Foreign exposure pushes independent films in India (Feature)

By Priyanka Sharma (IANS) | Published on Sun, May 6 2012 12:09 IST | 2 Views | Add comment
New Delhi, May 6

If yours is a low- or medium-budget, independent movie project and it has travelled to prestigious international film jamborees, chances are ripe for a good reception within the country too, but it still struggles for a decent mainstream release.

"Peddlers", a feature film under Anurag Kashyap's banner, will be showcased at the 65th Cannes International Film Festival. Funded entirely through social networking platforms, it is among a bouquet of five Indian films set to be screened at the event starting May 16.

In recent times, debutant director Karan Gour's film "Kshay" was showcased at the Chicago Film Festival (CFF) and the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA), while Ashvin Kumar's "Inshallah, Football" was showcased at CFF, IFFLA, the Dubai International Film Festival and the New York Indian Film Festival among others.

Showcasing in foreign shores is a big boost to independent Indian cinema, says Kumar, none of whose acclaimed films have so far found commercial release in India.

"International film festivals are an excellent platform. It is the only platform that I have ever had as my films have never released in India," Kumar, the elder son of veteran fashion designer Ritu Kumar, told IANS.

"It feels nice to see so many Indian films being screened internationally. It is strange why this didn't happen before, as so many films are made here. It's only for the last two or three years that our films are being recognised in international film festivals," he added.

Within the country itself, small budget films are spinning gold at the box office. The success of recent films like "Kahaani", "Paan Singh Tomar" and "Vicky Donor" is proof enough.

"Smaller films are doing well. I think things are really looking up. International exposure is really great because it gives some sort of recognition and gives more publicity here, adding up to the numbers that go and watch the film here. For example, 'Udaan', after Cannes, did really well here," independent filmmaker Akshay Roy told IANS.

Roy's short film "Finish Line" was honoured with a National Award recently. He admits that global recognition may not guarantee moolah.

"Independent films may not match the level of big films, but international exposure definitely adds a certain amount of credibility, intrigue and interest among the audience," he added.

Gour laments how exhibitors are still reluctant to invest in independent projects unless a big name is associated with it, or it can be marketed on the pretext of being screened at a well-known festival abroad.

"It is a pleasure to see how the international audience appreciates the work by independent filmmakers like us. It does help in mainstream release to some extent, but still producers want to go for A-listers," said Gour, whose film "Kshay" was honoured with the Grand Jury Prize for best feature at IFFLA.

"Until and unless the films are screened in big film festivals like Cannes, people refrain from taking the risk. Sadly if the film doesn't have any big names associated with it, they would think twice before releasing it in the mainstream theatres," he said.

A case in point has been that of "Fatso".

It has been to extravaganzas like IFFLA, New York's South Asian Film Festival and the Shanghai International Film Festival. It was also chosen as a recipient of the prestigious Golden Palm Award at the 2010 Mexico International Film Festival. But director Rajat Kapoor was not too pleased when the film released only in a few theatres in India Friday.

"For those of you who intend to watch ('Fatso'), you will really have to make an effort - there are very few shows. Hope you can make it.

"I believe it is not a bad film and deserved a little better than this. I am bewildered but these are the rules of free market. I accept," Kapoor tweeted on the day of the film's release.

Even the film's lead actor Ranvir Shorey lamented how a bias against a movie with little promotion can kill it.

"Sadly, it's going to be a case of film-infanticide, with hardly any promotions and shows. Hope as many people watch it as possible," Ranvir posted on Twitter.

(Priyanka Sharma can be contacted at priyanka.s@ians.in)

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