The Akshay Kumar-starrer Singh Is Kinng -- which its distributors claim has grossed $25 million worldwide in 12 days -- will have a high profile release at the Toronto International Film Festival next month.
"The story is set one month after the violent events of 2002 came to an end," says Nandita, who has been working to get the project off the ground for over four years. The story, which unfolds over 24 hours, 'explores the impact of violence on the human psyche, on relationships, and on one's ability to remain hopeful in the face of a horrendous tragedy.'
The festival, which after Cannes and Berlin, has become a powerhouse for the sale of small and big films from across the globe will also show films directed by Deepa Mehta (Heaven on Earth) and Priyadarshan (Kanchivaram). Mira Nair and Shekhar Kapur's short films, a part of the New York, I Love You omnibus are also being screened.
TIFF has started offering a slate of highly popular films along with the gritty and introspective art film recently, and shows at least one high profile Bollywood film. Last year, it screened Rituparno Ghosh's The Last Lear, and before that, it screened Karan Johar's Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna.
'The festival has always been dedicated to showcasing the best in films from Asia for our diverse Toronto audiences,' the festival's co-director Cameron Bailey said in a statement. Bailey had programmed South Asian films at the festival for over five years. 'With programmer Raymond Phathanavirangoon now selecting our films from Southeast Asia, TIFF has increased its focus on the vibrant film communities in these regions, paving the way for a significant presence of Asian cinema at this year's festival,' he added.
Apart from Akshay and Singh Is Kinng director Anees Bazme, the Indian contingent will include Priyadrashan and Nandita, and Preity Zinta, who plays a beleaguered immigrant wife in Heaven on Earth.
The 33rd edition of the festival will be held between September 4 and 13, and will screen 312 films. The festival will feature movies from 64 countries.
Last year's Oscar winners Ethan Coen and Joel Coen return with the comedy Burn After Reading starring George Clooney, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton, Richard Jenkins and Brad Pitt. Also showing is the two part opus Che by Stephen Soderbergh, the biopic of the revolutionary.
TIFF sets off the annual Golden Globe and Oscar buzz screened, as well as finds distributors for smaller films.
Singh Is Kinng, which is expected to overtake the $35 million worldwide gross of Om Shanti Om in a few weeks, is one of the 11 gala presentations at TIFF.
'Singh Is Kinng isn't a great movie,' The New York Times wrote in its review. 'There are too many sloppy action sequences, the humour's too broad, the storytelling lackluster. But the immensely likable Mr Kumar shines as a Capraesque hero who spreads bedrock Indian values -- honour your mother, help the poor -- by example, most conspicuously as the accidental leader of a feared crime gang in Australia.'
Giving up his preoccupation with comedies, Priyadarshan offers in Kanchivaram a heartfelt story of good intentions that could go wrong. It centers on Vengadam, an optimist and weaver of saris, who at the birth of his daughter pledges to wrap her in the finest silk on the day of her wedding. If the promise is not fulfilled, people tell him, a curse will follow. Desperate to keep his word, he steals a thread of silk each day, weaving secretly each night. But when his access to the silk is in danger, Vengadam becomes desperate to find a way to keep his promise.
While Priyadarshan and Bazmee are represented at the festival for the first time, Deepa Mehta always had her films shown at TIFF. Her Oscar nominated Water, which went on to gross over $4.5 million in North America making it the highest grossing Hindi language film in the territory, was the opening film at the festival.
"Can I think of any other film festival that has invited as many Indian films year after year," she muses. "But then one must also remember that Toronto has not only one of the most film loving communities in the world, and a significant number of them are people of South Asian origin."
Mehta will show her first feature film Sam and Me (1991) at the festival, and will discuss how it helped to launch her career. The little seen but well received film tells the story of Sam Cohen, a cranky older Jewish man and Nikhil, a young immigrant, who is hired to take care of him. 'Probing beyond the clichés of cross-cultural encounters, Mehta and writer Ranjit Chowdhry (who also plays Nikhil) bring to the screen a warm and complex relationship that bridges the ethnic communities from which each man comes,' the festival literature says.