Bollywood is one of the biggest film industries in the world, and now, even Toronto cannot escape the entertainment juggernaut.

While Hindi films have certainly been featured at the Toronto International Film Festival before, this year will mark the first time that Bollywood movies will premiere at TIFF. It shouldn’t be a shock, given that last year’s surprise festival hit, the India-set drama Slumdog Millionaire, went on to become a huge international success and the year’s top prize-winner at the Academy Awards.

Personally selected by TIFF co-director Cameron Bailey (who has long been influential in bringing an international flavour to Toronto), India will be distinctly represented with the world premieres of two of Bollywood’s biggest exports.

“We’ve been delving into India’s popular cinema for a few years now,” Bailey told Metro recently. “Having brought (Bollywood stars like) Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan and Akshay Kumar to TIFF, we thought it was time to host some top Bollywood women.”

As such, two of India’s biggest stars will be walking red carpets to the excited screams of admiring fans in Toronto. In My Heart Goes to Hadippa, versatile actress Rani Mukherjee stars as a Punjabi woman who disguises herself as a man in order to play cricket in this Shakespearean-themed comedy.

Meanwhile, filmmaker Ashutosh Gowariker will return to Toronto, having screened his Oscar-nominated Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India previously at the festival. However, as dramatic as that period epic was, the premiere of What’s Your Raashee? will show the director’s skill for making romantic-comedies — with the help of former Miss-World-turned-movie-star, Priyanka Chopra.

For TIFF, such worldly premieres only enhance the festival’s strong reputation. But as TIFF recently told the Indo-Asian News Service, there were other reasons for bringing Bollywood to Toronto.

“One, we have an avid audience, which comes (only) to see Bollywood films and their stars in town,” stated Bailey.

“Two, we want to introduce Bollywood to our audiences that do not know this kind of cinema.”

• My Heart Goes to Hadippa screens Sunday at Roy Thomson Hall. What’s Your Raashee? screens Sept. 19 at Roy Thomson Hall.

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