Mulligan, plays Bathsheba.
But, will Far From The Madding Crowd get into crowded India?