Cinema: India in search of new horizons at Cannes

(AFP) – India’s film industry, the most prolific in the world, has taken up residence at the Marché du film in Cannes but still faces a challenge: reaching a more international audience, without losing sight of the enormous pool of Indian spectators.

“We think that Indian cinema is perhaps at a turning point, that there has been a form of renewal,” said Frenchman Jérôme Paillard, head of the Marché du film, of which India was the focus this year. guest of honor.

Distributors turned their attention to India a decade ago with Hindi hits like “The Lunchbox” (2013), starring Bollywood star Irrfan Khan. “And since then, almost nothing has happened”, underlines the director, even if “there are several film projects which we find interesting”.

A large delegation, including a minister, made the trip to the Croisette and had access to distributors from all over the world. The opportunity to show films in preparation for the search for funding.

The Indian film industry produces up to 2,000 films a year, far more than any other country. With its 1.4 billion inhabitants, the explosion of the middle class, the immense network of cinemas and a considerable diaspora, Indian cinema has a potential audience that is the envy of the world. entire.

Another advantage: it is a cinema that has succeeded in breaking through, in countries where Hindi is not spoken, such as China, Egypt and Nigeria.

But catering to Indian tastes sometimes prevents this industry from going further, points out Pranad Kapadia, head of Moviegoers Entertainment, a company based in England and specializing in the distribution of Indian films. “We are very independent,” he told AFP on the sidelines of the Cannes Film Festival.

“A director of course wants to create a work that resonates with all audiences. But by wanting to reach an audience outside your country, you run the risk of scaring away your first audience”.

Independent filmmakers in India who might be of interest to film festivals often struggle to secure funding from mainstream producers or the government, notes Jérôme Paillard.

– Break the mold –
Which has not always been the case. In the 1950s and 1960s, a generation of Indian directors moved away from traditional musical films and were supported by the government. The most acclaimed is Satyajit Ray (“The Music Room”), crowned in Berlin or Venice.

But as blockbusters have grown in prominence in recent years, these independent films have been eclipsed by Bollywood production aimed at mass audiences.

Many are still trying to break the mould, such as “English Vinglish” (2012), which appealed in India and among Indian expatriates, before being dubbed or subtitled in 12 other languages.

“There are directors, storytellers and subjects who can travel,” says Pranad Kapadia, citing director Sanjay Leela Bhansali (“Devdas,” which premiered at Cannes in 2002) as someone who both appeals to Indian audiences and Western arthouse enthusiasts. His latest film “Gangubai Kathiawadi” premiered at the Berlinale in February.

India’s strong presence at the Film Market, which closes on Wednesday, may take time to translate into tangible partnerships outside of the main Indian markets, in South Asia, and in the Gulf States , but it remains invaluable, says Kapadia. “You have to be there. Stay on the dance floor and that’s how you’ll meet someone.”

Indian actress Pooja Hegde, who makes four films a year and has 20 million Instagram fans, also has hope. “Things are changing. Indian cinema is being exported,” she told AFP.

And the presence of many Indian actors in Cannes – including superstar Deepika Padukone, member of the jury who will choose the Palme d’Or – promotes “the India brand”, she underlines.

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Cinema: India in search of new horizons at Cannes