In the wake of a string of deals between the US studios and Indian entertainment companies, India has become the subject of global scrutiny. But for the majority of Indian film-makers, particularly those working outside the Bollywood mainstream, there is still a huge disconnect between them and the international market.
While a few 'independent' Indian films are selected each year for overseas film festivals, few are picked up by international sales agents or receive a commercial release either at home or in overseas markets. Indeed, India has not been a major destination for sales agents, distributors and festival programmers, who face an uphill task uncovering the few exportable gems from an avalanche of production in dozens of languages.
In an attempt to bridge this gap, India's National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) launched a co-production and financing market, Film Bazaar, during the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) last year, and is holding the second edition at the Goa Marriott Resort later this month (November 26-29). A total of 12 Indian feature film and 10 documentary projects will be presented to potential international investors and distributors during the four-day event.
According to Nfdc managing director Nina Lath Gupta, the market aims to promote cinema which 'reflects the diversity of India, tells unseen and unheard stories of contemporary India, and highlights the new and unexpected of life in India, with a view to taking these stories to international audiences'.
This does not mean excluding commercial projects, but as Gupta explains, there is not much need to represent mainstream Bollywood films, which already reach huge global audiences through Mumbai and London-based distributors. Rather, the market focuses on film-makers working in English, Hindi and a range of other Indian languages, who are tackling India-centric subjects of interest to overseas audiences.
Among this year's line-up are projects from Camera d'Or winner Murali Nair (Throne Of Death), who is presenting the Hindi-Chinese cross-cultural love story Simply Love; No Smoking; director Anurag Kashyap has the thriller Happy Ending, and UK director Michael Anderson is presenting an adaptation of Indra Sinha's Booker-nominated novel Animal's People.
The documentary projects tackle subjects such as environmental issues, the choices facing young Indians and the winners and losers of global trade practices. This year, the market will also hand out prizes for the first time, including a $6,300 (EUR5,000) award from the Hubert Bals Fund and an award from the Entertainment Society of Goa.
In addition to the Nfdc-selected projects, the European Producers Club is bringing a slate of India-themed projects that are looking for Indian partners. These include an adaptation of Vikas Swarups' novel Six Suspects, to be produced by the UK's Paul Raphael, and UK producer Leslee Udwin's sequel to East Is East, entitled West Is West.
The market will also feature a Work-In-Progress workshop, a Screenwriters Lab, held in association with Amsterdam-based Binger Filmlab, a series of seminars and a masterclass from Indian film-maker Shyam Benegal. Screenwriters Lab mentors include New Zealand producer Philippa Campbell and writer Sooni Taraporevala (The Namesake), while advisers for the Work-In-Progress workshop include Arclight Films' Gary Hamilton.
As the first market of its kind in India, Film Bazaar had to overcome some scepticism last year, particularly from the local industry, which tends to be wary of government-backed initiatives. However, the inaugural edition drew a positive response from international delegates, while local players also seem to be warming to the idea of a projects market.
Among last year's projects, Rajesh Shera's post-tsunami drama Ocean Of An Old Man went on to secure funding from the Pusan International Film Festival's Asian Cinema Fund and then premiered in competition in Pusan's New Currents section. Anjan Dutt's BBD recently went into production, while another project, Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK's Shor (Noise), was made as a short and was well received at the recent Los Angeles Shorts Fest.
Meanwhile, the Nfdc, which has re-entered production financing, has committed 40% of the funding towards another Film Bazaar 2007 project - Bidyut Kotoky's As The River Flows, which also found a local co-producer, Sanjay Suri's Kahwa Entertainment, at last year's market.
Now word has started to spread, the market is drawing a wider range of overseas players, despite the global financial turmoil. International attendees expected this year include Arclight and Fortissimo Films, the UK Film Council, Hong Kong's Irresistible Films and Celluloid Dreams and MK2 from France. In addition, South Africa's National Film & Video Foundation and the Screen Producers Association of Australia (Spaa) are both sending delegations.
The local industry will be represented by executives from companies such as UTV, Reliance Big Entertainment, Alliance Media & Entertainment and Palador Pictures. Also giving the market a boost, Binger Filmlab director Ibo Abram, former director of Rotterdam's Cinemart, has been brought on board as a consultant.