Thursday, May 19, 2011

Bollywood Blues by Saibal Chatterjee

Bollywood blues

Saibal Chatterjee

The first few months of 2011 have been rather patchy for the Mumbai
movie industry, both in terms of quality and box office collections. While
it swung wildly from the sublime to the silly, Hindi cinema had to contend
with a formidable rival for eyeballs – the game of cricket, a national

The subcontinent hosted the International Cricket Council (ICC) World
Cup from mid February all the way up to early April. No sooner did that
tournament end than the Indian Premier League (IPL) got underway. IPL
scheduled to continue until the end of May. The overdose of live cricket
forced the movie industry to slow down a tad and hold back several of its
big-ticket releases.

Going by the evidence provided by the films that did open during this
period, it was just as well that Bollywood did not go all out. At least
one Hindi film desperately sought to derive mileage from the average
Indian’s obsession with cricket. But Patiala House, starring Akshay
Kumar, Anushka Sharma and Rishi Kapoor, failed to cut much ice with
the masses that were glued to their television sets for the live coverage
of their favourite sport.

Patiala House, directed by Nikhil Advani, was the story of a young Indian
émigré in the UK who aspires to play cricket for his adopted country
against the wishes of his ‘patriotic’ dad. But this family drama did not
whip up enough effervescence to wean the audience away from the real

Another film that decided to face the cricket challenge head-on,
however, fared infinitely better. Tanu Weds Manu, the lively if none-
too-fresh story of a returning non-resident Indian male looking for a life
partner in small-town India, turned out to be the surprise hit of the first
quarter of 2011.

Films about big fat Indian weddings do have a following among a certain
section of the Indian audience. Tanu Weds Manu struck an instant
chord and raked in big bucks. What worked in the film’s favour was
the unusual on-screen pairing of a low-key R. Madhavan and a feisty
Kangna Ranaut.

On the flip side of the Bollywood story were many films that were eagerly
awaited, notably Madhur Bhandarkar’s Dil To Bachcha Hai Ji and Vishal
Bhardwaj’s 7 Khoon Maaf, but were unable to make the sort of impact
that they were expected to.

Both had their share of merits in terms of the basic plot premise and the
treatment. The former was a romantic comedy about three male buddies
(Ajay Devgan, Emraan Hashmi and Omi Vaidya) trying to sort out
matters of the heart in their own individual and often crooked ways. The
latter was a tale of a woman who, one by one, bumps off the men she
marries only to go scot-free. But Hindi film audiences weren’t quite in
the mood to lap up the antics of men in love and a woman in a hopeless
emotional bind.

Two other men from the off-mainstream Hindi cinema space – the
seasoned Sudhir Mishra and the much younger Raj Kumar Gupta –
delivered intriguing cinematic essays. Mishra’s was a neo-noir film, Yeh
Saali Zindagi, set in the Delhi underworld where big power, big money
and big danger go hand in hand.

Gupta, on the other hand, dipped into a much-publicised contemporary
killing of a young female model in a Delhi nightclub to come up with No
One Killed Jessica, a riveting account of one woman’s real-life fight to
secure justice for her dead sister.

Kiran Rao’s directorial debut, Dhobi Ghat, an Aamir Khan-produced
film, garnered much critical praise and rightly so. However, it had an
essentially European narrative style and pacing, which created a bit of a
distance between it and the general Hindi movie audience.

The quirky narrative pastiche at the heart of Dhobi Ghat involves the
experiences of a disparate bunch of Mumbai residents, all of them
outsiders both physically and emotionally. As they struggle with their
own inner demons and the many challenges that the sprawling city
hurls at its denizens, the film paints a stark, incisive portrait of a city that
exhilarates as much as it flummoxes. Dhobi Ghat was a self-assured a

The biggest shocks of the quarter were saved for the last few weeks
when Bollywood dumped films like Thank You, Game and F.A.L.T.U on
the movie-going masses. Thank you, directed by Anees Bazmee, was
yet another mindless Akshay Kumar comic romp that recycled old tropes
about marital muddles caused by philandering husbands. The fans
said “no, thank you” and stayed away.

Similarly, Game, starring Abhishek Bachchan, who has of late found
the going really tough, had few takers. All style and no substance, the
Abhinay Deo-directed film was produced by Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh

If Game was a non-starter in cinematic terms, F.A.L.T.U, helmed
by choreographer-turned-director Remo D’Souza lived up to its
name. Faltu means useless and that is precisely what the film
was although some sections did want us to believe that it was huge
commercial success. If it indeed was, Bollywood sure needs help.

(The writer is a New Delhi-based film critic)

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Cannes Update, Producers Network/Producers Workshop

Julie Bergeron

Manager, Producers Network/Producers Workshop

May 12 to 18, Cannes Film Market

Julie Bergeron has been at the helm of the Producers Network at the Marché du Film/ Festival de Cannes since its inception in 2004. In addition, she is also responsible for the annual Documentary Brunch hosted during the festival, as well as the Producers Workshop being launched this year at Cannes.

Bergeron’s professional activities during the year includes the running of Vision-in- Motion, a Paris-based multi-facet company she founded in 2001, which specializes in the production of events for the film industry. For instance, since 2004, Vision-in-Motion has been organising Cinéma du Québec (a week dedicated to screenings of Quebec films and professional meetings for producers) in Paris for SODEC (Software Development Expo & Conference).

Bergeron is also the manager of international projects at Ventana Sur, the Latin American Film Market co- organised by the INCAA (Instituto Nacional de Cine y Artes Audiovisuales), and the Marché du Film/Festival de Cannes. She has been involved in the production of documentaries including Beckett’s Prisoners by Michka Saäl. She is a regular collaborator and consultant to international film festivals worldwide, including the Berlinale Co-production Market, Dubai International Film Festival, Sunny Side of the Docs, among others.

Talking of the Producers Network, Bergeron says, “We get around 750 applications every year and we admit 550 producers. To qualify, a set fee is charged and the producer must register under a production company and have a personal credit as a producer of at least one feature film theatrically released within the last three years. The program has a limited capacity and our registration team verifies whether the producers meet the criteria.”

“Producers Network has made partnerships with many organisations and co-production markets all over the world. Many among them select producers who they induct into the Producers Network. We like the idea that producers who have attended co-production markets or who are supported by their national organisations during the year can find in Cannes a networking platform where they can pursue their efforts to produce their films. We are not tracking the perceived success or otherwise of the projects of our registered producers, which is often the case with other co-production markets. Our primary objective is to provide a networking platform and agenda for producers who come from different parts of the world.”

Producers Network offers key opportunities to further develop the projects of their registered delegates, who can choose and select from what is offered to them to suit their individual requirements and goals. Our intention is to give them new contacts, new ideas and new energy to pursue the development and financing of their projects, in a film world that is getting more and more complex.”

The Producers Network Club offers their delegates the following meeting sections that complement each other:

Breakfast Meetings where registered delegates are placed each morning at different tables to meet select high-placed executives from whom they can learn about their professional and how to conduct their business.

Speed-Dating sessions open doors to connect with producers from the world over.

Happy Hours at the end of each day are designed for networking in a friendly atmosphere.

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