Indians trek to bazaar with Ray from past

Son, 'Pather' thesps repping classic pic at Cannes

MUMBAI — India’s most well-known filmmaker, Satyajit Ray, is returning to the Croisette, albeit posthumously, via a restored version of “Pather Panchali” (Song of the Road). Film is kicking off Cannes’ Classics Series on May 12.

Ray’s 1955 movie unspooled at the 1956 fest and took the Human Document prize. His son Sandip Ray, plus thesps Sharmila Tagore and Soumitra Chatterjee, who are Bengalis like Ray, will rep the pic at the screening.

There are no Indian films in this year’s official selection even though Indian actress Nandita Das (“A Peck on the Cheek”) is on the jury.

Still, the country will be well repped at the market. The Indian Pavilion on the Riviera will be done up to reflect scenes from “Pather Panchali,” and the Confederation of Indian Industry has rented more space to showcase Indian films. Two exhibition blocks — the India Pavilion at B6 and four exhibition spaces at A8 — will be accompanied by three additional screening rooms at the Palais.

Ascribing its larger presence at Cannes to a need to appeal to more territories, Jayant Bhuyan, deputy director general, Confederation of Indian Industry, says, “In recent years, Indian films have been looking to appeal to an international audience, with new styles being produced. This is the reason for the increasing presence at Cannes every year.”

This time around, the Indians won’t just be shopping films at the market, they plan to pitch India as a filming location.

“We are not here only to market Indian films at Cannes,” Bhuyan says, “but we are in fact looking to promote India as an exciting locale for shooting. We want people to use Indian talent and expertise in production and post-production sectors, too.”

Jaipal Reddy, Indian minister for information and broadcasting, will lead a large delegation that will include movie moguls Subhash Ghai of Mukta Arts; Ronnie Screwvala of UTV; Bobby Bedi, topper of Kaleidoscope Pictures; and Amit Khanna, prexy, the Film and Television Producers Guild of India.

Bollywood brings a mixed selection of titles to Cannes this year, from period films to contempo titles pitched at crossover audiences.

Focusing on the current outsourcing trend around the globe, Kaleidoscope’s “American Daylight” looks at a light-hearted romance between a call center executive in India and an American customer.

Ghai will be showcasing the English-language version of 1940s-set “Kisna,” while Bedi-produced Aamir Khan starrer “The Rising” will take audiences further back, to the 1800s.

Also screening will be the critically acclaimed Sanjay Leela Bhansali-helmed “Black,” bankrolled by Applause Entertainment, from AV Birla group. UTV will unspool award-winning helmer Vishal Bharadwaj’s “Blue Umbrella.” UTV has already inked to distribute comicbook adaptation “Sin City” and Jackie Chan’s “The Myth” in the Indian subcontinent, but will be scouting for more distrib deals.

UTV also is looking at exploiting distrib rights of its older productions including Ashutosh Gowarikar’s “Swades” (My Country, 2004), featuring Shah Rukh Khan as a NASA scientist, and Bollywood heartthrob Hrithik Roshan’s previous release “Lakshya” (Goal, 2004).

With most Indian companies — including Kaleidoscope and UTV — looking to forge co-production deals as well, the scene is set for what looks to be the biggest and most muscled representation of the Indian film industry at Cannes.

The annual India Evening, skedded for May 19 at Carlton Beach, promises to be replete with the usual over-the-top Bollywood glamour, singing and dancing.