UMA DA CUNHA | 10 SEPTEMBER, 2017
Toronto Film Fest: Strong Indie Films From India
UMA DA CUNHA
Every year, TIFF screens intriguing Indian films that encapsulate the country’s being and essence, whether in far flung villages or urban centres. This year, it has a quartet of such films and adding to that, a surprise. There are films that demonstrate how India’s acting talent plays lead roles in big studio as well as smaller films made abroad. The India focus is heartening especially after both Cannes and Venice gave India a miss this year, not finding a single film worthy of selection. Toronto sets the balance right by showcasing India’s new indie cinema of many hues on its screens.
Three big films feature in Special Presentations
Hansal Mehta does an amazing balancing act of his own this year. He comes once again to TIFF after premiering his riveting 'Shahid' in 2012. However, he has to be creating some kind of cinematic record. He has two films in hand, ready at the same time. Besides premiering 'Omerta' in Toronto this year, while TIFF is two days away from its closing finale, Hansal is releasing his other film, the eagerly awaited blockbuster titled ‘Simran’, starring the incomparable Kangana Ranaut.
Anurag Kashyap is back in the limelight with a vengeance. His latest film, ‘Mukkabaaz’ (The Brawler) will makes its world premiere in Toronto, then head in rapid succession for the BFI London Festival and Mumbai’s Jio MAMI (where it is the Opening Film) and release in India on November 17. His film, set in the city of Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh, sees aspiring boxer Shravan’s struggle to become a professional, which goes completely out of hand when he falls for a high caste, mute girl, Sunaina, the niece of his arch nemesis, the head of the state boxing federation.
Two great actors of stage and screen are in films at TIFF, Naseeruddin Shah and Adil Hussain
Naseeruddin dominates as the steel-eyed patriarch of a wealthy Delhi family in ‘The Hungry’, the commanding and self-assured second film of woman director Bornila Chatterjee who commutes between Kolkata and Brooklyn (New York). In an intriguing tour de force, Bornila relocates Shakespeare’s violent and bloody tragedy ‘Titus Andronicus’ to modern-day New Delhi, where double dealing, greed and revenge run rampant. It takes place at the feasting and merriment of an Indian wedding. Other actors in the film are Tisca Chopra and Neeraj Kabi with Arjun Gupta, Suraj Sharma, Sayani Gupta and Antonio Aakeel.
In a film from Norway, Adil Hussain stars in Norwegian filmmaker, actor and singer Iram Haq’s second film at Toronto. Her film, ‘What Will People Say’ deals with South Asian immigrants and a consequent conflict of cultures in the Nordic region. In the film, Nisha a spirited 16-year-old girl, who goes by the teenage lifestyle of her adopted country, Norway, finds her young life in torment as she faces the extreme wrath and cruelty of her parents. ‘What Will People Say’ is in competition in TIFF’s Platform section.
Another young Indian actor from Lucknow, Ali Fazal plays the lead role of an Indian named Abdul Karim and his unexpected friendship with Queen Victoria which rocked and shocked the royal corridors of power. He plays with aplomb, it would appear, opposite the wonderful and redoubtable Judy Dench in this film based on a true story called ‘Victoria and Abdul’ directed by Stephen Frears, featuring in TIFF’s Special Presentations.
The remarkable second film from India by yet another woman director is in TIFF’s Discovery section. Rima Das’ ‘Village Rockstars’, set in Assam, centres around Dhunu, a born tomboy who fends for herself in hostile surroundings, and dreams of owning a guitar one day. Her goal is to form a band, the Rockstars, with a group of local boys. This sensitive film shows how a girl’s inner grit, backed by a supportive single mother, can set an example to an entire neighbourhood.
French-Indian actor Kalki Koechlin, raised and settled in India, appears in the documentary film 'Aazmaish: A Journey Through the Subcontinent’ where she travels with the director of the film, Sabiha Sumar, across specific regions of Pakistan and India. This Pakistani film uncovers the voice of the silent majority in India and Pakistan towards religious extremism, highlighting the common threads and avenues for collaboration between the neighbours.
An oft repeated saying is that it is the second film that confirms the stamp of a director whose debut work had people sit up and take notice. If this is the case, we are in the safe hands of many a filmmaker and talent in India that are on display at TIFF 2017.