| All for khans: Gayatri Gulati (top) and Sanjay Jumani
Why mend Bollywood when it aint broke
Now that the 51st Cannes Film Festival is over, one has to conclude that the line that Amitabh Bachchan has consistently taken over the years has considerable merit — there is no need substantially to change Bollywood in order to win acceptability from the west. More to the point, why mess with a product that sells?
The Big B may not be pleased, though, with the answer to the question, What sells?
Shah Rukh Khan — Shah Rukh Khan just sells, laughed Gayatri Gulati, senior manager, international distribution and syndication at UTV, the company doing well overseas with Jodhaa Akbar.
You can say its a Shah Rukh Khan (movie) — and thats it, she said. It is amazing the kind of fan following he has and not only with Indians. People are absolutely crazy.
She has informed prospective buyers of 17 forthcoming films from UTV, including Fashion, directed by Madhur Bhandarkar and featuring Priyanka Chopra as the girl who overcomes many hurdles on the way to becoming a supermodel. It is being shot in Paris and Milan.
The territories where Bollywood sells already encompasses the UK, US, the Gulf, South Africa, Mauritius, Singapore, Malaysia, Scandinavia, the Benelux countries, and is steadily growing, said Gayatri. Pakistan, where UTV has sold Goal, Taare Zameen Par and Race, are a new entrant, an absolutely great market with huge potential.
Sanjay Jumani, who sells mainstream Bollywood movies for Sunstone Entertainment, broadly agrees with Gayatris assessment.
Shah Rukh has been very popular in Europe, he concurred.
Turkey, Germany, Poland, Romania and former Soviet bloc states whose names Sanjay finds hard to even pronounce are all starting to buy his movies. We have all the Khans with us — Salman, Shah Rukh and Aamir, Sanjay announced proudly.
He finds overseas buyers are surprisingly well-informed about Indian stars, even if their knowledge comes from surfing the Net. They know about every star, even Sanjay Dutt and Abhishek Bachchan. Aishwarya Rai is the hottest in Europe.
In the end, money talks. Screen Daily noted that in the US box office, Bhoothnath had entered at number four, behind Iron Man, What Happens in Vegan and Speed Racer, having taken $4,751,043 in three days.
Sex in Barcelona
The authorities in Barcelona had the bright idea of ringing up Woody Allen and asking him if he would make a film, projecting their city, which they would fund. The result is Vicky Cristina Barcelona, about two pretty American girls, played by Rebecca Hall and Scarlett Johansson, who come on holiday to Barcelona, and meet a local artist with a temperamental but gorgeous wife portrayed by Penelope Cruz.
In this sexual democracy, everyone gets to sleep with everyone else, often at the same time. This isnt great cinema but it was an enjoyable enough film shown out of competition.
I have bought it for India, I was told by Avinaash Jumani, of WEG India Pictures and yet another member of the Jumani film buying clan.
He exuded a sense of achievement as he disclosed: I have bought 50 Hollywood movies for India. They include Run Fatboy Run, Eloise in Paris, the Julia Roberts movie Fireflies in the Garden, and Drag Me to Hell.
Perhaps Bombay or Calcutta should also invite Woody Allen.
|Sell well: Rohit Sharma (top); a poster of Ocean of Pearls
One man who specialises in selling non-Bollywood movies to an international market is Rohit Sharma, president, international sales, at IDream International Pictures, a UK-registered company.
This year at Cannes he has done well with Tahaan, a feel good movie shot in the Kashmir Valley — buyers want to know why it was not accepted for competition — and Ocean of Pearls, about a Sikh surgeons decision in America to cut his hair as a career improving move. The latter is by a first time director, Sarab Singh Neelam, with a Middle Eastern actor, Omid Abtahi, playing the Sikh.
The message from Rohit is that someone like him can market relatively small budget non-Bollywood films.
This suggests Indians in India and across the diaspora should have a go at making movies.
Rohit does mind that Indian films are not getting into competition at Cannes: It does matter because you would get more profile.
Randhir, are you there?
Since Dev Anand is in a travelling mood, I suggested to Selvaggia Velo, when we met in Cannes, that she should have a retrospective of his best movies at the annual Indian film festival she runs in Florence.
|Hope floats: Selvaggia Velo
Called River to River, this years festival, from December 5-11, will screen Raj Kapoors Shree 420, Bobby and Awara.
When she was in Bombay earlier this year, Selvaggia tried for two weeks to contact Randhir Kapoor to invite him to come to Florence to represent his father.
He never called me back, she said.
Selvaggia, who is Italian, said she has been trying to understand why Indians films had failed to get into competition at Cannes and other big festivals in recent years.
I am very sad about it though I am not Indian, admitted Selvaggia.
The exceptions, she pointed out, had been Mira Nairs Monsoon Wedding, which won the Golden Lion in Venice in 2001, and Black Friday, which was selected in official competition in Locarno in 2004.
May be the selection people of these big festivals expect a certain kind of Bollywood and they do not get it and when they receive a non-Bollywood film, it is not what they accept, she speculated. I have no idea but there is a problem.
The truth is that the Cannes authorities, headed by Thierry Fremaux, general delegate, and Gilles Jacob, the president, nurture a distinctly French notion of what constitutes good cinema. Quite often watchability is sacrificed for that which is challenging, in marked contrast to the life-enhancing emotional melodrama churned out by Bollywood.
But Fremaux does say: Although solidly based in its own history, Cannes is open to newness.
Will there be an Indian candidate next year?
In introducing Dev Anands Guide in the classics section, Christian Jeune, director of the film department, made a half promise: I know in India there are many Indian people (who) are a bit sad there are no Indian films (in competition) but I hope next year we (will) have some. What I saw in India is very encouraging.
A film about cricket but very different from Lagaan is a South African biopic called Hansie, which is taking ages to complete, I learnt in Cannes. It tells the story of the late South African cricket captain, Hansie Cronje, who died in a plane crash not long after receiving a life ban for match fixing.
The film, being produced and scripted by his elder brother, Frans, should have been shot in South Africa, England, India and Australia in 2005. Actor Frank Rautenbach has been cast as Hansie and Jonathan Hearns as Steve Waugh.
There are many incredible lessons to be learnt from Hansies life, his victories, the mistakes that he made and the actions he took to redeem himself, the Cronje family said in a statement.
Perhaps Hansie may inspire another movie called Azhar.