Strong Indian contingent at Cannes Festival


MUMBAI: Last year, the Indian contingent to the prestigious film festival at Cannes, France, included over 60 companies with 60 odd films and many new projects, and 18 exhibitors, who had their products and ventures showcased at the fest.

The motive behind the presence is as clear as finding a diamond ring in a glass of champagne – highlighting Bollywood cinema to the world and ensuring global purchases of the same.

“At Cannes this year, we will engage with the world in reaching out to the heart and the mind. We will do business, promote our product and work on co-production deals. The idea is to get to the world audiences to see Indian cinema and become familiar with our new young aesthetic language,” CII National Entertainment Committee chairman Bobby Bedi.

It is estimated that this year, over 75 players from India are to be present at the Cannes film festival, including biggies such as UTV Motion Pictures, Shemaroo Entertainment, Eros International and Studio 18. Besides, various distributors will make the trip to ink distribution deals with other players and studios.
Studio 18, which will be present at the 60th Cannes film festival, has acquired a stall to showcase its ventures like Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd, 1971, Halla Bol and Little Zizou. Studio 18, which recently entered the film entertainment market, is hoping to ink overseas distribution deals. “However, we aren’t looking at acquiring new international films from the Cannes market” informs Studio 18 vice president marketing and distribution Preeti Sahani.< Page Break >

The Indians who actually will have their work on display will be Raka Dutta from the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute, with her film Chinese Whispers, Veyil directed by Shankar, Mani Ratnam’s Guru, Raju Hirani’s Lage Raho Munna Bhai, Rituparno Ghosh’s Dosar, Bhavna Talwar’s Dharm and Missed Call by Mridul Toolsidas, both of which are to be showcased at the Tous le Cinemas du Monde.

WSG Films CEO Sheetal Talwar says “Apart from the official screening, we are also having a market screening on the 23rd for the international buyers who can’t make it for the official screening. Films distribution, France will be distributing the film internationally; they have been on board from the inception of the film.”

UTV attends the festival every year and this time will take along its new venture UTV Palador. UTV vice president marketing and sales Siddharth Roy Kapur says, “Indian films have always raised curiosity in the west. The new wave of Indian cinema has been widely acknowledged and welcomed across the globe. It is a great positive for us. This year, we would unveil two of our upcoming movies. They’ve both been positioned as international projects with a universal appeal.” While UTV showcases Jodhaa Akbar and Goal, UTV Palador ‘s Mohan Polmar and Gautam Sikhnis will be sourcing content for their World Cinema label.

Polmar says, “I’m not expecting anything from Cannes. This year, it has a slew of bad movies. But the festival is always worth attending. UTV Palador has acquired 1100 films and we’re looking at enhancing our acquisitions. It’s a big event for UTV Palador.” While the whole world is aware of the Indian Presence at the film festival, one is quite unsure of what work is done there. Explaining, Polmar adds “The actual buying and selling doesn’t necessarily happen at the Festival. Deals are inked earlier and Cannes is just a place to meet people.”

UTV, which has acquired a stall, is also scheduled to display its entire film catalogue at Cannes, including Swades, Pradeep Sarkar’s Parineeta, Mahesh Manjrekar’s Viruddh, Priyadarshan’s Chup Chup Ke, Farhan Akhtar’s Don, Vishal Bharadwaj’s Blue Umbrella and Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Rang De Basanti.< Page Break >

Eros International and Ultra have also acquired a stall each. Eros next release Cheeni Kum starring Amitabh Bachchan, Tabu and Paresh Rawal will be premiered at the Festival on 21 May. Eros International CEO and chairman Kishore Lulla said, “We are very excited about Cheeni Kum. It is the first among our line up of global releases this summer. We are launching the film at Cannes Film Festival, where we are celebrating Eros’ 30th anniversary this year.”

Ultra Group managing director Sushil Kumar Agrawal says, “We are taking films like Khanna & Iyer, Iqbal, Kahani Gudiya Ki and a few dubbed films to the festival.”

The concept of sales agents is no longer alien in the film distribution market. iDream Production will be the sales agent for seven films at the Cannes market. Says iDream Production president international sales Rohit Sharma, “We are out to sell new films and repackage them for an international market. They have an international appeal since most of them are in English. However, all of them have an Indian element, either with the star cast or plot. We will be representing other producers and will have 11 screenings for buyers at the Festival.”

As the sales agents for various producers, Sharma reveals that ads in various magazines such as Vanity Fair have been placed. They’ve acquired the biggest stall as well. The line-up of films includes Karma, Confessions & Holi, My Own Sky, Telling Lies, Bombil & Beatrice, Americanizing Shelly, Cape Karma and a documentary series on Dalai Lama.

Director Krishna Mishra reveals that his film Wounded will be screened at the market section Festival this year. “After winning the award at Leicester festival where the film generated a lot of interest, this is the first time the film will be shown outside India in a leaner vision, specially created fir international distribution and worldwide TV market,” says Mishra.

Present at this screening would also be dreaded bandit, Seema Parihar. Vinod Kumar of Nirvana Motion Pictures says, “We will be screening Wounded and Undertrial at the Market Section of the Film festival. We already have deals for wounded in UK, Germany and France and it a matter of just completing those deals. We took Undertrial just 20-25 days back.”< Page Break >

With the hubbub around the Festival, director Kunal Kohli states a valid point, “I don’t understand why most Indian filmmakers go to Cannes? Do we make cinema of the caliber that’s shown there? I wouldn’t want my film Fanaa to be screened at Cannes since it was made for the Indian audience.”

The question is valid, as this year too, no major film has made it to the official selection list barring Dutta’s film and the few others that have been selected to be screened at the Tous le Cinemas du monde. If our films do not match the standards, how does India put up a good show at Cannes year after year? “It’s simple,” reveals Agarwal, “a lot of people are looking for Bollywood movies and this open market facilitates direct connection with various distributors. Since Materials are available at a costly price and more often money is not recovered. With markets such as this, we are able to provide and get good deals.”

Among the Indian actors expected at Cannes are John Abraham and Bipasha Basu. However Abhishek, Aishwarya and Hrithik’s presence at the festival is not yet confirmed due to their hectic shooting schedules.

So, while the Indian biggies at Cannes buy and sell products and actors set the red carpet ablaze, back home everyone will be hooked on to the TV to know what is happening on the French coast. The show this year is big and the line up is huge. It’s happy Cannes for those attending!