For the first time, the Indian Panorama, with its pan-India essence, is expected to be the highlight of the 39th Moscow International Film Festival from June 22 to 30. Team Viva previews the picks and talks to the curators
Before the release of Bahubali 2, the only obsession of bewildered Indians was why Katappa killed the protagonist. However, for Russians the wait just got shorter as India’s highest earning two-part film will be showcased at the 39th Moscow International Film Festival.
Indian films have been popular in Russia ever since the end of Stalin’s regime — Khwaja Ahmed Abbas’ Dharti ke lal was the first Indian film to be dubbed in Russian. There is a channel on Russian TV dedicated to showing Indian films daily. All this appreciation and love for Indian culture called for another spotlight to be placed upon Indian films in Moscow. As a celebration of 70 glorious years of bilateral relations between India and Russia, the 39th Moscow International Film Festival will consist of a series of six Indian films. These include the Telugu film Bahubali: The Beginning, Hindi mockumentary Bad Man, Konkona Sen Sharma’s debut directorial A Death in the Gunj, Gujarati film Bey Yaar, Kannada film U Turn, Assamese film Kothanodi as well as Bahubali 2 – The Conclusion. These will all feature in the Indian Panorama section.
Captain Rahul Bali, working in the India Film Festival Worldwide along with RC Dalal, explains why it is called thus. “We are showing six films in six different languages. These include an Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Telugu and a Hindi film. Apart from having won awards on various platforms, these films have made India proud. Panorama refers to our attempt of showing the world that Indian cinema does not solely equate to Hindi cinema. What we are taking to the world is Indian cinema. Generally, only Hindi films are shown whenever India participates in an international film festival. Only a couple of regional films are included whereas in our case, only one Hindi film has been included. We are promoting unity in diversity and are hoping to take with us through our films the fragrance of India to Moscow. Essentially, we want to show to the world nuances of Indian cinematography and the creative brilliance of our path-breaking directors.”
Destiny always prevails. Bahubali 2 was chosen to be the opening film this year, although initially that was not the case. Originally, a Polish film was intended to do the honours. However, as Captain Rahul Bali informs, it was after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Russia that the decision to portray the flavour of Indian cinema through Bahubali 2 was taken. “This is a very big feather in Indian cinema’s cap,” he says. “In its 39-year history, this is the first time that the Moscow Film Festival will be opened by an Indian film, which is also a Telugu film. Additionally, Gulshan Grover’s Bad Man will be the opening film of the Indian Panorama. The reason why this film was chosen is because it is India’s first mockumentary and thus reflects the experimental nature of our cinema. A mockumentary is a film which takes the form of a serious documentary in order to satirise its subject,” he adds. Gulshan Grover describes how in Bad Man, “everything from the actors to the sets is very natural and realistic. Whether it is Manisha Koirala, Mahesh Bhatt or me, we all played ourselves in the film. The sets were actual movie sets.”
The festival will last for six days, with one Indian film being shown each day. “Otherwise”, says Rahul Bali, “left to our own devices we would have shown many, many more. Even a 30-day film festival would fall short for showcasing the broad scope of our films.”
The curator is confident of his picks. “RC Dalal and I have worked for the Indian Film Festival in Russia for the last two years. We have also worked for the Bollywood Film Festival in Russia last year, which took place in 21 cities. Unfortunately, these showcases had only consisted of Hindi movies. That’s what gave us the idea of including regional films this time around. What we have realised from all our past experience is that the Russian audience has moved on from Raj Kapoor and Mithun Chakraborty. Russians love Indian art, music and Indians in general. Therefore, any kind of Indian art is bound to prosper there. I strongly believe that cinema is the only form of art that is interactive.”
Speaking about his past experiences of working in film festivals, Bali says they “catered to a limited audience. The films were a part of specifically Indian film festivals whereas this time, the platform is international and the scale is global. This film festival is in a way Russia’s answer to Cannes.”
Charges d’Affaires Anatoly V Kargopolov clarified that unlike China, Russia does not have any rule regarding the number of foreign films that can be screened in its cinemas, the themes that these films address or the foreign filmmakers being prevented from working independently. He said, “You can stop any Russian on the street and ask him about Indian movies. He is certainly bound to start singing songs from Awaara. In fact, last week when we had celebrated our National Day, our artists had performed Indian songs in Hindi. Our musicians strive to study Hindi songs.”