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UMA DA CUNHA | 10 SEPTEMBER, 2014

India Shines in Toronto!

Emraan Hashmi as Ayan in Danovic Tanovic's 'Tigers'


In the international festival arena the trend in Indian films selected and screened is finding a fine balance. The films selected from India are also being equated with these made abroad that relate one way or another with India, either in content, location or professional talent and skills.

2014 Toronto showcases four strong films from India –each with a different stamp. Omung Kumar’s Mary Kom has a Bollywood aura to it because of its lead star Priyanka Chopra and its big production values. Shonali Bose’s Margarita, with a Straw has an aura of experienced and sophisticated independent filmmaking attached to it. Manikandan M’s The Crow’s Egg is a regional language film (Tamil) which almost flaunts its art-house trappings but enlivened with a defiant, no-nonsense base to it. In documentary, there is Megha Ramaswamy’s Newborns on one of India’s major social issues – in this case, women subjected to acid burning.

Films in Toronto that came from abroad but linked with India are in number – four of them - and as weighty in comparison and even more varied.

The Hollywood based producer Ashok Amritraj presents the highly-touted film 99 Homes directed by Ramin Bahrani that is totally American in style, subject and pacing. It created a buzz when it premiered in Venice prior to Toronto. The film a minute-by-minute pitched exposure of the mortgage on houses where the court favours the bank. The sizzling thriller unveils layer by layer how a victim can be drawn into the very same ruthless money game that has rendered him homeless and bankrupt.

The international production Tigers by the reputed Bosnian director Danis Tanovic, gives top billing to the well established production company Shikya Entertainment headed by Guneet Monga and Anurag Kashyap. The film, set in Pakistan but shot mostly in Delhi, is on the self-seeking, inhuman greed with which leading western pharmaceutical companies exploit the gullible millions living in the Third World. India’s Emraan Hashmi casts aside his usual flamboyant screen persona and plays a humble middle-class man entrapped in his desperate need to make a living for himself and his joint family.

'The American production Learning to Drive is made by Spanish director Isabel Coixet It stars Ben Kingsley and American actress Patricia Clarkson. Ben Kingsley plays a Sikh taxi driver in the film which is set in New York.

Finally there is the feature-length documentary Monsoon by the celebrated Canadian filmmaker Sturla Gunnarsson. The film is a stirring, dynamic presentation of the onset of the monsoon and what it means to the body and souls of the Indian people as a whole.

The Toronto collection of films with an Indian touch to them points to an India that has an overwhelming cinematic reach to corners of the world. In a sense, Indian cinema is becoming truly international, mainly because India as a country has such an amazing role and appeal in today’s multi-culturally attuned way of filmmaking. The added dimension coming in from abroad enriches and broadens the cinema that is intrinsic to India.

Spot News ! Rare standing ovation for “Margarita”

A radiant Kalki Koechlin jetted into Toronto two hours before world premiere of her film Margarita, with a Straw directed by Shonali Bose. The film played to a packed house. There was a line-up of people of all ages in wheelchairs. Not surprising as the film is a warm and heartening story of a young girl who has cerebral palsy and faces her condition and her future life with zest, courage and determination. The Toronto audience, fed the best of cinema throughout the year and more so at TIFF, are low-key about their appreciation responding with a polite applause at most. Margarita got a prolonged standing ovation. The response all round has been overwhelming. Kalki gives a muted, deeply expressive and affecting performance that makes her a sure-fire contender for best actress at any venue the film is screened.

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