That said, a new crop of cineastes in Mumbai has begun pushing the envelope and putting an edgy, independent stamp on India's movie culture. They’re challenging the establishment by exploring darker topics and offering grittier portrayals, yet they’re still seeking the wide audiences of more commercial peers.
TIFF artistic director Cameron Bailey, a longtime programmer of films from the region, selected the 10 films for this year’s City to City program. He talked to CBC News about the exciting new wave of directors emerging out of Mumbai.
Q: What are you trying to showcase in this program?
A: There's a change happening in Mumbai right now … In the late '60s, when we had filmmakers like Arthur Penn and others challenge Hollywood [by] making movies like Bonnie and Clyde — that's what's happening in Mumbai right now. Or, if you think of people like John Salles and Spike Lee and the whole independent wave of New York filmmakers who came out in the late '70s and early '80s — that's this moment right now in Mumbai. So you have filmmakers like Anurag Kashyap and Dibakar Banerjee who are challenging what the Bollywood studios are doing. But they're not just making pure arthouse movies, they want the big audiences as well. They just want [their] movies to have a little bit more grit, a little bit more edge than Bollywood movies typically would have.
Q: So what's behind this shift in perspective?
A: Audiences in general in India are evolving. They're growing more international in their tastes. Satellite TV has brought in all kinds of movies from outside of the country … At the same time filmmakers are also coming out of film school [having seen] all kinds of films come out of all over the world. They're travelling to film festivals. The stories they want to tell and how they want to tell them are being influenced by what they're seeing coming out of North America or Europe or Latin America. So you have this more global sensibility on the part of the filmmakers and the audiences.
Q: Have these newer directors had success at the box office?
A: Some of these films, like Anurag Kashyap's Gangs of Wasseypur, which was released in India recently, have done very well. Same with Shanghai, Dibakar Banerjee's new film. These filmmakers are reaching audiences, but sometimes they're a different audience or a younger audience than the old-school films.
(This interview has been edited and condensed)