Indian cinema on a mission at Cannes to dispel Bollywood image

Cast members Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Vijay Varma and director Amit Kumar pose during a photocall for the film 'Monsoon Shootout' at the 66th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes May 18,
The cast of “Monsoon Shootout” — Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Vijay Varma and director Amit Kumar — at Cannes. India’s film industry turns 100 this year.

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.

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 the “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 realize 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.

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.

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, program adviser 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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