Cannes proves paradise for Indian film frat


MUMBAI: It was on 27 May 2007 that the annual Cannes Film Festival concluded and the Indian contingent came back with a smile. Even though only seven Indian films were screened at the Tous Les Cinemas Do Monde section, the market section was buzzing with top Indian players.


On the occasion of the 60th Cannes film festival, the Indian contingent included over 40 filmmakers and 80 companies. The biggies took more than 100 films to the market, a majority of which consisted of new projects. Even a few Indian celebrities graced the festival, including Preity Zinta, Abhishek, Aishwarya  and Amitabh Bachchan, Bipasha Basu, John Abraham, Irrfan Khan, Manisha Koirala and Masoomi.


The corporates present at the festival included the likes of Eros International, Moser Baer, UTV, Studio 18, Shemaroo Entertainment, Palador, Adlabs, WSG Pictures, iDream Productions, Saregama and Handmade Films.


Being the first time for Moser Baer, the company struck gold at the festival. Moser Baer CEO Entertainment Harish Dayani said, “We have purchased the India home video rights of 100 films. We will start rolling them in the Indian market from July. These movies’ rights have been bought for all SAARC countries.”


Similarly, international sales agents, iDream also hit it big with their films. iDream president international sales Rohit Sharma says, “iDream struck deals for distributors in Europe, including Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Luxemborg, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Phillipines, Brazil for the Dalai Lama’s On Life and Enlightenment documentary. We also sold Irrfan Khan starrer Apna Asmaan for Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Phillipines and we are in negotiations with a US distributor for a theatrical release of this film. Karma Confessions… was sold for Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan and Australia; Beau Bridges starrer Americanising Shelley for Romania, Italy, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Phillipines; while Melanie Brown (ex Spice Girls) starrer Telling Lies was sold for Italy, Spain and negotiations are on with four major studios in Hollywood for the US rights. The good news is that Kaizad Gustad directed Bombil and Beatrice has been selected for the London screenings in June for the Europe/UK buyers and we have strong interest from US companies for the film, which is currently in negotiation.”< Page Break >


Besides showcasing its catalogue of films, which includes Life in a… Metro, Rang De Basanti, Swades, Don, Parineeta amongst others, UTV this year unveiled two of its big ventures, Jodhaa Akbar and Goal. UTV vice president marketing and sales Siddharth Roy Kapur said, “We received a strong response. There was an excellent turnout from the buyers and distributor’s side. It was the first time that the actual footage of Jodhaa Akbar was seen. A lot of people were keen, especially from Europe and far eastern countries.”


When asked if any deals were struck for the forthcoming ventures, he said, “The intention was only to peak the interest level. We had a few discussions with buyers who showed interest in our forthcoming ventures and existing catalogue, but I would not like it discuss this at this point.”


Post a statement issued by UTV stating that it had called off the agreement with Palador; both the companies presented themselves at the Cannes Film Festival as individual entities. Palador acquired the rights to the special “60th Anniversary Prize” winner film Paranoid Park. The company has plans to release the film simultaneously in India along with its worldwide September release. If all goes as planned, this will be a first, as no Cannes winner has ever seen a simultaneous release in India. Moreover, the company has already acquired the next Lars Von Tier film, The Antichrist. The film has not yet begun production. The other movie in its kitty is David Lynch’s Inland Empire.< Page Break >


WSG Pictures, that produced Bhavna Talwar’s Dharm, which besides being screened at the Tous Le Cinemas du Monde section, organised a market screening as well. Director Bhavna Talwar said, “The film received an overwhelming response at the screening and people walked out of the theatre crying.”


On the business aspect, WSG Pictures CEO Sheetal Talwar said that all discussions proved to be fruitful and that they found distributors for most non-conventional territories. He also informed that with Europe covered, there also was a profitable direct-to-video deal in the offering. “We are in discussion for co-productions with players from Germany, USA and Hungary,” he added.


While everyone was busy honouring deals and came back home with new proposals, Handmade Films founder Sunil Doshi said, “It was nothing spectacular, I saw 27 films and that’s it.”


It is learnt that Adlabs has pitched for the home video and theatrical rights of a few Hollywood films, which are yet to come through.


Shemaroo, which was also present at the festival with its catalogue of 600 films, was primarily promoting Ghatotkach – The Master of Magic, an animation film. This was the first ever Indian animation film to be promoted at Cannes. Shemaroo Entertainment vice president Hiren Gada said, “A lot of things were new for us. We took only a promo and a lot of marketing activities were done as well. The response we got was very good but not excellent though as we would have liked it to be a lot more.”


When queried as to if any talks were in progress, he said, “We have a list drawn up of the tentative players interested in the film. There are three to four major Hollywood distributors looking at acquiring worldwide rights for the film. People who can commit are looking for an additional 10-15 minutes of footage. which we will show after about four weeks.”


Apart from the animation film, Shemaroo was also promoting its catalogue of existing films. It is learnt that it managed to strike a good amount of deals with regard to these. Films like Manorama Six Feet Under and Staying Alive will first hit the festival circuit before releasing theatrically, they are being touted for festivals like Locarno, Venice Film Festival, Pusan and Toronto Film Festival.< Page Break >


Saregama which has been visiting Cannes for seven years now, set up a stall for the first time. They showcased three films, viz Karma Confessions and Holi, The Japanese Wife and Chain Khulli Ki Main Khulli (CKKMK), all of which managed to attract buyers from various parts of the world.


“One film that particularly received an overwhelming response was CKKMK. There is a dearth of children films and so this film was received with open arms,” says Saregama Films CEO B R Sharan.


He adds, “The film received an overwhelming response from across the world. It has already been sold for UK, Fiji and also Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia because Rahul Bose is a popular actor there.” The movie is due for release on 22 June 2007.


Although the Aparna Sen directed The Japanese Wife is still under production, the film has managed to attract an array of buyers from Europe, where Sen is famous for her films Mr & Mrs Iyer and 36 Chowringhee Lane. “We have received response from Greece, Spain, Italy, Turkey, Czech Republic, Polland, Netherlands, France, Japan, Philippines and Fiji. We also intend sending the film for Berlin and Rome Film Festivals later this year,” Sharan informed. < Page Break >


Though India had a strong contingent at the festival, how was the buzz created? It is understood that each player engaged in strong on ground PR activities, coupled with advertisements placed in leading entertainment dailies and magazines. UTV sent personal invitations to its existing buyers and also new buyers interested in its products. Shemaroo, on the other hand, distributed flyers to various buyers and placed ads in Variety and Hollywood Reporter. Additionally, a promotional kit for Ghatotkach, which featured the soon to be available merchandise, was distributed. iDream productions organized 11 screenings, supported by an aggressive marketing campaign, including daily ads in Variety and Screen. Also, the promos of Americanizing Shelley were playing on the outdoor screens in Cannes.


While all the participants returned back with a great amount of deals and MOUs signed, some of them were unhappy with the size and location of the stalls. Commenting on this, a delgate on condition of anonymity said, “We were not very happy with our placements. We initiated a few dialogues with festival representatives and the CII regarding the same. Next time round things will hopefully be different.”


Thus, while our list of competing official selections remained pitiful, the major participants this year struck gold at the market section at Cannes. With the whole international market waiting to be tapped, Indian players seem poised for a successful run ahead.