Bollywood gaining presence at Toronto film festival

By Gurmukh Singh

Toronto, Sep 1 (IANS) Bollywood is no more just an item number at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). It is fast becoming the flavour of the world's premier film show, says a top organiser.

This year's festival, being held here Sep 4-13, will premiere Nandita Das' "Firaaq" and Priyadarshan's "Kanchivaram", says festival co-director Cameron Bailey.

Anees Bazmee's "Singh is Kinng" will also have its gala premiere, with Akshay and Katrina Kaif in attendance.

"We have been premiering a big Bollywood film for the past three years. And in the coming years, we will showcase a lot more Bollwyood films here," Bailey told IANS in an interview.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q: Considering that you are screening more than 300 films at the festival, why are you not screening more from Bollywood which is the world's largest film industry?

A: No, we have quite a powerful representation of Bollywood at every festival. For the past three years we have been doing gala screening of a major Bollywood film.

This year, we have Nandita Das' directorial debut "Firaaq", a powerful drama set in Gujarat after the 2002 riots. We are getting Akshay and Katrina for the gala premiere of "Singh is Kinng". I am also very excited about Priyadarshan's "Kanchivaram" - it is the story of silk workers in Tamil Nadu.

I have personally been doing selection from India for years and go there twice a year to meet top Bollywood banners.

It is a fair guess that you will see more and more Bollywood films here in the coming years. In fact, I am already in talks with a big Bollywood banner to bring their film for premiere here in 2009.

Q: How is the festival different this year - your first as co-director?

A: We have films from more countries this year - 64 against 55 last year. Then most of the films being screened are comedies. We didn't go out there looking for comedies, but most of the 4,200 entries were in that category. For example, we have a funny romantic comedy called "Tultan" from Kazakhstan. People will love it - it shows how humour works there.

Q: You have been associated with the festival since the early 1990s. How has it changed over the years?

A: We are a lot bigger now and getting films from all parts of the world. More films make their world premiere in Toronto now. When I started here in early 1990s, it was hard to get a film for premiere here - but now film makers want their premiere here. We are better known in India now, and Bollywood wants to bring their films to us first.

Q: How do you rate TIFF vis-à-vis Cannes and the Berlin film festival?

A: We are the leading film festival in the world now. But one of the biggest differences between us and Cannes is that they are an industry festival where business related to the industry is done. We are as much about the film industry as the audience. In fact, we are a people's film festival which sells more than 300,000 tickets each year.

Q: But why has not the festival helped the Canadian film industry grow?

A: There is not so much money in the film industry here as compared to Hollywood and Bollywood. Our film industry is very small, but the festival has launched so many names who became very big later. We premiered Deepa Mehta's "Sam & Me" in 1991 when nobody knew her, and today she is world renowned.

This year, we are introducing outdoor performances as part of the festival.

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