[F]rom focusing on Mumbai in the festival’s ‘City to City’ programme to holding panel discussions on Bollywood and the Indian indies, Toronto International Film Festival will be a grand celebration of Indian cinema this year. From Ritwik Ghatak’s Meghe Dhaka Tara to Gauri Shinde’s English Vinglish, the festival promises something for everyone. Known for his fondness for Mumbai and Indian films, TIFF’s artistic director Cameron Bailey talks about the city, its emerging new-cinema as well as Bollywood:
What excites you about Mumbai as a city and the films that emerge out of it?
Mumbai has more movie-mad people than anywhere in the world. From the time I land at the airport to the time I leave, I encounter countless people who want to talk about their favourite films, their favourite stars and the gossip around both. People love movies in Mumbai, so on that level it feels like home.
Why did you choose Mumbai for this year’s City to City Programme?
This is Mumbai’s time. There’s a new generation of filmmakers in that city who are reinventing Indian cinema and taking it to the world. Anurag Kashyap, Dibakar Banerjee and others are giving new life to familiar genres, making them edgier and more naturalistic. New directors like Anand Gandhi with Ship of Theseus, Manjeet Singh with Mumbai’s King and Mohit Takalkar with The Bright Day are using the latest techniques in world cinema to tell stories that are both deeply personal and deeply Indian.
Unlike European festivals, you have always favoured Bollywood. What are your views on the indigenous film industry?
Unlike the big European festivals, we’re interested in popular cinema as well as art house films. We don’t like to wait until comedies, musicals, actions films and other popular genres are decades old before we give them their due. That’s where Bollywood fits in, as well as Tollywood, etc.: there are great artists working within commercial cinema in India. We think those films, when they’re good, deserve both respect and celebration.
Do you think that Bollywood has also undergone change with time? What changes do you notice?
Bollywood always changes with time. I was intrigued to see Ishaqzaade this year because it shows one of the India’s biggest film banners responding to the grittier feel of Mumbai’s new independent films. Yash Raj is known for glossy entertainments. If they can absorb the influence of the new, indie wave represented by filmmakers like Dibakar Banerjee and Anurag Kashyap, then it shows how dynamic the industry can be. It’s also a great sign of the evolving audience in India. Their tastes will change along with changing styles and subjects in the movies.
What is it about Indian cinema that differentiates it from the world?
Variety, intensity, beauty and change. No other nation has those qualities to the degree that India does.
Who are the Indian actors you appreciate?
Aamir Khan. Shah Rukh Khan. Naseerudin Shah. Abhay Deol. Priyanka Chopra. Seema Biswas. Rani Mukherjee. Nana Patekar. Rahul Bose. And so many more. I appreciate both the great dramatic actors and the brilliant charmers.