Rome and India have forged ties since the days of Emperor Augustus, who liked to unleash Bengal tigers against gladiators in Roman amphitheaters.
That was 2,000 ago. These days, following Italo Prime Minister Romano Prodi’s visit to India in February, the two are connecting in another entertainment arena: making movies.
The Rome Film Festival’s Focus on India is timely, taking place just as Bollywood helmer Anubhav Sinha is prepping heist actioner “Chase” in Rome’s Cinecitta Studios, aka Hollywood-on-the-Tiber, and locations in Lazio.
The Eternal City fest will pay tribute to India in a multitude of ways: Anurag Kashyap’s “No Smoking … !” will world preem and Indian stars — including pic’s Ayesha Takia — will walk the Auditorium’s red carpet; Indian writers, visual artists and musicians will be celebrated with readings, exhibitions and concerts all over town, in accordance with the Rome fest’s interdisciplinary spirit.
On the business side, an Oct. 19 panel of heavyweights, including Indian Trade and Industry Minister Kamal Nath and Italo producers’ prexy Riccardo Tozzi, will bring together industryites from both countries to talk co-productions and partnerships with their counterparts. Italy and India signed a co-production treaty this year, which still needs to be ratified, but that is considered a formality.
Roman auds also will see Rituparno Ghosh’s melodrama “The Last Lear,” about the travails of a famous Shakespearean thesp, played by Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan; “Gandhi, My Father,” depicting the troubled rapport between Mahatma Gandhi and his son; and “Khoya khoya chand” (Lost Moon), a love story that harkens back to the 1950s golden era of Hindi cinema.
The rapport between Italy and India’s film industries has been developing for decades. In 1957, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru invited “Rome Open City” helmer Roberto Rossellini to make a documentary on India and to help breathe new life into his country’s then ailing film industry.
These days, just as “Chase” helmer Sinha preps to shoot in Rome, Italo producer Angelo Bassi’s Mediterranean Prods. and RAI Cinema are in pre-production on helmer Italo Spinelli’s “Behind the Bodice,” an English-language contempo feminist drama based on an eponymous short story by Mahasveta Devi, with plans for cameras to roll in India next spring.
Both pics are targeted at global auds besides their home crowds, an ambition that would have made Nehru, Rossellini and Emperor Augustus proud.