By Subhash K. Jha, IndiaFM
The Toronto Film Festival which opened on September 6 has never seen more Indian films and their representatives all gathered in one place and getting so much notice. Among the denizens of Indian cinema currently stationed in Toronto are Bengali filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh, his leading man Amitabh Bachchan and leading lady Preity Zinta for the film The Last Lear.
Preity has never been to an international film festival before! "Last year when Karan Johar, Shah Rukh and Mr Bachchan came to Toronto with Kabhi Alvidaa Na Kehna I couldn't join them because of a friend's wedding. I'm so glad that I came here with The Last Lear," she exulted on Sunday night at 1.30 am from Toronto. "The response has been beyond anything I've expected. Mr Bachchan is being treated like God. His Shakespearean oratory is sending audiences into raptures. You know I grew up on Shakespeare, so I'm not so bad with it either."
Writing on the Toronto International Film Festival's website, on the changing profile of Bollywood in the West, film critic Christopher McKinnon writes, "A new crop of films from India defies the Bollywood tropes that Western audiences often mistakenly apply to all of Indian cinema. You won't find many scenes of singing and dancing, and hardly a frame of melodrama. Bollywood represents only a part of India's national cinema, and these diverse selections will show Toronto some daring and innovative new films from acclaimed filmmakers and actors."Calling Amitabh Bachchan "the most revered movie star on the planet", the Festival compares the actor's performance in The Last Lear to Richard Burton and Toshiro Mifune (Roshomon).
"There was the red-carpet premiere on Saturday …And the comments on my performance are flattering. I'm honoured and embarrassed," says the Big B from Toronto.
Rahul Bose representing the English-language film Before The Rains (Ghosh's The Last Lear is also in English) is delighted by the response to the Indian film in general and his film in particular. "My director Santosh Sivan and I got a standing ovation after the first screening of Before The Rains. This was the first time that I was watching the film. And I must say I seldom feel so happy about my films and specially my performance.
Fortunately the feeling is shared here in Toronto."
Writing about Rahul's performance Canadian critic Cameron Bailey says, "Bose…is the heart of the film"
Adds the shy Santosh Sivan, "Actually I'm here in Toronto with two films. Before The Rains and also my AIDS film Prarambha which is part of a 4-film bouquet. All the four AIDS films have been very well received. As for Before The Rains, Rahul, Nandita Das and I are enjoying the attention."
Satish Kaushik representing his British film Brick Lane where he plays a foul-mouthed spouse-abusing Bangladeshi is over-the-moon in Toronto, "I traveled from Mumbai to Toronto with Shekhar Kapoor, Shilpa Shetty, Sameera Reddy and Vishal Bhardwaj. We had lots of fun. Shekhar showed me the trailor of Elizabeth 2. I showed him stills of my next film Tere Sang. It was nice to feel that guru-chela were heading for the same festival for their films You know that I was assistant to Shekhar during Mr India."
Continues Satish, "Brick Lanehas got tremendous ovation here in Toronto. People want to know if I'm a real-life Bengali since I've got the accent so well. This morning I was given a complete makeover. I didn't even know what that was until I saw myself in the mirror after they finished with me. It was great to know that the Brick Lane author Monica was very happy with my performance. In fact, earlier she had mailed my director Sarah Gavron and complimented her for casting a real life Chanu (the name of my character)"