Korean films have become popular in India, most of them made – and further twisted – in Hindi versions without even a tip of the hat to the original. But that doesn't mean an Indian film opening a South Korean film festival is unusual.
Small indie films from India are using the international festival back-door to access the mainstream front of Indian theatre – flashing festival laurels on social media platforms to double audiences.
Zubaan, starring Vicky Kaushal and Sarah-Jane Dias premiered at the Busan Film Festival in the last week of September 2015. It's a big platform for a small film. And it's a route indie films from India have been taking regularly, using the credentials via social media to win audiences back home.
But director Mozez Singh's film may seem an unlikely candidate, because it's not exactly your typical arthouse creation. Singh himself calls it ‘mainstream Bollywood married to the spirit of indie and world cinema.’ And how does the world feel about it? Well, here's what The Hollywood Reporter said:
‘Zubaan is a scattershot, only occasionally engaging rags-to-riches-to-rags Bollywood spectacle more notable for its "WTF?" moments than for toe-tapping songs. Despite an insanely attractive cast and some striking visual moments, prospects for Zubaan overseas seem thin at best, and even success at home will be moderate at best given that other, more polished Bollywood product is easy to find and a smattering of touchy subject matter could raise eyebrows.’
Producer Guneet Monga has previously produced other indie films like Peddlers and Haraamkhor which have toured the festival circuit but have still not been able to get a release in India. And despite Zubaan’s top bill at Busan, there isn't much noise about it.
Of course, it isn't as though Zubaan is the only Indian films at Busan this year. Amongst the others in the section titled ‘A Window On Asian Cinema’ are: Meghna Gulzar’s Talvar, Hansal Mehta’s Aligarh, Bhaskar Hazarika’s Kothanodi, Biju Viswanath’s Orange Candy, Mani Ratnam’s O Kadhal Kanmani, Neeraj Ghaywan’s Masaan, and Suman Ghosh’s Peace Heaven. Hari Viswanath’s Radio Set and Nagesh Kukunoor’s Dhanak are also being screened in other sections.
However, Indians don't often watch Korean films at home. They don't need to. The recent film Drishyam (2015) – made in Kannada, Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam before being remade in Hindi – was clearly inspired by the Korean film Perfect Number (2012), which was an adaptation of Keigo Higashino's cult novel The Devotion of Suspect X.
In 2011, South Korean director Na Hong-jin was on the jury panel of MAMI (Mumbai Academy of the Moving Image) film festival. He was apparently gifted a DVD of Murder 2 (2011). Just that it was a blatant copy of his own film, The Chaser (2008). Did he ever watch it?