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India and Cannes share anniversaries

Three debuts seek international distribution

India and Cannes are both celebrating 60th anniversaries this year; six decades of the film fest on the Croisette, and six decades of Indian independence. Partly to commemorate this, seven Indian features, old and new, will be showcased in the Tous les Cinemas du Monde section, curated by Serge Sobczynski. India is also a partner in the opening night of the Cannes Market Party dinner.

Other than this fig leaf, though, the official selection has only one Indian short film, Raka Datta’s “Chinese Whispers,” in the Cinefondation section. “Unni … Life Is All About Friends,” from Cannes regular Murali Nair will screen in the Cinema of the South section.

The seven features in Tous les Cinemas du Monde, which will screen May 19 and 20, include mainstream Bollywood films like Mani Ratnam’s “Guru” and Rajkumar Hirani’s “Lage raho Munnabhai”, both released overseas, to arthouse fare like Rituparno Ghosh’s “Dosar” and G. Vasanta Balan’s “Veyil.”.

Also included are three debuts seeking world distribution: Vinay Subramaniam and Mridul Toolsidass’ “Missed Call,” about a filmmaker who commits suicide not realizing he has friends; D. Bijukumar’s “Saira,” about a woman journalist tackling fundamentalism; and “Dharm,” from Bhavna Talwar about a priest forced by religion to give up the child he has adopted.

There are more than 100 new Indian films at Cannes, with reps of 60 filmed entertainment companies, including big boys like Eros and UTV, plus two dozen foreign sales agents for them at the Indian Pavilion at the International Village, Palais and Riviera. Optical disc giant Moser Baer, which has bought about 7,000 Indian titles and hopes to carpet bomb the home entertainment market with cheap DVDs and VCDs, will also be at Cannes.

Yet India’s film community has mixed feelings about Cannes. Despite four new releases this year, Yashraj Films, one of the biggest Bollywood production-distribution firms, is nowhere to be found at Cannes.

On the other hand, Rohit Sharma, president Intl. Sales, iDream Independent Pictures, says, “If I’m not at Cannes, I’m not in business. About 50%-60% of our sales come from Cannes meetings.”

As Jyoti Deshpande, chief operating officer and commercial director of distribution major Eros, says, “Eros has been participating in Cannes for several decades now. Our approach is more that of promoting Indian films on a global platform. But we hope to open at least five new markets this time, which will be a bigger milestone than a sales target per film.”

Cannes veteran Narayanan Srinivasan, chief of acquisitions, In2 Infotainment India, says, “India has not yet understood how to exploit the dynamics of Cannes in the way the Koreans or Australians have. There is no game plan by the industry backed by the government.”

Sunir Kheterpal, COO of Adlabs Distribution, says, “We have a wide range of films, but we’ve still to figure out how to work Cannes.”

The picks of the market of forthcoming films include:

“Jodha Akbar,”directed by Ashutosh Gowariker, starring Aishwarya Rai (UTV);”Cash,” a thriller, directed by Anubhav Sinha and distributed by Adlabs;

“Cheeni kum” directed R. Balki, starring Amitabh Bachchan;

“Tabu” a world premiere market screening on May 21 (Eros);

“No Smoking,” directed by Anurag Kashyap (Eros);

“Mithya,” directed by Rajat Kapoor;

“Loins of Punjab” a comedy directed by Manish Acharya;

“Gandhi My Father” directed by Feroz Khan (Eros);

“Ghatothkach Master of Magic” a 2-D animation film (Shemaroo).

Films with Indian and foreign cast/crew/locales include:

“Americanizing Shelley,” a comedy from Lorraine Senna (iDream Independent Pictures)

“Karma, Confessions and Holi,” Manish Gupta’s family drama (idream Independent Pictures);

“Bombil and Beatrice,” a reincarnation romance from Kaizad Gustad (iDream Independent Pictures);

“Telling Lies” Antara Bhardwaj’s thriller (iDream Independent Pictures)

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