Two Indian films gain traction at Toronto festival

Toronto: Two Indian films set in rural India and featuring gutsy young women struggling through a female-unfriendly system have received great reception at their world premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

A still from director Kiran Rao’s Lost Ladies, which had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in Canada.

Contrasting films, the commercial but delightfully witty Lost Ladies, from director Kiran Rao, and the micro-budget Marathi movie A Match had their world premiere screenings at North America’s largest film festival to applause from the audience.

Robyn Citizen, TIFF’s director, programming described Lost Ladies as “at once a comedy of errors and a feminist coming-of-age tale” which “packs a punch in more ways than one”.

Based on the absurd theme of brides getting lost thanks to being hidden behind their veil, Lost Ladies, set in 2001, takes the serious matter of stifling orthodoxy and with crisp dialogue and humour tells a feminist tale.

Rao’s debut feature Dhobi Ghat also premiered at TIFF, in 2010. And she brought her second film as a director for its world premiere at the festival because, she said, “TIFF ticks all the boxes for a filmmaker.” That includes a “cultured” audience, as well interaction with other filmmakers from across the globe and the presence of the industry and critics. “We were so delighted with the audience reaction,” she said of the film’s maiden public screening on Friday.

Rao takes serious issues and tackles them with a light touch in the film, as she said, “We wanted it to be extremely entertaining, very accessible, very fun. And, of course, we wanted to seed a lot of ideas and issues and themes along the way.”

The film will have its theatrical release in January 2024. While pressure of society on young women, seen in the context of arranged marriages, is also the underlying theme for A Match, director Jayant Digambar Somalkar’s Marathi film, the treatment is very different.

It’s a poignantly told story about Savita, the protagonist, who is rejected by potential grooms for being too dark, too short, or her farming family is too poor to pay an exorbitant dowry. The film was financed by the filmmakers themselves and the cast includes Somalkar’s own family members and is set in home village of Dongargaon. But, as with Lost Ladies, this small movie also gained audience appreciation on its world premiere on Saturday. As TIFF director Citizen said, A Match “brims with ordinary joys and frustrations, but underlying its every moment is a plea to disrupt the status quo”.

TIFF is being held from September 7-17.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Two Indian films gain traction 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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