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'A rare, gay film to come out of India'

April 24, 2003 10:47 IST

Mahesh Dattani's Mango Soufflé was sold out at both showings at its premiere in London. "Not even Lagaan which was premiered in the same theatre got a full house," director Dattani told in an exclusive interview on his return from the screening.

Mango Soufflé has been chosen for the competition section at the prestigious Commonwealth Film Festival. 'We are happy to confirm that Mango Soufflé by Mahesh Dattani has been accepted at the Commonwealth Film Festival in Manchester, UK,' says festival programme coordinator Mathieu Ravier. 'The film will compete for the Audience Award for Best Feature Film (cash award). The screening is provisionally scheduled for  June 12, 2003 at 2030 GMT at AMC Great Northern Cinemas.'A still from Mango Souffle

Soufflé premiered in London at the National Film Theatre April 15. There were two screenings, one in the large hall and the second in a smaller one. "Both screenings on the 15th and 16th were sold out a day in advance," exults Dattani. "But then, the festival is such a prestigious one that it draws a lot of crowd. Also, the success at San Fransisco -- we were on the cover of Trikone, a South Asian gay magazine -- did the trick, I think. It is a small world."

"I enjoyed the screening of Soufflé very much and just wanted to say the film deserves much support and celebration as a rare 'gay' film to emerge from India," Mike Butler, a member of the audience at one of the two London showings, told "It was highly entertaining, honest and open in the way the relationships unfolded between friends and family, especially the main protagonists. It told us much about the conflict of wanting to be openly gay and the fear of rejection in Indian society, a feeling all of us have at some time contemplated. But it was not in the least bit patronising, and the humour complemented the story wonderfully."

"The film has been invited to festivals in Miami, Boston, Vancouver, Los Angeles," says Dattani. "It goes on a 38 city tour to arthouse cinemas all over the UK later this year (two tours, in fact, distributed by the British Film Institute).

Soufflé was also shown at the Turin festival where it did well. "The Italians in Turin loved it," says Dattani. "Most of them hadn't seen an Indian film after Satyajit Ray! I told them how exciting it was that our greatest filmmaker was influenced by the neo-realism of Italian cinema of the 1940s and 1950s. It was, in a sense, a homecoming of independent Indian cinema to bring my small film to Turin, since we consider Ray to be the father of New Wave cinema in India."

Soufflé did not fare well when it released in India last month. Reviewers and audiences complained the film was a little too slow. "Audiences here are too used to every frame being filled by dialogue and/or music," says Dattani, "There is too much happening in the film if you ask me. Nobody overseas finds the film slow- paced."

M D Riti