Live from TIFF 09

I’ve just arrived in Toronto. Got my delegates pass and goody bag with Catalog which was waiting at the hotel desk thanks to an amazing and super efficient team at Fortissimo. Dropped into to their office and saw the poster for Road, Movie and collected three copies of the brochure which they have printed. BEAUTIFUL.

Fred Berger my amazing co-producer arrives from LA soon. There’s a ton of work to be done and lots of movies to be seen.

Had a long phone conversation with Satish Kaushik who has seen the trailer and been reading about the film.

He said, “I’m excited like a child.”

Abhay rolls in shortly once he can get a ride from the airport. As of 2pm he was stranded at Pearson International.

Tonight: the Cohen Brother’s new film.

Globe and Mail: here’s what they say about Road, Movie

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, as Slumdog 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 before Slumdog 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.”

Phew!!!

Co producer of Road, Movie Sopan Muller has just located an NTSC master made from the original negative of English, August. It’s been seen and checked by him and editor Antara Lahiri who both feel it’s in a good state. This means we are one step closer to a DVD. The sound is awful but that is something which we have backups for and can restore.

Which leaves me with one more thing… restoring the original negative. That’s a big one.

But for all those readers who just visit this blog for an update on English, August this is good news.

Road, Movie at TIFF

World Premiere at the Winter Garden Theatre, September 18th 8:15pm.

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ps: this title and the stunning end title sequence has been done by Shine an amazing team in LA. I totally love them and would love them to be a part of Samourai and Sacred Numbers as well.

Why isn’t there a DVD of English, August ?

Is there a simple answer to this question? I wish there were.
The negative has been damaged because of ridiculously poor storage at Prasad Labs, Madras.
The restoration costs have skyrocketed and no one wants to pay for this.

So- the DVD gets delayed beyond what I had imagined.

Why can’t we see the film in the cinemas again?

I spoke with several distributors- young and not so. They all said the same thing- the film is too old, no one will come to see it. Period.

I think the Long Tale is something they need to wag.

So when do we get a DVD?

Once I complete my new film I’ll get around to seeing how to restore English, August and bring it back to life.

But it’s painful. I dislike looking back.

Playing on iTunes After Six from the album “White Bread Black Beer” by Scritti Politti

Secret Sauce for Making Movies?

INT- BOMBAY TAXI — DAY

The radio was blasting an Elvis song.
The words hit me like a bullet.
Here was the perfect recipe for making movies. The secret sauce so to speak.

A little less conversation
A little more action please
A little more bite and a little less bark
Satisfy me baby

Playing on iTunes Like a Rolling Stone from the album “33 1/3” by Susheela Raman

Of Mice and Men

Oh, this has to be written.

Last evening I went to Khan Market- the old bastion of book shops and cafe’s in New Delhi, looking for a copy of Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men.

INT- RESPECTABLE BOOKSHOP – EVENING

Me: Do you have the book, Of Mice and Men?
(hesitant pause)
By John Steinbeck?

The bookshop owner looks me up and down, curls his lip and replies in disgust.
Owner: We don’t have a computer section.

Don’t Panic, Dev. All will be ok.

Playing on iTunes It’s Getting Old from the album “Tally of the Yes Men” by Goldspot]

Surrender

A film which was an exploration for the tone of “Road, Movie”.