The buzz on Road, Movie at Toronto

Here’s what Guy Dixon writes in the Globe and Mail.

However, many in the industry will be looking to Road, Movie , an Indian-based film geared toward an international market, to generate the kind of little-movie-that-could buzz that propelled Slumdog Millionaire . Produced by Susan B. Landau and Ross Katz, the film is already drawing high expectations, stemming partly from the news in May that it was picked up by Fortissimo Films, a leading sales company.

GUY DIXON

From Monday’s Globe and Mail

With another slate of highly anticipated Indian-themed films coming to the Toronto International Film Festival, many will be hoping for a repeat ofSlumdog Millionaire‘s stunning success story.

That film of poverty, pain and joy in Mumbai came to the festival last year looking to attract some press and industry attention. It gained it in droves, and soared to world popularity, earning multiple Academy Awards.

This year, there’s the Indian-financed Hollywood film The Joneses, starring Demi Moore, as well as the world premieres of two traditional Bollywood romantic comedies and musicals, My Heart Goes Hadippa (Dil Bole Hadippa)and What’s Your Raashee? There’s also the premiere of Canadian Dilip Mehta’s Cooking With Stella, shot in New Delhi and starring Toronto native Lisa Ray – who is well-known to festival fans, but an even bigger celebrity in India.

However, many in the industry will be looking to Road, Movie, an Indian-based film geared toward an international market, to generate the kind of little-movie-that-could buzz that propelled Slumdog Millionaire. Produced by two non-Bollywood producers, Susan B. Landau and Ross Katz, the film is already drawing high expectations, stemming partly from the news in May that it was picked up by Fortissimo Films, a leading sales company. This is the first time Fortissimo is representing a Hindi-language dramatic feature.

A road movie, as the name plainly suggests, it follows a young man on a trek to get away from a life working for the family business. TIFF’s co-director and Indian film specialist Cameron Bailey has described it as a “new Cinema Paradiso,” suggesting a film likely to please a wide selection of moviegoers, asSlumdog Millionaire did.

But let’s pause for a moment: Before anyone gets carried away on the Bollywood-meets-Hollywood buzz, which had started building well beforeSlumdog Millionaire, Bailey has a word of caution.

“I think one of the great crimes you could commit against a film would be to lay the expectations of Slumgdog Millionaire on it. That film was a real marvel, the exception, one of those things that only happens once every several years,” Bailey said. “Having said that, there’s no doubt that many films coming out of India will bear those expectations this year.

“You hope people come to these movies with fresh eyes. Road, Movie is a great movie. You shouldn’t compare it to Slumdog Millionaire. What’s nice about it is that it does also have an international sensibility. The director, Dev Benegal, has worked all over Europe and the United States, so he has an outward look as well.

A lot of films that are made in India are made very specifically for the Indian audience. This is one that I think will work internationally too,” Bailey added.

Indian filmmakers, actors and producers have, for years, been eyeing non-Bollywood markets. Commercial Bollywood films are popular globally for their escapist appeal. Yet there’s still a perceived division between that market and the Western, Hollywood-dominated market.

When the Bollywood war correspondent film Kabul Express, starring Indian actor John Abraham, had its world premiere at TIFF in 2006, both the star and director Kabir Khan spoke at length about the push into traditionally non-Bollywood markets.

In 2007, Indian megastar Amitabh Bachchan and leading actress Preity Zinta came to Toronto for the gala premiere of their English-language feature The Last Leer. The film was aimed at an artier, more Western sensibility than typical Bollywood hits, and it too was described in terms of international, crossover potential.

And the list continues. Zinta returned to TIFF last year to promote the comparatively tiny budget film Heaven on Earth by Canadian director Deepa Mehta. Her role in the film was daring. Normally, she plays assertive, independent women in Bollywood films. For Mehta, she played a young, helpless bride trapped in an arranged marriage in Canada.

During the festival, the actress could be found sitting unassumingly by a hotel cocktail bar conducting interviews. It was startlingly casual. In India, she attracts hordes of fans at every appearance. Yet in Toronto, she wasn’t sequestered in a hotel room like some Hollywood stars, who often command a much smaller global fan base, nor did Zinta insist on that kind of treatment. The openness of Indian actors and filmmakers, and the cross-pollination of Indian and non-Indian artists outside the Bollywood system, is easy to see.

