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Indian cinema on a mission at Cannes to dispel Bollywood image

Indian actors and directors are on a mission to prove there is a lot more to the century-old Indian film industry than Bollywood

Reuters and AFP, Monday 20 May 2013
Cannes
Amitabh Bachchan with The Great Gatsby actors, at Cannes. (Photo: AP)
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Unashamedly escapist, with wafer-thin plots and cheesy dialogue, all punctuated by exuberant song and dance routines, Bollywood musicals are beloved by millions despite the critics' reservations.

But India's biggest star Amitabh Bachchan, in Cannes this week for a celebration of Indian cinema at the Riviera film fest, admitted he prefers not to use the word "Bollywood".
 
"I just feel that the Indian film industry has its own identity... so I'd rather call it 'the Indian film industry', especially now we celebrate 100 years of the Indian film industry this year," the actor known as the "Big B" said in Cannes.
 
In fact, Bachchan was articulating an increasingly common view among actors and directors -- that there is a lot more to Indian film than Bollywood potboiler musicals.
 
They argue that just as India has changed rapidly over the past 15 years, so too have the sort of films being made and the people making them.
Indian movie actors and a new wave of directors are on a mission at the Cannes film festival - to show that their industry, which turns 100 this year, is more than just Bollywood.
 
India's presence has been high-profile since the start of the 12-day festival with acting legend Amitabh Bachchan on the red carpet on opening night to mark his Hollywood debut in Baz Luhrmann's "The Great Gatsby" alongside Leonardo DiCaprio.
 
The largest Indian contingent to date is on the French Riviera at the world's leading cinema showcase to promote their country, which has the world's biggest film industry, making over 1,000 films a year compared to about 600 in Hollywood.
 
Movies from Mumbai-based Bollywood and other regional India films have struggled at the global box office with Indian cinema largely dismissed as lengthy, song-and-dance numbers.
 
But the industry sees the 66th Cannes festival, where India is "guest country" to mark its centenary, as a chance to showcase a new genre of Indian movies globally and to promote India as a place to both make films and win a massive audience.
 
"If you use the term Bollywood it really represents the song-and-dance, credibility-stretched story kind of film," director Amit Kumar, whose gangster-cop thriller "Monsoon Shootout" held its premiere at Cannes on Sunday, told Reuters.
 
"We need to portray Indian cinema as more international and I hope our presence at Cannes will make the world realise that Indian cinema is most than just about Bollywood."
 
The Indian visitors to Cannes are also keen to lure investment to their film industry, which is forecast to grow to $5 billion by 2014 from $3.2 billion in 2010, according to a report by Ernst & Young.
 
Actress Vidya Balan also walked the red carpet in the pouring rain that night as one of nine members of a jury led by U.S. filmmaker Steven Spielberg that will decide the coveted Palme D'Or award for best picture on the final day, May 26.
 
A gala dinner to mark Indian cinema's centenary was due to be held on Sunday and attended by a list of stars including actresses Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Sonam Kapoor and Freida Pinto.
 
"SHACKLES"
 
There is no Indian film in either of the two main competitions at Cannes. The last Indian film selected to vie for the coveted Palme D'Or was "Swaham" in 1994 while "Udaan" competed in Un Certain Regard for emerging filmmakers in 2010.
 
But four Indian films will be screened - "Monsoon Shootout", another thriller "Ugly", a tribute to the industry centenary called "Bombay Talkies", and love story "Dabba" (Lunchbox).
 
Anupama Chopra, Bollywood author, columnist and critic, said Bollywood was a tag that independent film-makers had to fight.
 
"Maybe one day (Indian filmmakers) will break free of the shackles of Bollywood and make a completely global film in terms of aesthetics," he said.
 
In 2011 India saw a 42 percent jump in the number of Hollywood movies shot there with several Hollywood studios such as Disney, News Corp's Fox, and Sony entering deals with or buying stakes in Indian companies.
 
There has also been a surge in the number of Hollywood movies released in India, where 3.6 billion film tickets were sold last year. Hollywood studios have been releasing their films in India simultaneously with their North American releases and also dubbing films in various regional Indian languages.
 
Uma Da Cunha, programme advisor at the 2012 Mumbai Film Festival, said studios wanted a slice of the huge Indian market.
 
"The big and significant change in Cannes is that the Indian film industry is being given space and attention on the international film scene and it is attracting business and ties from global film interests," she told Reuters.
 
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