The spotlight is back on Indian cinema at the Toronto and Montreal film festivals. Every autumn, as trees in Canada change colour, you have one of the most spectacular visual treats in the world. This year, however, nature’s eye-catching pageant faces stiff competition from the silver screen.
No less than 400 feature-length movies are being showcased across three separate international film festivals in Montreal alone between August and October. Another 256 films will be exhibited at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) starting Thursday.
Indian cinema is back with a vengeance. “This is the strongest year for Indian cinema that we’ve had at Toronto for many years,” said Cameron Bailey, international programmer for TIFF. The spotlight shifts to the subcontinent at the festival with Toronto-based Deepa Mehta’s ‘Water’, selected for the prestigious opening night spot.
Starring Seema Biswas, John Abraham and Lisa Ray, the film tells the story of a child bride in pre-Independence India, who is exiled to a widow’s ashram after her husband’s death.
Buddhadev Dasgupta’s ‘Kaalpurush’ has been included in the Masters’ section and features Mithun Chakraborty, Rahul Bose and Sameera Reddy.
Backed by Hollywood producer Jeremy Thomas, ‘Dreaming Lhasa’, written by Tenzing Sonam and jointly directed with his wife, Ritu Sarin, finds a place in the festival’s discovery section. It is an emotional thriller about the exiled Tibetan community in India and the first Tibetan feature film that confronts contemporary reality.
Aishwarya Rai’s second international feature, ‘Mistress of Spices’, based on Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's best-selling novel, will also premiere at Toronto. The film is about a San Francisco woman with magical powers and her dilemma over a man (Dylan McDermott) she has fallen for. The film is co-produced by Deepak Nayyar and Gurinder Chadha and directed by Chadha’s husband, first-time director Paul Mayeda Berges.
Indian presence at the just concluded World Film Festival in Montreal – where Ashwin Kumar’s ‘Little Terrorist’ won the best short film award last year – was hard to ignore. Filmmaker Manu Rewal, producer and director of ‘Chai Pani Etc’ (which was screened in the World Cinema section), was on the Short Films section jury.
Montreal also hosted six Satyajit Ray classics, including ‘Charulata’ and ‘Nayak’, in its Market section. Clearly, the festival was seen as a great venue for business. Prior to her arrival at the event, producer Varsha Bansal, whose ‘Nishi Japon’ (directed by Sandip Ray) also featured at Montreal, said, “I hope to seal business deals with international buyers in all territories at this prestigious event.”
If Indian movies can captivate audiences as much as the autumn leaves, Bansal won’t be disappointed.
(The writer is President & CEO of Lall Entertainment and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)