Six Indian films to premiere at Toronto festival

Toronto: The 2023 edition of North America’s largest film event, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), will be special for those with a taste for Indian cinema, as it will feature the most movies from the country in over ten years.

A still from the Marathi film A Match, which will have its world premiere at the 2023 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival. (Courtesy: TIFF)

As many as six Indian films will premiere at TIFF this year. Three more, though not Indian productions, are fully or largely set in India, while another focuses on an Indian family’s struggles in West Asia.

Meenakshi Shedde, who joined TIFF this year as its Senior Programme Advisor – South Asia, described the selection as “gratifying” as it reflects a “diverse range”, from mainstream and regional to slasher and documentary.

This is the highest number of Indian films at TIFF since 2012, when there were 10 Indian films, but that was because there was special curated City to City section that year featuring Mumbai. There were five films from India last year, three in 2021 and just one in the Covid-impacted 2020 edition of the festival.

Shedde listed the Indian films as director Karan Boolani’s Thank You For Coming, Kiran Rao’s sophomore effort Laapataa Ladies or Lost Ladies, Anand Patwardhan’s documentary Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam or The World is Family, Jayant Digambar Somalkar’s Marathi film Sthal or A Match, Nikhil Nagesh Bhat’s Kill, a genre film produced by Karan Johar and Guneet Monga Kapoor, and Subarna Dash and Vidushi Gupta’s short animation This is TMI.

That number would have been higher but director Honey Trehan’s Punjab ’95, based on human rights activist Jaswant Singh Khalra, who exposed police encounters in Punjab in the 1990s, was pulled from the festival by the producers.

Other than those, there is veteran Indo-Canadian director Deepa Mehta’s documentary I Am Sirat, set entirely in India, Tarsem Singh Dhandwar’s Dear Jassi, which was shot in India and Canada, Shambhavi Kaul’s Slow Shift, a Indo-US short, which was shot in India, and director Wendy Bednarz’s Yellow Bus, a United Arab Emirates production, starring Tannishtha Chatterjee and Amit Sial, and based on a real-life Indian diaspora incident, she said.

The Hollywood presence on TIFF’s red carpets this year will be limited due to the ongoing strikes, and Indian actors may get greater visibility. As Shedde said, “Every film was selected on merit: as you can see, none of them will replace a Hollywood film! But I think in the overall festival, the red carpet presence of some international stars may have benefited from the relatively lesser Hollywood star presence caused by the SAG-AFTRA strike, and I think it’s wonderful that international stars get their due.”

Shedde said the enhanced presence of Indian films was also due to the interest of TIFF’s team, from CEO Cameron Bailey to chief programming officer Anita Lee and director, programming and platform lead Robyn Citizen.

The 48th edition of TIFF commences on September 7 and runs till September 17.

Shedde, who has been associated with TIFF for 12 years as curator/consultant for its Cinematheque presentations and is also India and South Asia Delegate to the Berlin Film Festival, said, “What’s amazing is that, going by TIFF’s selection, Indian cinema is in boisterous good health, despite every curveball.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Six Indian films to premiere at Toronto festival

Anirudh Bhattacharya is a Toronto-based commentator on North American issues, and an author. He has also worked as a journalist in New Delhi and New York spanning print, television and digital media. He tweets as @anirudhb. …view detail

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