December 2 2014
In his final piece of three on Film Bazaar in Goa, our intrepid producer assesses the outcome of his latest foray into Indian independent cinema and tells us about the next wave of movies that could be hitting our shores, as well seeing first-hand the prep for the launch of the cult film – ‘Sulemani Keeda’ (‘Writers’) already screened in Britain – in India…
By Chris Hainsworth, a UK-based independent film producer, managing director of AV Pictures and business manager of the London Indian Film Festival…
IT’S ALL over.
Four days, 30 meetings and a few glasses of Sula wines later, and Film Bazaar 2014 – the market part of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) – is done.
On the afternoon of the final day of Film Bazaar last week (November 24) in Goa, I find time to enter the viewing room, a dark and poky basement room where festival programmers and international acquisition executives sit in booths, all electronic devices confiscated for security, skimming the more than one hundred films on offer, at various stages of completion.
A key strand of the selection is the ‘Work-in-Progress lab’, in which edit-stage projects meet in workshops with panel of experts, including Sunmin Park (producer of “The Others”) and Marco Mueller (director of the Rome Film Festival).
Anand Gandhi’s stunning debut feature “Ship of Theseus” burst onto the scene and was nurtured at the 2011 lab, so expectations are high.
The first film I catch, about which there’s been a lot of buzz, is Raam Reddy’s lengthy first cut of “Thithi”.
Set in small town/village Karnataka, with a backdrop of funeral rituals and rural idiosyncrasies, the film follows three generations of a family reacting to the death of their oldest grandfather, Century Gowda, a locally renowned 101 year old man.
Working with non-professional cast, his film captures the gently breezy pace of village life, while confidently driving dramatic progression, and deftly taking the viewer through the rites and rituals, alleyways, squares and fields of village life.
I never read Reddy’s script, but the writing and the direction are strong and subtle. Reddy ratchets up the pressure on central characters, while keeping up a flow of light-hearted moments of comedy and cultural discovery.
I was only able to see the first half of the film, and subsequent footage and edits may emphasise more of the comedy aspects of the story. Either way, I can’t wait to see the next cut.
Equally a must-see is “Chauranga” (aka ‘Four Colours’), a film which won the ‘Incredible India’ award for the best Co Production Market Project in 2011, and three years later won the Golden Gateway of India Best Film award at the at Mumbai Film festival 2014. The film tells the story of an uneducated Dalit boy, and his journey to express his feelings for an educated girl.
Produced by actor-producer Sanjay Suri and produce-director Onir, the film is amongst the most anticipated of the current crop and though I can’t watch it all, it is something special.
As I walk out of the screening room to hold my last couple of meetings by the pool, I bump into Bikas Mishra, the writer-director of “Chauranga” and tell him how much I enjoyed it.
After four years of attending the festival, it’s nice to see some projects come full circle.
Sarovar Bankar, a Philadelphia filmmaker now working in Los Angeles is here after the releasing his movie “A Decent Engagement India-wide”.
It screened in 2012 at the London Indian Film Festival (LIFF). While the film stars industry legend Shabana Azmi, it was also notable for the beautiful Wong Kar Wai-esque cinematography, which has now been appreciated in India as well as on the international circuit.
Film Bazaar closes with a series of awards.
It’s great to see Khushboo Ranka and Vinay Shukla’s “Proposition for a Revolution” win the non-fiction/documentary category.
Produced by Ruchi Bhimani and Anand Gandhi (“Ship of Theseus“), the film chronicles the journey of India’s Aam Aadmi (Common Man) Party, from its formation in December 2012 to winning the Delhi’s state elections in December 2013.
Before returning to London I have a few days to see friends and filmmakers in Bombay (Mumbai) and in Pune, home of renowned film school FTII.
I’ve been looking forward to catching up with Rohena Gera, whose bright, bubbly and warmly provocative documentary “What’s Love to Do With It” first screened at Mumbai International Film Festival in 2013.
The film takes an intimate look at ‘Love’ and ‘Arranged’ marriages, by tracing the story arcs of eight kids and their parents.
Gera is one of the filmmakers here who is doing most to break new ground, in terms of subject matter, creative treatment and audience development. Her film showed to packed houses, week after week, on its home turf of Pune, and is now one of India’s top titles on I-Tunes.
Back in Bombay on Saturday night, and the talk is all about “Sulemani Keeda”, the poster child of what’s being called ‘youth connect’ cinema.
Screened at LIFF in the summer and on our own Channel 4 this autumn, it’s set to release nationwide across India on Friday (December 5), with cinema bookers, Bollywood stars and renowned producers running to catch up.
Meeting Masurkar I am able to see close-hand what it takes to launch a film in India and Bombay, especially.
In an Andheri West enclave of laid back media company offices, an online and TV wunderkind is brainstorming digital distribution strategies, while the woman described by many as India’s Harvey Weinstein (better style, manners and hair) Guneet Monga, observes the discussion, soaking up the technical information, and throwing her own thinking into the discussion of Indian audiences and how to reach them.
Posters here can be planned, printed and displayed all over Bombay within 24 hours. Masurkar spends the first hours of every day visiting local media/journalism schools, connecting with the core youth audience, whose sophistication the mainstream industry so vastly under-estimates.
Bollywood superstar Farhan Akhtar, who Masurkar met at LIFF 2014, has described the film as “contemporary filmmaking at its charming best!” To say it’s inspiring as I return to the UK is an under-statement.
Roughly half of the 32 projects in the co-production and screenwriters’ labs are written in Hindi and/or English. There are many others in languages reflecting South Asia as a whole. Co-productions with European producers bring in Norwegian and Portuguese into the mix.
In a globalised setting, with international films becoming increasingly bland, Indian cinema is poised to deliver wave after wave of fresh scenarios and settings.
I’m excited that this year there are at least six projects being driven by producers whom I’ve got to know well and their projects – which have a strong international potential. The phrase ‘the next Lunchbox’, is really just shorthand for story-telling at its universal best, in a setting which could only be India.
The titles of the projects on my shortlist have to be confidential, but alongside a couple of high profile literary adaptations, and projects by two of India’s most innovative production houses.
India’s film industry is even more relationship-driven than the international business. There’s an aversion to contracts and a reliance on trust. So a big benefit of Film Bazaar has been the opportunity to deepen my filmmaker relationships each year.
I’m happy there are at least two films in my inbox – the scripts, of which were pitched to me here, are so clear and elegant and South Asian that they might well be on their journey to the big screen.
Main picture: Dulal (Naveen Kasturia) and Ruma (Aditi Vasudev) in Sulemani Keeda; side: Chris Hainsworth, Terry Mardi and Amit Masurkar at the London Indian Film Festival
Earlier by Chris Hainsworth on Film Bazaar 2014 and the International Film Festival of India (IFFI)
- Film Bazaar and IFFI 2014 – Looking Out for Another ‘The Lunchbox’
- Film Bazaar 2014: The Bold, the Beautiful and the ugly…