Bollywood song & dance at Cannes

Written by Sudipta Datta | Updated: May 11 2011, 08:03am hrs
The story goes that when Shekhar Kapur was on the Cannes jury last year, during his many conversations with Cannes festival director Thierry Fremaux, Bollywood came up and soon they were talking of a possibility of a film that would bring together the most beautiful moments in the history of Indian musicals. So, this year, Bollywood will make song and dance at Cannes, thanks to a documentary, Bollywood, the Greatest Love Story Ever Told, produced by UTV and Kapur and directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and Jeff Zimbalist. The documentary will be screened in the official selection for the out of competition section of the festival, on from May 11-22.

Barring this, Bollywood, emerging from two difficult meltdown years, will have a muted presence at Cannes, and unlike last year, when Vikramaditya Motwanes Udaan was an entry in the Un Certain Regard category, there are no Indian films being screened in competition. But big production houses like Reliance Entertainment, UTV and Eros, who have been going to Cannes for several years now, are taking their slates, old and new, and are scheduled to hold market screenings to open up their films to new territories.

The 81-minute documentary brings out the essence of Bollywood for a western audience, says Trishya Screwvala, UTV CEO Ronnie Screwvalas daughter, who has been instrumental in putting the documentary together. Its not a conventional documentary. A lot of archival footage has been used from films through the years, from Chandralekha to Tees Maar Khan, Guide to Sholay and it shows the evolution of Bollywood through song and dance, she adds.

UTV will hold market screeningsthese are primarily for trade purposesof Vikas Bahls Chillar Party, Sanjay Leela Bhansalis Guzaarish (Aishwarya Rai is a big pull at Cannes), Vishal Bhardwajs 7 Khoon Maaf and Kiran Raos Dhobi Ghat.

For Reliance, Cannes is the biggest festival, says Sanjeev Lamba, CEO, Reliance Entertainment, and the focus is to expand the scope of our distribution beyond the traditional territories. Reliance is taking its slate of films for 2011-12, which incidentally includes films from the three reigning Khans of BollywoodShah Rukh Khans Don 2, Salman Khans Bodyguard, and Aamir Khans untitled film with Reema Kagti.

Last year, Reliance took over one of the top three international sales companies, IM Global, and that buy is helping it increase its global footprint. Bollywoods top five traditional markets overseas are the US, the UK, Australia, the UAE and South Africa and 80% of overseas revenues come from these markets. According to insiders, the balance is divided between Pakistan, Singapore, Mauritius, Malaysia and so forth. But outside of these 28-30 markets, says Lamba, theres a vast world out there stretching from Europe to Latin America and Africa.

Explaining the IM Global impact, Lamba points out that last year, Anurag Basus Kites, which didnt have a good run domestically, was distributed in 80 countries, including 11 in Latin America. Similarly, Raavan was distributed in 65-odd countries. The pipeline in the traditional markets is steady, we are stretching the boundaries now, says Lamba, and looking at non-traditional markets like Taiwan, Korea, China, Japan, Spain, Italy.

Besides showcasing its forthcoming releases like SRKs Ra.One and Rajnikanths Rana, Eros is also holding a market screening of Bol by Pakistani director Shoaib Mansoor, the acclaimed director of Khuda Kay Liye. This is the first time we are globally distributing a Pakistani film, says Alice Coelho, VP, Syndication Sales, Eros International. What attracted Eros to Bol is the storylinethe film is topical, highlighting issues between Shia and Sunni Muslims and the yearning of a new generation that wants to lead a life not governed by religion. Coelho says Mansoors films are not far from the box office either, with Khuda Kay Liye doing phenomenally across the world.

The purpose of taking a film like Bol to Cannes is to open up 10-15 territories, points out Coelho. Lamba says the Cannes market also helps Reliance to tap various rights of films. In India, we do only theatrical, satellite/TV, music, video, but in developed markets there are a whole lot of rights to be tapped, from Pay TV to DVD, which we hope to exploit for our catalogue of 100 films built over the past four-five years.

Hoping to exploit various rights is producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra as well, who is taking 3 Idiots to Cannes, over 15 months after its historic release. Rajkumar Hiranis 3 Idiots continues to set records all over the world, with the film recently doing business worth half a million dollars in Taiwan.

Following its success in Taiwan, the film was snapped up at a historic price for distribution in Korea, where the film will be released in theatres soon, say sources. Vidhu Vinod Chopra is planning to make a short trip to the Cannes film festival, accompanied by Vinod Chopra Films CEO Sameer Rao, to secure deals in previously untapped markets for the film.

He feels the film can create new audiences for Indian cinema in markets like Russia, eastern Europe and Latin America. The film will be jointly marketed at Cannes with overseas distributors, Reliance Entertainment.

Ask Coelho whether Bollywood will have to be satisfied with market screenings, and she quips: In another five to seven years, we will have the world as our market. Amrita Pandey, senior VP, international distribution and syndication, UTV Motion Pictures, says when they make movies, they are targeted at south-Asian audiences worldwide and that objective is being met. At markets like Cannes, we show our films to the trade, make contacts and open up our films to a wider market, she adds.

Indian films may not be in competition, but Cannes has a great line-up this year with the opening film being Woody Allens Midnight in Paris. After London (Match Point) and Barcelona (Vicky Christina Barcelona), its Paris turn to be feted by Allen. In competition are films by acclaimed directors Pedro Almodovar, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Aki Kaurismaki, Terrence Malick, Lars Von Trier and so forth.