Bollywood no longer on fringes of international festivals

By Priyanka Khanna, IANS
7/12/2004 12:00:00 AM
After Indian curry conquered palates across the globe, it is now the turn of Indian movies - Bollywood and otherwise - to become more than just exotic garnish at festivals abroad.

While the offerings from India, particularly the Hindi films, range from the sublime to the ridiculous and back again, the volume of such movies making it to foreign film festivals of late is impressive.

Indian films - whether in Hindi or any other Indian language - used to be perceived as something alien at international festivals. But this is fast changing, says Shravan Shroff of Shringar Films.

Indian films were used as embellishments but attitudes have changed perceptibly, he adds.

"Indian movies have generated interest worldwide, including at film festival circuits, in recent years. We need to capitalise on this," says filmmaker Aditya Bhattacharya.

Shroff is of the belief that with filmmakers, distributors and producers waking up to the untapped potential and sending their films to festivals across the globe, a receptive atmosphere has developed.

This is even though the festivals, especially Cannes, have been washouts as far as Indian films are concerned.

Invites for Indian films are coming from both the West and the East. The Indian government has also stepped in by hosting a festival of Indian cinema in Shanghai to cater to the increased demand for Indian films in China.

Earlier this week, the Pakistan Film Exhibitors Association urged President Pervez Musharraf to allow the screening of Indian films in the country.

The increased interest in India in Italy prompted the Indo-Italian Chamber to announce "Namaste India", a festival in Rome that will showcase the latest trends in Indian cinema. The best of Bollywood hits will be screened.

"Our box-office status is not a barometer in terms of how the global market perceives Indian cinema," points out Bhawana Somaaya, editor of a trade magazine.

Indian producers and distributors are also taking tips from the experts behind successfully marketed films like "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," "East is East," "Bend It Like Beckham" and "Monsoon Wedding" to boost their offerings.

"The international market is like a jungle and producers and filmmakers have to know what kind of products sell and how to market their movies," says filmmaker Bhattacharya.

He feels Indian producers are still to make effective use of international film festivals as a platform for marketing movies.

"There are over 300 film festivals held across the world every year. A film producer has to know which ones to tap to maximize returns," he points out.