Indie films must be hitting big time when Yashraj – India’s biggest movie production house – decides to back one. Unfortunately, though, despite multiplexes and a growing audience for “serious” cinema sans mega stars, not many of them made it to theatres before 2015.
But now, there are chances that several of these films may buck that trend. The biggest of the small ones is Titli. Co-produced by Aditya Chopra and Dibakar Banerjee, it’s a small, independent film by first time director Kanu Behl.
Not only was it shown in the prestigious Un Certain Regard section at the Cannes Film Festival last year, it has also picked up Best Film awards at festivals in Paris, Turkey, Spain and New York. Trouble is, in the past awards have been no guarantee of a theatrical release for indie films.
But that’s where Yashraj has stepped in, backing a film that may have cost less than their budget for promoting big films. The release date for Titli is October 16, 2015.
Set in Delhi, the film revolves around a criminal family where the youngest brother of the car-jacking gang decides to quit. His brothers are initially angry, but then decide to get him married and settle down. His bride, however, comes with her own set of problems. How the two form a partnership to escape their dysfunctional families sets the stage for gripping, often violent, drama.
After its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year where it won an audience award, director Prashant Nair’s film Umrika quickly found buyers in France, Germany, Austria, Australia, South Korea and elsewhere in the world.
Set in an Indian village in which a boy learns about his missing brother in the US and decides to go out in search of him, Umrika has been described as both funny and meaningful at the same time. Producer Manish Mundra – who produced Masaan earlier in 2015 – tweeted inJuly that the film would be released on 9/11 but that didn’t happen.
Backing indie films staunchly, Mundra has also produced Dhanak, written and directed by Nagesh Kukunoor, which won the Grand Prix for Best Feature in the Generation KPlus section for children at the Berlin Film Festival, 2015.
The film follows a young girl who steps out on an adventurous journey across the state of Rajasthan with her visually impaired little brother whom she has promised the gift of sight for his birthday. It is slated for a November release.
Peddlers, made in 2012, has been facing many of the stumbling blocks of the classic indie film. Producer Guneet Monga raised half the money for the project by posting the script on Facebook.
It premiered in the International Critics’ Week section at the Cannes Film Festival, in 2012 to favourable reviews, and It got picked up by Eros International for an Indian release, but it hasn’t hit theatres yet.
But with 2015 being the year that small budget and arthouse films have found their way into theatres (Labour of Love, Kaaka Muttai, Killa, Court, Margarita With A Straw, Qissa) there’s hope that Peddlers will be released soon.
At the Toronto International Film Festival this year, audiences got to see India’s first female buddy comedy. Director Pan Nalin’s Angry Indian Goddesses is produced by Gaurav Dhingra, also the co-producer of Peddlers. Angry Indian Goddesses is expected to get a theatrical release in part because it’s being positioned as an Indian Bridesmaids, and in part because of its talking point.
Nalin told Screen Daily, “Yes. India loves controversies, and Angry Indian Goddesses will undoubtedly provoke people, some will certainly be against it, but we hope others will stand by it.”