24 February 2020 07:35 PM



Toronto Film Festival Opens Its Floodgates

Kalki Koechin as Laila in Margarita, With a Straw.

The Citizen announces Exclusive coverage of the Toronto International Film Festival by well known film critic and writer Uma Da Cunha

TORONTO: Considered the launching pad for the best of international, Hollywood and Canadian cinema, Toronto today is seen as the second most important festival in the world - Cannes occupying first place. Toronto is where the countdown to great and small films begins, from Oscar contenders to bidders locking titles for markets in the US and around the world. This year 393 films will be screened, out of which 285 are feature films and 143 World Premieres.

TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) is where a maximum number of films make their very first appearance, no matter what the genre – from Hollywood starrers to issue-based shorts/docs, to horror thrillers and a powerful dose of the medium budget independent films that are strong in content and talent.

India is special to Toronto.

The festival has consistently highlighted the country’s cinema in its many facets and forms, from known makers to debut work, to films in regional languages, to the special place that Bollywood occupies, and particularly, to that neglected area, documentary and shorts. And with its selection, Toronto has proved to be a barometer of India’s filmic evolvement and pressures, which its 2014 India selection amply demonstrates.

Three feature films from India are in Toronto’s main sections (Contemporary World Cinema and Special Presentations), each of a different genre.

One features Bollywood’s prominent star Priyanka Chopra in the film Mary Kom (a true-life story on Assam’s World Boxing Champion May Kom), directed by a first-time director, Omung Kumar, and mentored by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, known for the emotional sweep and visual splendour of his work. The other is a woman director, Shonali Bose whose promising debut feature, Amu, on the 1984 Sikh genocide, premiered in 2005 Toronto. Her second film, Margarita, With a Straw, also premiering in Toronto, clearly establishes her mettle. The film is a tender and insightful portrayal of a disabled young girl (an endearingly powerful portrayal by Kalki Koechlin . Both films are produced by the major Mumbai-based studio, Viacom 18.

The third is a film in the Tamil language, Kaakkaa Muttai (The Crow's Egg), again by a first-time filmmaker, Manikandan. M. It is a children’s story that reaches out to one and all. It is produced by another major player Fox Star Studios. In documentaries, Megha Ramaswamy in her film Newborns brings her caring and compassionate study on girls who have suffered acid attacks. This film too is produced by, Recyclewala Labs .

This year’s selection of three films records how big studios are bringing Bollywood and its stars closer to the challenging demands of independent cinema. And, importantly, women-orientated films are gaining ground in a heavily male-dominated cinema. Women are playing main roles, even if unglamorous ones.

India’s international interface is also on display this year. From Hollywood, Indian producer Vijay Amritraj presents his latest tour de force 99 Homes on American real estate manoeuvres. In New York, Isabel Coixet in her film Learning to Drive shows how a Manhattan writer and her Sikh driving instructor draw emotional succour from each other. Then, there’s the pull of India as locale and content. Canada’s Sturla Gunnarsson presents his stirring documentary Monsoon on how the cloudbursts and downpour of the monsoons affect the vast expanse of the country and the life and soul of its people. Bosnian director Danis Tanovic screens his latest film Tigers drawing strength and resources from Indian film talent and professionals.

The India Pavilion in the Market section is being managed by the Directorate of Film Festivals, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. In attendance will be Mr Bimal Julka, Secretary, I&B Ministry, Ms Nirupama Kotru, Director (Films), MIB, and from the Directorate of Films Festivals, its Director Mr Shankar Mohan along with Mr Rizwan Ahmad and Mr K Prashant Kumar. The Pavilion will operate through the duration of the Toronto festival to cater to worldwide interests in the cinemas of India and to also field queries on the acquisition and distribution of Indian films and festival participation of films between India and other countries.