Raman Raghav 2.0, sure but Magadheera and Khalnayak as part of an annual celebration of genre-bending entries and “rare classics”?
These films are among the Indian titles selected for the annual Fantastic Fest, which will be held in the Texan capital Austin between September 22 and 29. This year’s edition has promised a special focus on classic and contemporary Indian cinema. Anurag Kashyap’s Raman Raghav 2.0, whose international title is Psycho Raman, is a portrait of a serial killer. SS Rajamouli’s blockbuster Magadheera, released in 2009, is a time-travelling vengeance saga, while Subhash Ghai’s kitschy Khalnayak dates back to 1993 and features Sanjay Dutt in one of his most well-known roles. Original Copy, the documentary by German father-son directing pair Florian Heinzen-Ziob and Georg Heinzen on one of Mumbai’s last surviving hand-painted poster artists, will also be screened.
These films will be shown alongside Andrea Arnold’s acclaimed American Honey and Tim Burton’s dark fantasy Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children as well as The Greasy Strangler (synopsis: Ronnie fears his first love affair is turning his father into a bloodthirsty monster who’s covered in grease and has an 18-inch penis that looks like a dead chicken) and the Thai film The Dwarves Must Be Crazy (synopsis: A Thai village of little people is attacked by evil, butt-munching, fart-tracking Krause spirits – floating heads with attached intestines – in this slapstick horror-comedy.)
“It is a dream come true to bring the glorious excess and pageantry of Indian cinema to Fantastic Fest,” Evrim Ersoy, Head of Programming, said in a press release. “We are celebrating not only Bollywood but also Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam cinema, highlighting the kaleidoscope of textures and content that is as wide and varied as the subcontinent itself. Guests will experience the cutting edge from these regions and discover rare classics.”
Fantastic Fest provides a true measure of how deeply eccentric and personalised film festival programming often is. Since 2005, the festival has been showcasing films that represent various genres, and its programming includes works of high art as well as schlocky pulp.
In its inaugural year, Fantastic Fest showed Richard Linklater’s animated film A Scanner Darkly alongside several horror film titles. In 2006, Ram Gopal Varma’s crime dramas Ab Tak Chhappan, Company and Shiva were shown alongside Sriram Raghavan’s Ek Hasina Thi, which Varma produced. This was also the year of Darren Aronofsky’s Fountain and Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, so Varma was in exalted company.
Naan Kadavul by Tamil director Bala, whose films focus on outcasts and outliers, was among the American premieres at the 2012 edition. Naan Kadavul was screened along with Takeshi Kitano’s yakuza drama Outrage and martial arts and horror flicks.
In 2013, Rajamouli’s fantasy adventure Eega and Amit Kumar’s yet-to-be-released neo-noir Monsoon Shootout shared screen space with productions as diverse as Miss Zombie, Michel Gondry’s Mood Indigo and the first Laotian horror film, Chantaly. Q’s horror movie Ludo was the sole Indian entry in 2015.
More Indian titles are expected to be added to this year’s edition, and at the very least, their filmmakers will have earned festival bragging rights. “This is a proud and vibrant world of film that will surprise, shock and astound at Fantastic Fest,” promised Evrim Ersoy. We are eagerly awaiting the audience reaction to Choli Ke Peeche from Khalnayak.