India: Bollywood hopes Cannes will can the ‘B-word’
The French film festival has rolled out the red carpet for Indian cinema this year, with events including a gala dinner and screening Sunday of “Bombay Talkies,” a portmanteau movie with four directors and a star-studded cast that includes Rani Mukerji, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Randeep Hooda and Saqib Saleem.
Several other Indian films are screening at the festival, which ends Sunday, including Amit Kumar’s police story “Monsoon Shootout” and Anurag Kashyap’s psychological thriller “Ugly” — though none is in competition for the coveted Palme d’Or prize.
Stars like Aishwarya Rai, Freida Pinto and Amitabh Bachchan — who appears in the festival opener “The Great Gatsby” — have a significant presence at Cannes’ red carpet galas and parties.
A hundred years after India released its first feature film, “Raja Harischandra,” the country has the world’s most prolific movie industry, churning out over 1,000 films a year and creating stars adored around the world.
Now, its filmmakers want critical respect. Many feel the rest of the globe thinks Indian cinema is limited to all-singing, all-dancing Bollywood extravaganzas.
“I just feel that the Indian film industry has its own identity and to be referred to in matching terms with Hollywood is perhaps not correct,” Indian movie icon Bachchan told reporters at a news conference.
Filmmakers in India are keen to stress that its cinema is far more diverse than Bollywood — both in language and style.
“If Indian cinema can break out of the shadow of Bollywood and be seen just as cinema from another country, like Thailand or Japan or Turkey, that would be (its) greatest achievement,” said Dibakar Banerjee, one of the four directors of “Bombay Talkies.” “And that’s started to happen, so that’s what I’m happy about.”
“Bombay Talkies” is certainly no Bollywood romp. One of its four sections focuses on a man’s epic quest to meet Bachchan, the Indian star, while in another a young man longs to become a dancer. One centers on a failed actor struggling to prove his worth to his young daughter, and a fourth is about a man coming to terms with his sexuality.