September 16, 2008

More Mainstream Films for Festivals Now

By Ratnottama Sengupta

Kolkata: There's news from the Directorate of Film Festivals of India (DFFI) that will spell jubilation in Bollywood. Now on, the Indian Panorama will show 26 feature films instead of 21, plus 21 non-feature films. However, the five additional films will come exclusively from the industry (read, mainstream).

The Film Federation of India and Film Producers Guild will nominate a list of 10 films each, "based on popular appeal and box office receipts," explained Neelam Kapur, director, DFFI. Of these, the seven member jury to be constituted from across the country will select five, "distinguished by cinematic, thematic and aesthetic excellence" .

The same jury will select 21 feature films censored between September 1, 2007 and August 31, 2008. These could be shot on 16 mm, 35 mm or digital format but released on either film format or Betacam-SP . Institutions like SRFTI, FD and Doordarshan, individuals and production units can submit up to five entries each, by September 25, one learns.

Inclusion spells fringe benefits like tax exemption and Doordarshan screening for young hopefuls. More importantly, the Indian Panorama serves as a window to India cinema that is not only the most prolific but - today - cuts across labels like 'art' and 'commercial' . Thus it could embrace Taare Zameen Par, Om Shanti Om, Tahaan, A Wednesday, Khosla Ka Ghosla as much as the Malayalam Pulijanmam, the Best Feature Film; a Konkani Antarnaad ; Marathi Shevri, English Hangman's Tale, and a Bengali Khela.

The number of mainstream entries has been raised to give festival directors, including from Cannes and Berlin, a chance to sample the wide variety emerging from centres like Bollywood. There, content seems to be commanding audience attention, so blockbusters are coexisting with respectable small budget films based on believable scripts tapping current topics.

In fact, it was after inclusion in Panorama that a "Bollywood flick" Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam came to be sought by directors of even "serious" festivals like Berlin.

"Every critic and festival director who drops in for an international fest - hosted by DFFI, Nandan or MAMI - watches the Panorama to select for their fests." This, then, has been the route to international recognition for names like Shyam Benegal and Buddhadev Dasgupta to younger ones like Rituparno Ghosh and Jayaraj.

This will also fetch the film fiesta on the Goan beaches a much wider audience , a la Cannes, the organisers hope.

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