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Bollywood masala travels to Toronto

Last updated on: September 11, 2009 

Bollywood masala travels to Toronto

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Arthur J Pais in Toronto

When Rani Mukerji walks on the red carpet in Toronto for the gala premiere of her film Dil Bole Hadippa, she will be doing more than heralding the Bollywood masala film. She will also be saluting the 34th Toronto International Film Festival, which embraces films from India more than any other film festival in the world.

'Fans know Rani Mukerji as one of the most beautiful, dynamic women ever to grace a movie screen,' the festival handbook declares. 'Cinephiles know her acting skills are unmatched in India cinema.'

The handbook goes on to explain why Dil Bole Hadippa, the directorial debut of Anurag Singh, was chosen for the event. 'Opportunities rarely come along to see her in a film that draws equally on her dramatic talents and her glam appeal.'

The festival is known for mixing the intensely artistic films with big, splashy but newsworthy films. Many of them come from Hollywood and feature stars like Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Denzel Washington.


Image: Rani Mukerji promotes her movie Dil Bole Hadippa
Photographs: Stringer India/Reuters
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The festival also screens films of European masters such as 94-year-old Manoel de Oliverira whose Portuguese film was completed just about three months ago and Indian director Buddhadeb Dasgupta (Janala).

Among other noteworthy and big budget films shown here is Creation, a biopic of Charles Darwin. Among the other high profile films at the festival is A Serious Man, the latest work by the Oscar winning Coen Brothers.

Three of the 20 gala presentations this year are by Indian filmmakers. The festival screens about 280 features films through September 10 from about 60 countries.

In addition to Hadippa, the gala includes Ashutosh Gowariker's What's Your Raashee, and Cooking Stella, an intriguing tale of cultural misunderstanding, directed by first-timer Dilip Mehta. An acclaimed photographer, Mehta has served as a production designer of some of his sister Deepa Mehta's films including Water.


Image: Priyanka Chopra at the music launch of What's Your Rashee
Photographs: Stringer India/Reuters
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There is a festival first, too. It chose Laxmikant Shetgaonkar's Paltadacho Munis (The Man Beyond the Bridge), an ecological parable.

One of the eagerly awaited films at the festival comes from Dev Benegal. His Road, the Movie, featuring Abhay Deol, is a tribute to the popular Indian films.

The festival also generates great Oscar nomination buzz, as people wonder what this year's Slumdog Millionaire could be. The eight-Oscar winner came from nowhere and suddenly started building terrific word of mouth and critical acclaim at TIFF last year.

"We have made a point in the last five years to show big Bollywood productions because they make a genuine genre," Cameron Bailey, former programmer and now the co-director of TIFF has said. "There is also another reason. Toronto has a huge number of people of South Asian origin and then there are thousands from countries such as Ethiopia, Somalia and Russia where the Indian films are very popular."

Bollywood films are released in theatres in Toronto just the way they are exhibited in big cities in America and the rest of Canada. "But to see someone like Amitabh Bachchan or Shah Rukh Khan on the red carpet at the gala premiere of their films is an unforgettable experience to many people."


Image: Lisa Ray at the Water premiere at the 30th Toronto International Film Festival
Photographs: Mike Cassese/Reuters
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In addition to Toronto-based Dilip Mehta, there are several other filmmakers of Indian origin settled outside India showing their work at TIFF.

The veteran documentary-maker Vikram Jayanti who has homes in London and Los Angeles offers Snowblind, a riveting work on dogsled race. Kashmir-born Vic Sarin, based in Toronto, has a feature film A Shine of Rainbows set in Ireland. It focuses on the struggle of a young orphan to find acceptance in his new home.

There are also two short filmmakers, Dev Khanna (A Hindu's Indictment of Heaven, a comedy) and Paramitha Nath (Lost, about a Laotian poet settled in Canada).

"What I love about the Toronto film festival is the love people have for films from all over the world," says Buddhadeb Dasgupta. "People actually line up at 8 am to get tickets for a film that shows around noon. And for the Indian people living in Toronto, the festival offers a chance to see regional films."


Image: Mallika Sherawat arrives for The Myth premiere at the 30th Toronto International Film Festiva
Photographs: Mike Cassese/Reuters
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