Dilani Rabindran




Diwali, &Pongal are no longer the only festivals pertinent to Indian film premieres. After 100 years the critical appreciation of Indian cinema is at an all-time high as prestigious film festivals consistently include a variety of Indian films in their official selections.

The industry is currently infatuated with the ongoing 66th annual Cannes Film Festival in France, where 4 Indian films have been invited and Hindi cinema’s boldest leading lady, Vidya Balan, is a part of the respected Cannes jury. Cannes is paying homage to Indian cinema’s prolific century-run, in an ongoing trend of film festival love for India. Over the past few years the world’s most eminent film festivals have consistently included several Indian movies in their selections. TIFF brought a whopping 12 Indian films to its public offering in 2012 with a focus on Mumbai, and the 2013 Berlin Film Festival recently welcomed the hit Kai Po Che. Looking at Tamil cinema, Bala’s Paradesi was invited to the year’s Cannes and there were hopes of a first look at Kochadaiyaan premiering there as well; despite the fact that neither of these materialized the invitations alone are significant.

Film festivals are now a key component of measure for Indian cinema, helping to proclaim the diversity of the industry as a whole. The world has long been aware of mainstream Bollywood, but India’s other-language industries and independent films are becoming much more recognized thanks to such festivals. The visionary Anurag Kashyap is now an internationally known director thanks to prestige rightfully bestowed upon him by the curators of the world’s biggest film festivals. Days ago he was awarded the Knight of Order of Arts & Letters during Cannes, further cementing his unofficial position as the face of Independent Indian cinema. Pioneers like Kashyap lead in an uphill battle to give independent Indian cinema due spotlight while being shadowed by the mammoth that is Bollywoood. As Guneet Monga, the co-founder of Sikhya Entertainment explained at the Independent India panel in Toronto last year: the indies are easily passed over because mainstream and independent cinema in India use the same distribution channel.

However we are in the age of change and globalization. A maturing audience is now happy to see their favorite stars take on both mainstream and art-house roles, like Aamir Khan, for example. It also means that, thanks to international festivals, there is a growing non-Indian audience who are often looking for something smaller than the emblematic song and dance of Bollywood.

Given this unique age of crossover audiences and a shared ecosystem of mainstream blockbusters and indies it’s no coincidence that more US studios are seeking stakes in Indian film production. India’s film industry sold more than 3 billion tickets in 2012 and US Studios, like Viacom & Fox, who have recognized this power are trying to procure a larger share of the market. India is relatively free of restrictions to international participants, and after realizing that ticket sales from imported Hollywood films only account for a tiny slice of the pie in comparison to homegrown product, US studios are setting up domestic production houses or buying out existing ones to make Indian films themselves. In many ways the Indian film industry has yet to properly master the global export market, so the added involvement of international groups, like Disney with UTV, should aid the global celebration of Indian cinema (J. Crabtree, Financial Times). Furthermore, it’s not illogical to expect that US studios will see the mass appeal of independent Indian cinema, particularly for the festival-attending type all over the world who seek the lesser known side of Indian cinema.

With the added cash flow from American conglomerates, who consistently seek the validation of film festivals for their ventures (knowing that it often leads to awards fame), Indian cinema should be seeing growing opportunities to make a larger variety of Indian cinema, as well as an increase in international distribution power to send all types of Indian films around the world.  And just like that, the chain of Indian cinema, international film festivals and the globalization of Indian movies comes full circle.

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