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LOS ANGELES, Oct 6, (RTRS): Nandita Das is the renaissance woman of Indian arts. She is an award-winning film actress (“Fire”, “1947: Earth”) and writer-director (“Firaaq”), a theater playwright-director (“Between the Lines”), has served on the Cannes jury twice, is an honoree of the French government with the Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters, a Yale World Fellow, and is the first Indian to be inducted into the Hall of Fame at the Intl. Women’s Forum.
It is only appropriate then, that the subject of her next feature “Manto,” co-written by Das and Mir Ali Husain (“Dor”), wears as many hats. The film is based on renowned novelist, playwright, essayist, screenplay writer and short story writer Saadat Hasan Manto. Also an iconoclast, Manto faced trial six times on obscenity charges for his short stories — thrice in pre-1947 British India and thrice post-partition in the newly created Pakistan.
Das is co-producing via her Chhoti Prods. She met her French co-producing partners En Compagnie Des Lamas in Cannes earlier this year. Co-producer Sandrine Brauer’s “Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem” was nominated for a 2015 Golden Globe in the foreign-language category, and fellow producer Marie Masmonteil’s “Party Girl” won the Golden Camera and the Un Certain Regard Ensemble Prize at Cannes 2014.
The film is budgeted at $3.3 million out of which $1.1 million is already in place from private equity. Das says that there are quite a few Indian producers interested, but she is leaving the Indian part until the end. “I want to first figure out what we are looking at around the world,” says Das. “When I go to the Indian producers, I want to know exactly what the structure of the production is, to keep creative freedom, because I didn’t have a very good experience with ‘Firaaq.’”
The “Manto” team is meeting sales agents and distributors at the Busan Asian Project Market and will apply for CNC funding in France and look for an ARTE French/German broadcasting deal. Principal photography is expected to commence in July.
S.S. Rajamouli’s popularity in South Korea was evident Sunday when “Baahubali: The Beginning” played at the Busan Film Festival’s Open Cinema strand where hundreds of Korean fans lined up for the director’s autograph and photos armed with the film’s posters and DVDs of “Eega.” “Baahubali: The Beginning” released in July in India and Indian diaspora territories has grossed a massive $92 million.
Rajamouli has already shot some 40 percent of “Baahubali: The Conclusion” but hasn’t yet started on the rest because the team took some time off to bask in the success of part one. The sequel will commence shooting at the end of November at the film’s standing sets in Hyderabad’s Ramoji Film City and some forest sequences will shoot in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. Consequently, the release, which was scheduled for next summer, has been pushed back to the end of 2016.
The final 35 minutes of “Baahubali: The Beginning” features an epic war scene that has had audiences returning to the theaters multiple times. Expectations are therefore huge for the sequel. “We realize that the commercial success of part one predominantly came from the visual effects and the war. And I know people will be expecting more from the second part. They will not be dissatisfied,” says Rajamouli. “It will be much bigger.”
The “Baahubali” films were together budgeted at $40 million, but now, to accommodate the grander scale, it has grown to a shade under $50 million, says Shobu Yarlagadda, one of the film’s producers at Arka Mediaworks.
The “Baahubali” saga is about brothers in medieval India in conflict over a rich kingdom and is rich in imagery, battles and skulduggery. It stars Prabhas, Rana Daggubati, Anushka Shetty, Tamannah, Sathyaraj and Ramya Krishnan. The first part ended in a cliffhanger that will be resolved in the conclusion. Rajamouli says that the first part was merely an introduction to the story proper that will unfold in the conclusion. He is however not relying just on grandeur and visual effects. “We are banking on emotion, the sequel is much more emotional than part one,” says Rajamouli. “The way the characters behave in part two will be entirely different,” he says. “The characters will be seen in a new light. The characters are the same, but the characterizations will be different.”
Meanwhile, “Baahubali: The Beginning” is poised for an international rollout, beginning with China and Japan. Always known as a blockbuster filmmaker in India, Rajamouli acquired global cult status with his previous film “Eega” after the film played at the L’Etrange Festival, Montreuil, the Toronto After Dark Film Festival, the Shanghai Film Festival, the Madrid Film Festival and the Bucheon Fantastic Film Festival, Korea, amongst others. Yarlagadda expects to close the Korean territory on “Baahubali” imminently.
“Bombay Rose,” the first feature by award-winning Indian animator Gitanjali Rao, will be produced by France’s Les Films d’Ici, a veteran outfit with some 275 credits since 1975. The company’s Serge Lalou (“Waltz with Bashir”) is producing alongside Clara Mahieu (“Narcossist”). Gitanjali Rao Films is the co-producer.
Rao’s animated short “Printed Rainbow” won three awards at Cannes 2006 and another short “TrueLoveStory” was nominated for the Discovery Award at Cannes 2014. In 2011, she served on the Cannes shorts jury.
““Bombay Rose” is a love story set in the streets of Mumbai, under the influence of Bollywood,” says Rao. For her, the film is a case of third time’s a charm when it comes to features.