Director Vasan Bala's action thriller MARD KO DARD NAHI HOTA won the top award at the 43rd Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) which concluded here on Sunday.
The film, which was India's first-ever entry into the festival's "Midnight Madness" segment, won the People's Choice Midnight Madness Award.
But overall, director Peter Farrelly's film GREEN BOOK about racial segregation in the 1960s US won the top People's Choice Award by beating IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK by director Barry Jenkins and ROMA by Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron.
Lady Gaga-starrer A STAR IS BORN and Ryan Gosling-starrer FIRST MAN about the landing of Neil Armstrong on the moon were also strong contenders for the top TIFF award — which has often been seen as an indicator of future Oscar winners.
Vasan Bala's film beat out ASSASSINATION NATION and HALLOWEEN to bag the People's Choice Midnight Madness Award.
A huge cheer went up when TIFF co-director Cameron Bailey announced the winner.
Accepting the award along with Radhika Madan and Ankur Nayyar, Bala said: "The last time I was called up on stage was when I was in fourth grade and it was arts and craft… I cut cardboard and glued them together… Similar feeling… I think it is a similar story. First, you write the script and then you are never meant to make the film… Once you make the film, then you are not meant to be at the festival, once you are meant to be at the festival, you are not meant to finish it in time for screening. That's my life… I have never meant to be anywhere…thanks TIFF for changing it."
The Mumbai-based director added: "My wife edited the film while feeding my daughter Saiba. This morning I was chatting with her and my daughter was blowing kisses at me… She is waiting for me to come back. Last but not the least, my grandpa who encouraged me to watch films and who is probably the is the reason why I wrote this script.
"It feels like a unicorn."
Abhimanyu Dassani makes his debut in MARD KO DARD NAHI HOTA.