Kill, Sanaa, Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani: Bollywood films rocking international film fests
Several Bollywood stories are making the right noise at international film festivals, and winning the audiences world over. We take a look at them
From larger than life canvas splashed with hoopla of dance revelry to intense stories delving into diverse emotions to fun tales, myriad shades of ‘desi’ Bollywood stories are making the right noise at international film festivals, and winning the audiences world over.
The Lakshya and Raghav Juyal action film, helmed by Nikhil Nagesh Bhat, killed it at its world premiere at the ongoing Toronto International Film Festival, with one international publication describing the film as “aggressively violent action flick destined to become a cult classic”. It narrates the adventure of a commando Amrit (Lakshya) when he hitches a ride on a train with his best buddy Viresh to save his love Tulika (Tanya Maniktala) from an arranged marriage. In fact, it is being compared with the John Wick franchise. “I wouldn’t want to compare one to the other… I don’t think India’s actually seen a film like this at all… It is the most violent film ever made in India,” Johar told Variety, adding. “Even John Wick still gives you some respite. This one is much more relentless”.
Thank You For Coming (TIFF)
The girl gang entertainer by Karan Boolani will start its journey at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film led by Bhumi Pednekar, Shehnaaz Gill, Dolly Singh, Kusha Kapila, and Shibani Bedi, opens a chapter around sex and female orgasm on the big screen. The unapologetically sex-positive modern comedy represents a different segment of Indian cinema at an international festival. The whole team including Anil Kapoor are set to head to the fest. “I’ve been wanting to attend TIFF ever since Slumdog Millionaire… TIFF has been on my bucket list ever since! I may not have been able to attend the festival then as part of the movie, but this year I get to be there in the capacity of a producer,” Anil said in a statement.
Laapataa Ladies (TIFF)
Filmmaker Kiran Rao’s sophomore project adds a rustic touch to the Toronto International Film Festival lineup as part of Centrepiece selection. The film, set in the rural India of 2001, follows two young brides wearing identical veils who get swapped during a train ride to their husbands’ villages after their weddings. Despite its light-hearted tone, the film tackles serious issues such as patriarchy, violence against women and sexism. “The idea was to allow that space for women to hope, for women to reach optimistically for something. And to do it without violence,” Rao told Variety, adding, “The idea of keeping it light, of trying very hard not to villainize anyone, but expose things for the way they are”.
Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani (Busan Film Festival)
After a successful ride at the Indian box office, Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt’s larger than life love story added Busan, South Korea, as its next stop. The romantic drama will be showcased under the Open Cinema segment at the 2023 Busan Film Festival. Through the love story, the film raises questions on patriarchy, misogyny, cultural biases and body shaming. In fact, the romantic angle between Dharmendra and Shabana Azmi’s character was very appreciated by the audience, and created a lot of buzz in the virtual world. Filmmaker Karan Johar, who returned to the director’s chair after seven years, is feeling “absolutely blessed and grateful” with his film taking the international flight.
Agra (Busan Film Festival)
After Cannes and Melbourne, Agra’s festival sojourn continues with Busan as the next pitstop. The Kanu Behl film will be shown at the 2023 Busan Film Festival under A Window on Asian Cinema programme. Earlier this year, the film premiered in the Directors’ Fortnight section of the Cannes Film Festival, and received a five minute standing ovation. It even won the award for Best Indie Film at Indian Film Festival of Melbourne, Starring Vibha Chibber, Sonal Jha, Rahul Roy, and Aanchal Goswam, the film pans the spotlight on sexual misery through the prism of male lens through the story of a young single call centre employee who still lives with his parents. “There is this almost very common delayed sexual maturity that happens in India and I really started thinking about that,” Behl had told Variety earlier.
Joram (Durban International Film Festival and 2023 Busan Film Festival)
After making waves at the Durban International Film Festival, Manoj Bajpayee’s psychological thriller will be screened at the Busan International Film Festival, to be held in October, as part of A Window in Asian Cinema section. The Devashish Makhija directorial narrates the story of a displaced man who is on the run to protect his daughter, while navigating issues such as social inequalities, injustice with the tribal communities and deforestation. Earlier, it also went to 52nd International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) and Sydney Film Festival.
Sanaa (The Shanghai International Film Festival (SIFF), Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, Santa Barbara International Film Festival and Indian Film Festival of Melbourne)
There have been back to back festival pitstops for Radhika Madan starrer Sanaa. The Sudhanshu Saria directorial recently had its Australian premiere at the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne (IFFM) 2023. It was previously screened at global festivals such as Shanghai International Film Festival (SIFF), Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival and Santa Barbara International Film Festival, and even won two awards at the UK Asian film festival. The social drama follows the life of an ambitious girl who is fighting against an internal battle which is rooted in unhealed trauma.
Ghuspaith Between Borders (Flickers Rhode Island Film Festival)
Actor Amit Sadh’s short film Ghuspaith Between Borders, a tribute to late Pulitzer Awardee photojournalist Danish Siddiqui, has become India’s official entry at the Flickers’ Rhode Island International Film Festival 2023. Mihir Kalpana Lath’s film showcases complexities of the illegal cattle trade, cow smuggling, and human trafficking, coming with a question -- ‘Where do we draw the borders between humanity? Reacting to the news, Lath said, “Witnessing my debut film being selected for RIFF is a surreal experience beyond my expectations”.
Stolen (Venice Film Festival)
Abhishek Banerjee’s Stolen had its world premiere at the 2023 edition of the Venice Film Festival, where it was the only entry from India. The film, which was showcased at the World Premiere section, narrates a tale of a five-month-old baby abducted from her mother, a downtrodden woman named Jhumpa Mahato. It is helmed by debutant filmmaker Karan Tejpal. “The character compelled me to delve into the depths of human emotions and experiences, demanding a level of authenticity and vulnerability that pushed me beyond my comfort zone. The film’s representation of India at the prestigious Venice Film Festival is undoubtedly a monumental achievement, I am honoured,” the actor said in a statement.
Kennedy (Cannes Film Festival)
The Sunny Leone starrer has captivated the global audience through its presence at several film festivals, this year. It all started with the film heading to the Cannes Film Festival, which was followed by IFFSA Toronto. Anurag Kashyap’s was also the closing film at the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne 2023. Also starring Rahul Bhat and Abhilash Thapliyal, the film revolves around an insomniac ex-policeman, with a lens on the corrupt system. Being at the film fests has been an emotional experience for Leone, who credits Kashyap for “actually changing the course of her life.