Posted On Sunday, April 29, 2012 at 02:13:55 AM
|A still from Miss Lovely which will be screened at Cannes Film Festival
Todd McCarthy is well-respected American film critic and a documentary filmmaker. McCarthy reviewed films for Variety for 31 years until he was laid off in 2010. He is now the film critic for Hollywood Reporter.
This past week after the Cannes Film Festival had announced its line up, McCarthy wrote a column about the films he wants to see at the event. His list included works by internationally celebrated filmmakers Wes Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom), Walter Salles (On the Road), David Cronenberg (Cosmopolis), Jacques Audiard (Rust and Bone) and the 89-year-old French master Alain Resnais’ You Haven’t Seen Anything Yet.
Also this past week it was announced that three Indian films — Miss Lovely, Gangs of Wasseypur and Peddlers will be screened in different sections at Cannes. That is a first for Indian cinema and a cause for celebration among all pockets of the country’s film industry.
But alas none of these films were mentioned in McCarthy’s column. McCarthy, like most of his American colleagues, is well-versed in the various strands of world cinema, but so far the new Indian films have not made an impact on him.
Film programmers are obviously noticing new Indian cinema. There are programmers in India picking works for foreign festivals. But once the Indian films reach the festivals, they get lost in the clutter of productions with big name Hollywood and European stars.
I see that happening all the time at international film festivals. At the Toronto International Film Festival last year a large section of the press showed up for Michael Winterbottom’s India-based film Trishna, starring Freida Pinto. But hardly any critic attended the screenings of other India focus films — Sri Lankan filmmaker Vimukthi Jayasundara’s Bengali film Chatrak and Anurag Kashyap’s home production Michael.
The Berlin film festival played Vishal Bhardwaj’s Saat Khoon Maaf in 2011. This year the festival played Farhan Akhtar’s Don 2. The press screenings of both the films were poorly attended. The press conferences for the two films had less than 10 journalists each, with hardly anyone asking any significant questions.
The regular Don 2 screening was packed with Shahrukh Khan’s German fans. But even though Akhtar and Priyanka Chopra came to address the press conference, the German press mostly stayed away.
Journalists I know who were in Cannes two years ago have said that there was no buzz to mark the world premiere of Udaan at the festival. Veteran film critic Roger Ebert wrote a brief review that was marked by his odd observations: “It’s well made, involving, but (to my eyes at least) not particularly Indian. This story could have been set anywhere; it doesn’t depend on location.” And he added another very strange sentence: “Perhaps when I say the film isn’t especially ‘Indian’ I am expecting something more exotic.”
Getting a film shown at a major international festival is important achievement, but it is only part of the victory. Finding a good publicity team — and that can be expensive — who will promote the film, reach the right set of critics, who will then review the film, is sometimes a bigger challenge. And convincing American critics to appreciate India cinema, is the ultimate challenge.
Time magazine’s Richard Corliss made a lasting connection with Indian films after discovering Mani Ratnam’s works at the Toronto festival in 1994. But Corliss sometimes appears to be a strange critic from another planet. He was the only critic who stayed until the end of Devdas at the film’s press screening in Cannes in 2002. All other critics walked out.
And so a little bit of advice to Kashyap (even though he has become a veteran of film festivals), Vasan Bala and Ashim Ahluwalia as they get ready to embark on the journey to Cannes. Spend less time partying and checking out works of other filmmakers. Your films will not have much impact unless you get the reluctant and overworked critics to attend the screenings.
And talk to the critics, giving them a perspective of where the new Indian films are headed, and why they need to discover a part of world cinema they are not exposed to.
• Keep BigB away from politics
This is with reference to Aseem Chhabra’s last week column ‘Big B for President’, (PM, April 22). I agree with the author that Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan qualifies to be the next President of India. BigB belongs to a cultured background and is well educate. His celebrity status and connect with the people, even at this age, will also work in his favour. However, in India decorative posts such as president and governors are meant for political sycophants and not for people like BigB. He shouldn’t venture into politics.
- N Jayaram
• He is the right person
I completely agree with Aseem Chhabra. Big B has got the desired persona to be the President . Besides, he has a mass appeal and he is one of the many respected individuals across the globe. Bigb deserves to be our next President.
- Sanketh Shetty
• I don’t agree
I was disappointed after reading Aseem Chhabra’s column. Being the President of India is a serious job and such ideas make a mockery of the esteemed office.
- P Mandale