India was all over the place at the Toronto festival last year. This was because the festival in its annual City to City programme chose Mumbai as the film industry it would highlight. India has fewer films this year but the selection is the strongest so far to impact Toronto’s international scene. The films, incisive and varied in content, demonstrate that avant-garde Indian cinema is now becoming a viable entity internationally, with finance coming from leading production/distribution houses of the West.
NFDC’s role in nurturing script labs for Indian writers at key venues abroad and its own Film Bazaar has yielded results. It is the co-producer of two major films at Toronto this year -- The Lunchbox and Qissa. Many films in the Toronto selection are co-productions with India that have found sales agents and distribution abroad.
In Cannes earlier this year, Ritesh Batra’s debut feature film, created a stir -- and Toronto takes its success further. The film is being represented for sales by the prized company, The Match Factory and in Canada it will be distributed by the leading distribution company Mongrel Media. This indeed is a vaunted move into mainstream cinema for a delicately made, human story on emotional alienation in Mumbai’s teeming tenement life. This modest, valued film screens in Toronto’s prime Gala section. Another Gala entry is Toronto’s annual tribute to the Bollywood genre, which this year is the unusual Yash Raj Films’ Shuddh Desi Romance. This film studies the confused way in which young people today form emotional ties.
Making its world premiere in Contemporary World Cinema is Anup Singh’s Qissa, the first to shoot under the Indian-German co-production treaty. It is an international co-production between India (NFDC), The Netherlands and France. The narrative follows Umber Singh, a Sikh, who vows to oppose his destiny when he loses all he possesses in 1947. Also in this section is Toronto-based Richie Mehta’s Siddharth -- a Canada-India co-production, already acquired by leading distribution agency, Fortissimo. Set in Delhi, Siddharth follows the anguished chase of man of limited means in search for his small son who disappears overnight.
The lead actors of each film will be present in Toronto. Irrfan Khan (in two films The Lunchbox and Qissa), is also conducting a Masterclass on acting.
TIFF Docs presents Pan Nalin’s 115 minute documentary Faith Connections, a deeply human view on the destinies of pilgrims who thronged the Kumbh Mela last year.
TIFF Kids will screen the ethnically animated version of Goopi Gyne Bagha Byne, made famous by Satyajit Ray in 1969. This Children’s Film Society production is directed by Shilpa Ranade. Finally, Toronto’s Wavelengths (on daring cinematic innovation) presents Shambhavi Kaul’s Mount Song, a nine-minute film that is visually entrancing and also deceptively disorienting.
NFDC will present its 2013 Screenwriters Lab in Toronto, with a short-list selection of six scripts. The writers Nikhil Mahajan, Bela Negi, Varun Grover, Shanker Raman, Ashish Aryan, Sachin Ladia and Rajesh Jala, will attend.