"There is more to Indian creative talent than snake charmers and monkeys, "said Sushma Swaraj, India's minister of information and broadcasting.on the eve of the screening of Devdas, the first "Bollywood" film to obtain a slot in Cannes Official Selection.
The minister heads a 100-strong delegation to Cannes, which she claims is testimony to a rapidly-changing, export-driven, outlook within the Indian film industry.
"We have big stars such as Shah Rukh Khan, [former Miss World] Aishwarya Rai, and big names from production as well as seven films in different parts of the festival," said Swaraj. " All this makes our presence very effective."
Swaraj said that there never was any reluctance to export on the part of Indian film-makers, but rather a lack a drive. "Indian producers were quite satisfied with Indian domestic audiences and profits and with their approach to the non-resident Indian audience," said Swaraj.
The minister said that international perceptions towards Indian films have also evolved rapidly. "The Indian economy has become more international and more high tech in many ways. That has helped people to understand that our creative talent goes is much more diverse that most assumptions," she said. "We now also have a new generation of directors who understand that the outside world is watching. This is in turn is reflected in what appears on screen."
Civil service sources say that the infrastructure of the industry is also being strengthened by state initiatives such as the Central Bank decision to remove all barriers to foreign direct investment in the sector. This has already encouraged Twentieth Century Fox to set up as a theatrical distributor in the country and the establishment of the first completion bond company.