Toronto International Film Festival 2023: Six Indian films qualify

Recognised as the world’s largest public film festival, this year’s TIFF will run from September 7 to 17.
A scene from A Match by Jayant Somalkar
A scene from A Match by Jayant Somalkar
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As the lovely summer days drift into the rearview mirror in Canada, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) will enter its 48th season on September 7 and end on September 17. Among the 280 films selected from the 4,200 submissions from across the world, six Indian films have qualified in various categories. They are Laapataa Ladies produced by Aamir Khan and directed by Kiran Rao (Category: Centrepiece), A Match by Jayant Somalkar (Category: Discovery), Dear Jassi by Tarsem Singh Dhandwar (Category: Platform), Thank You For Coming by Karan Boolani (Category: Gala Presentation), Kill by Nikhil Nagesh Bhat (Category: Midnight Madness), and The World is Family by Anand Patwardhan (Category: Luminaries). The absence of south Indian films at the festival this year will be glaring.

Laapataa Ladies is a hilarious feminist coming-of-age tale of mistaken identities between two young brides on their wedding day. Jayant Somalker’s debut feature A Match depicts a woman’s silent fight against the patriarchal practices that keep depriving the individual rights of women in our society. Dear Jassi showcases the true-life tale of a young couple yearning to be together when time, distance, and familial expectations are at odds.

Karan Boolani’s debut film Thank You For Coming featuring Bhumi Pednekar in the lead and supported by Anil Kapoor is an unapologetically sex positive comedy about a woman who refuses to be classified and pursues her own pleasure. Nikhil Nagesh Bhat’s latest movie, Kill, is a thriller inspired by real-life train robberies in India by gangsters.

Anand Patwardhan’s The World is Family is a deeply evocative personal film that highlights the Hindu-Muslim camaraderie during the tumultuous period of India’s freedom struggle and also touches upon the story of his parents during that time.

The World is Family by Anand Patwardhan
The World is Family by Anand Patwardhan

In the Platform category, which showcases the top 10 films that garnered high recognition from selectors, 10 countries from three continents are represented with their world premieres. Renowned filmmaker Barry Jenkins, actor and director Nadine Labaki, and actor-producer Anthony Shim form the jury for this category.

The Contemporary World Cinema programme that used to showcase contemporary films from around the world will henceforth be known as Centrepiece. “The rebranding of the TIFF programme, formerly Contemporary World Cinema, is a reflection of the festival’s vision to provide an elevated platform for the international cinema for acclaimed titles from festivals around the globe, highly anticipated premieres from Canadian and international talents and the latest work of influential filmmaking luminaries',” said Anita Lee, TIFF’s chief programming officer. The programme has 47 movies selected from 45 countries. Kiran Rao’s Laapataa Ladies will certainly be an attraction.

Compared to previous years, there is an influx of movies from the Persian Gulf. Yellow Bus, directed by Wendy Bednarz, has noteworthy performances from Indian actors Tannishtha Chatterjee and Amit Sial. The film, set against the backdrop of a scorching summer, narrates a real-life tragedy that unfolded in the UAE a few years ago.

Next Goal Wins by Taika Waititi, Strange Way of Life by Pedro Almodovar, Shoshana by Michael Winterbottom, The Boy and the Heron by Hayao Miyazaki, The Critic by Anand Tucker, The New Boy by Warwick Thornton, and The Queen of My Dreams by Fawzia Mirza are some of the films being showcased at the festival.

Spanish director Pedro Almodovar
Spanish director Pedro Almodovar

This year’s TIFF Tribute Awards go to Spanish director and screenwriter Pedro Almodovar (Jeff Skoll Award in Impact Media), American filmmaker Spike Lee (Ebert Director Award), and Canadian director Shawn Levy (Norman Jewison Career Achievement Award). Some more recipients are to be declared in the coming days. This is the fifth year since TIFF started its Tributes Gala Awards, besides the recognition package given to the best movies screened. Unlike the regular awards presented on the festival’s last day, which are based on jury findings and audience voting, the Tribute Awards are presented to people or organisations picked by the TIFF governing body and announced before the festival.

Renowned curator, critic, and director Meenakshi Shedde is the senior programme advisor for South Asian films this year.

Recognised as the world’s largest public film festival, this year’s TIFF is expected to draw an audience of about 5,00,000 and over 2,000 volunteers besides delegates from press and industry.

Suresh Nellikode has written fiction for Malayalam periodicals like Mathrubhumi and Kalakaumudi. He’s also been a contributor to The New Indian Express and Khaleej Times. He currently lives in Canada.

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