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Cannes (France) (AFP) – India’s film industry, the world’s most prolific, takes center stage at the Cannes Film Festival, but insiders say it’s a challenge to appeal to global audiences without losing its huge fanbase at home.
India is the festival’s first-ever guest of honor this year in its “Film Walk” where global companies come together to buy and sell film rights and strike production deals.
A high-level Indian delegation, including a government minister, gained privileged access to global distributors and screened many films in development seeking funding.
“We feel that Indian cinema is perhaps at a turning point, that there has been a revival of Indian cinema,” Jérôme Paillard, general manager of the Marche du Film, told AFP.
Global distributors took great interest in India a decade or more ago with global hits like the Hindi-language film “The Lunchbox” (2013).
“And then nothing happened,” he said.
“But now there are several movies in the works that we find interesting. Maybe there’s some new momentum.”
The Indian film industry produces up to 2,000 films a year, more than any other country.
The country’s 1.4 billion people, growing middle class, huge network of theaters and large global diaspora give the industry a fanbase that is the envy of the world.
It has also made inroads beyond its native speakers – into places like China, Egypt and Nigeria.
But catering to Indian tastes can often stand in the way of going further, said Pranad Kapadia, director of Moviegoers Entertainment, a UK-based distribution company specializing in Indian cinema.
“We are very independent,” he told AFP at the Cannes Film Festival.
“Obviously, a filmmaker wants to create content that resonates with every audience. But in an effort to target a non-primary audience, you can alienate your primary audience.”
Independent filmmakers in India – with a taste for more sophisticated fare that might appeal to the global festival circuit – often struggle to secure funding from mainstream producers or the government, Paillard said.
It’s not always the case. In the 1950s and 1960s, a generation of Indian directors moved away from traditional musicals and were supported by the government.
The most acclaimed is Satyajit Ray, whose films have won awards at the Cannes, Venice and Berlin film festivals.
But as big-budget blockbusters have grown in prominence in recent years, these independent films have been eclipsed by Bollywood production aimed at mass audiences.
“Stay on the Dance Floor”
Many are still trying to break the mould, such as “English Vinglish” (2012), which did well at home and with expatriate Indians, and was later dubbed or subtitled into 12 other languages.
“There are directors, storytellers and subjects who can travel,” Kapadia said, highlighting director Sanjay Leela Bhansali as someone who appeals to both mainstream Indian audiences and the arts and entertainment crowd. western test.
Bhansali’s latest film “Gangubai Kathiawadi” premiered at the Berlin Film Festival this year.
“Our job is to keep pushing the boundaries,” Kapadia said. “Sky is the limit.”
The experience of this year’s Film Market, meanwhile, may take some time to translate into tangible deals outside of the main Indian markets in South Asia and the Gulf States, but it remains invaluable, said said Kapadia.
“You have to be there. Stay on the dance floor and you’ll find a partner,” he said.
Indian actress Pooja Hegde, who makes four films a year in three Indian languages and has 20 million Instagram followers, said she too had hope.
“Things are changing. Indian cinema is going out into the world,” she told AFP.
She and many other Indian actors present at Cannes – including superstar Deepika Padukone, one of the main members of the jury – were promoting “the India brand”, added the 31-year-old former second runner-up in the Miss Universe competition. India.
“We’re spicy,” she laughed. “We manage, we hustle. It’s the India brand.”
© 2022 AFP