It’s the same for Bollywood financial backers, reaching beyond their typical territory. The Joneses at this year’s festival is entirely Hollywood looking with Hollywood actors, and an American story in an American setting. But the money behind the film is from India’s Vistaar Religare Film Fund.

“It’s an Indian-financed production. It wouldn’t exist without Indian money. So there is this crossover that’s happening now, both on the financial side and on the creative side,” Bailey said.

TIFF has been an obvious conduit in this growing interest outside of the Bollywood market in Indian-made and Indian-themed movies. (There’s a difference – remember, Slumdog Millionaire was shot in Mumbai, but it was a British production.)

TIFF’s ties to India have been steadily growing over the years, a fact that has worked particularly well to the festival’s advantage this year following the Bollywood producers’ strike; a profit-sharing dispute between producers and multiplex cinemas in India earlier this year that shut down production for two months.

“I’d say we lucked out in a way,” Bailey said. “On the one hand, we had done our due diligence, and we have been programming these films for many years.

“But on the other hand, the strike meant that there were a lot of films that didn’t get released in the first part of the year in India. And the companies who are now able to release them are looking for the right platform. And in these two cases, things just came together.”


Road, Movie: Official Selection Cannes 2006 at Atelier Du Cannes

Dev Benegal’s screenplay for August Entertainment’s forthcoming film Road, Movie is the only Indian official selection for Cannes film festival this year. L’Atelier Du Cannes is a platform where a few hand-picked filmmakers get an opportunity to network with the world’s biggest studios and investors and showcase their projects to close financing.

Visit the Road, Movie website.

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Ramanujan Film Project Officially Launched

The Honorable President of India Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam met Dev Benegal and Stephen Fry at Rashtrapati Bhawan today and shared his surprisingly extensive knowledge on the genius mathematician Srinivas Ramanujan with the film-makers.

The President charmed Fry, Benegal and producer Gina Carter with his humor, wit and depth of knowledge. He spoke at length about the world of Ramanujan and the challenge of education in India in being able to allow many more Ramanujans to flourish. The mind can never be imprisoned, said the President and Ramanujan has shown that even with the barest of resources available he could give the world something, the full extent of which we still have not fathomed.

Wishing the project his best and throwing a challenge to the filmakers to make a film which the entire world would see the President then presented Benegal & Fry with a paper that he has written on Number Theory, Secure Communications and Ramanujan.

In his presence, the Ramanujan Film Project was officially launched in a simple ceremony.

Please watch this space for full coverage of the meeting with Dr. Kalam.
Photographs of the meeting will be provided to the press shortly.

Photographs of Stephen Fry & Dev Benegal are available for download at here.
http://www.augustentertainment.com/press

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Feature Film on Genius Mathematician Ramanujan

Leading Indian Film Director Dev Benegal and leading British Actor-Director Stephen Fry announce international feature film on genius Indian mathematician Ramanujan.

The Story

UK’s leading actor and director Stephen Fry, well known as the voice of the Harry Potter audiobooks and the leading Indian writer-director Dev Benegal are collaborating on a feature film on the life of the genius Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan and his friendship with the Cambridge mathematician G.H. Hardy.

Much like the story of Ramanujan and Hardy both Fry and Benegal had for years unknown to one another dreamt of making a film on this amazing friendship across cultures and continents.

It was at Cambridge that Stephen Fry came to learn about Ramanujan and G.H. Hardy. It was the amazing story of Ramanujan’s journey and his friendship with the Cambridge math don G.H. Hardy that fueled Fry’s passion to tell the this story on the large screen. Director Dev Benegal’s passion to tell this story dates back some 20 years when he traveled the entire length of the river Kaveri in a small round boat made of dried palm leaves and came past the towns of Erode and Kumbakonam where Ramanujan was born and studied. The story has haunted him for years but never found any interest amongst the Indian film community. For them Ramanujan’s work and ideas are the DNA of what powers digital technology today.

An accidental encounter in 2005 led to Fry and Benegal discovering their passion. Within a few meetings Fry & Benegal had found their calling and a big screen version of this story is going to see the light of day.

Fry & Benegal are co-writing and co-directing this motion picture, which will be a co-production between India & the UK. Stephen Fry is in India for the official signing of the India-UK Film Co-production treaty.

They expect to meet President Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam & Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh on March 20.th

Dev Benegal & Stephen Fry will be available in New Delhi for interviews on March 20th and in Bombay on March 22nd & 23rd.

For further details please contact:

Sopan Muller on +91-93222-74092

email us at info@augustentertainment.com

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