2016 TIFF Showcases India's Women in Film
The 41st Toronto International Film Festival, two thirds into its end, is showcasing women directors in greater numbers than ever before. Women directors are a whopping 30 percent of the total. Moreover, women film professionals have been provided a solus arena, in additional to being spread over TIFF’s innumerable panels and discussions.
Freida Pinto stole the limelight at the talk Women at the Helm – Because it is 2016! The 'Slumdog Millionaire' actress urged women to bring about industry change on their own and not depend on self-indulgent studios, affirming "It's time to stop talking and to start doing something.” The actress talked of the time when she and ‘City of God’ co-director Katia Lund tried to launch a film project. Every potential investor or studio said it was a beautiful story but backed off when they found it centred around a Pakistani woman who spoke no English and wore a burqa. A brown woman is not what they fancied, she realised. That’s when she founded her star-studded ‘We Do It Together’ to work with internationally acclaimed directors, actors and producers, whether men or women, to develop a slate of gender-driven films that spawned emerging voices within the industry.
In TIFF’s high-profile Gala slots, a record of 7 female directors are among its total 20, which include two impressive names from India - Deepa Mehta and Mira Nair. The former presents a mind-churning and action orienting dissection of the Nirbhaya rape of 2012. Mira Nair’s pursues a true story set in Africa’s colourful and rhythmic Uganda, where she now lives. “This is a tribute to my second home - as ‘Monsoon Wedding’ was to Delhi”, she says. The film is on the true story of a young local shanty town girl whose promise in chess is recognised by chance and she becomes a world champion at the game.
In Special Presentations, Konkona Sensharma’s first foray as a film director has won plaudits for her directorial finesse and her sharp and vivid sense of observation. Most films come with their battalion of stars to maximize their publicity. But pint-sized Konkona stood alone and tall at Toronto’s gigantic stage. Her self assured and individual style of direction and her bang-on instinct of spotting talent will take this gifted director/actor to new heights. The good news is that her film will open the Jio Mami Mumbai Film Festival on October 20.
In Hot Docs, director Khushboo Ranka features as a rare Double Bill. She is the director of the ‘Right to Pray’ and co-director (with Vinay Shukla) of another documentary, ‘An Insignificant Man’. Shirley Abraham is the co-director with Amit Madheshiya of the celebrated documentary ‘The Cinema Travellers’.
Buddhadeb Dasgupta’s ‘Tope’, a charming and lyrical flight of fancy is on the underbelly of class rebellion. Its haunting and riveting music is composed by his gifted Mumbai-based daughter Alokananda Dasgupta. She is here in Toronto.
A budding actress appears in Deepa Mehta’s mind blowing ‘Anatomy of Violence’. She is Toronto-based Tia Bhatia, daughter of Sardar Nav Bhatia, a leading businessman. She worked as an assistant to Deepa Mehta in her earlier film and then came to Chandigarh and Delhi to act in ‘Anatomy of Murder’. In this free-wheeling, internalised film, Tia plays two totally different roles, one brief and the other more contained.
Indian actor Priyanka Bose, tall, lissome, dusky, confident – is the cynosure of all eyes even when at her most casual and refreshingly, without any hint of make-up.
She is the only Indian actor representing ‘Lion’, director Garth Davis’ major TIFF hit and being talked about as a sure Oscar contender. Priyanka’s role as a labourer hauling stones and bricks at a construction site has been noticed and lauded.
Priyanka is a graduate from Delhi whose yen for acting made her run away from home because of her parents disapproval. She arrived in Mumbai around ten years ago. Her plans to study acting was prevented because interesting roles started coming her way. She has dabbled in commercial cinema but most of her work is in independently produced films such as, ‘Gangor’, ‘Shunyo Awnko’, ‘Oaas’ and ‘Gulaab Gang’ and the Hollywood production, ‘Sold’. Recently, she has been touring with the award-winning play Nirbhaya, by acclaimed playwright Yael Farber. She has also ventured into production creating short films and music videos for independent musicians and bands.
In the case of the documentary, ‘Mostly Sunny’, we have a distinguished photographer-turned filmmaker and a man at that, presenting a remarkably astute and disarming study of a thriving porn star who has been accepted in as conservative a country as India. Sunny Leone in the film is honest, open and appealingly human about her life and her choices. The film has won over its audience here and also sold extensively. The director is Dilip Mehta - Deepa Mehta's brother. This could arguably be the first time a brother and sister have both presented their work in the same year at TIFF.