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Ash's next to premiere in Toronto fest

July 08, 2005 15:02 IST

Aishwarya Rai's second international project, Mistress Of Spices, based on Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's best-selling novel of the same name, will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival that starts on September 8.

The film is about a San Francisco woman (Rai) with magical powers and her dilemma over a man (Dylan McDermott) she has fallen for and who could end her healing touch. It is co-produced by Gurinder Chadha, who directed Rai in Bride & Prejudice. The new film is directed by Chadha's husband, first-time director Paul Mayeda Berges.

As a tribute to Chadha, whose Bend It Like Beckham was discovered at TIFF and became one of its hottest films several years ago, a free screening of the hit 2002 comedy is slated on July 30 by TIFF.

TIFF, which draws big-time Hollywood filmmakers and distributors, will start with Deepa Mehta's Water. The film had faced the wrath of conservative Hindu groups and its shooting in India was stopped a few years ago following threats to the film unit. The groups were angry that Mehta's film questioned orthodoxy and the treatment of young widows many decades ago in holy cities such as Hardwar.

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When she cancelled the shooting and appealed for support from artists across the world, Star Wars creator George Lucas and sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar joined a number of artists in condemning threats against an artist.

Mehta's film, shot in Sri Lanka recently with a cast led by Lisa Ray, Seema Biswas and John Abraham, will open the 30th edition of TIFF.

The festival will also see the premieres by filmmakers such as Ang Lee and David Cronenberg.

The preliminary list of films announced a few days ago includes Ashok Amritraj's Shopgirl, starring Steve Martin (he also wrote the novella of the same name), and Buddhadev Dasgupta's Kalpurush, starring Sameera Reddy, Rahul Bose and Mithun Chakraborty. Dasgupta, a favourite at TIFF, will have his film shown in the Masters section.

Like Water, both films will have their world premiere in Toronto.

Amu and Dreaming Lhasa are two more  films from India. The 10-day film festival is expected to screen more than 300 feature films, short films and documentaries from more than 80 countries.

"Over the years, TIFF has increasingly become a festival of a very high stature -- a launching pad for Oscar nominations and films that catch the attention of leading distributors in Hollywood and Europe," says Amritraj.

Steve Martin had played the lead in Bringing Down The House, a comedy co-produced by Amritraj, which grossed about $200 million two years ago, making the $35 million film one of the most profitable films of the year.

Amritraj describes the new film, which reportedly cost $25 million, as a funny and poignant love story in the modern age. The film, directed by Anand Tucker who is based in London and whose father was an Indian airline executive, catches a glimpse of the lives of three very different people on diverse paths. But they are all searching for the same thing.

Mirabelle (Claire Danes) is a 'plain Jane' overseeing the rarely frequented glove counter at Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills. For a long time, she has been struggling to keep up with even the minimum payment on her credit card and student loans, When she meets a rich, handsome but older man Ray Porter (Steve Martin), she hopes for a miracle. But she is not all that free to choose her destiny, it seems. For she is also being pursued by Jeremy (Jason Schwartzman), a bachelor who is not quite as cultured and successful as Ray.

Mehta's new film is the final piece in her trilogy on the elements, following Fire (1996) and Earth (1998). Set in pre-Independence India against the backdrop of Mahatma Gandhi's rise to power, Water tells the story of eight-year old child-bride Chuyia exiled to a widow's ashram. The project angered some Hindu groups already incensed over the story of two lesbians in Fire.

"But I knew I was going to complete the film (Water) somehow," says Mehta. "It was clear to me there were ways to make the film and have it released worldwide."

Dasgupta takes on family intimacies and global politics in Kalpurush. "I have been wanting to make this film for a long time," says Dasgupta. "It is perhaps the most intriguing, complex and intimate film I have made. But is not out of the reach of the filmgoers."

Rahul Bose plays a man struggling to come to terms with the memory of his powerful father, which leads him into long-held secrets. Dasgupta has also said his film unmasks a grasping Bengali middle-class, and also offers a critique of the ever present influence of America.

In Shonali Bose's Amu,  a 21-year-old Indian American woman returns to India to visit her family and in turn is forced to confront the secrets and lies of her past. The film will be shown in the Contemporary Cinema section.

The Discovery section that highlights new directors will present Dreaming Lhasa by Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam. The movie is about a young woman, who grows up in New York City and returns to Dharamsala, home to the exiled Dalai Lama, to make a film about its Tibetan community. 

Dreaming Lhasa takes a dramatic turn when the woman meets a monk who has escaped from political imprisonment in Tibet. Their journey into Tibet's fractured past becomes the  woman's own voyage of self-discovery, the filmmakers say.

Arthur J Pais