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'There's an audience for films with 'different' sensibilities

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, July 5: He is the latest in the list of India-born filmmakers who have been making waves on the international cinematic circuit through their thought-provoking ventures that bridge the divide between art and commercial cinema.

Like his predecessors on the "crossover film" scene (a term often used to characterise Indians making waves on the international cinematic circuit) like Mira Nair ('Salaam Bombay' and 'Monsoon Wedding'), Gurinder Chaddha ('Bhaji on the Beach', 'Bend It Like Beckham' and 'Bride and Prejudice'), Manoj Shyamalan ('Sixth Sense) and Shekhar Kapur ('Elizabeth' and 'Four Feathers'), France-based filmmaker Pan Nalin believes in making films that deal with universal themes that strike a chord with audiences cutting across barriers of nationalities and cultures.

For example while his debut directorial venture 'Samsara', which released in India last week, deals with a universal story of how the desire to live life to the fullest makes a monk question the spiritual values of monastic existence and opt for the various pleasures life has to offer.

His next venture 'Valley of Flowers', to be premiered at the forthcoming Asian Film festival in the capital, is a love story spanning two centuries and several continents.

Films like 'Samsara' and 'Valley of Flowers', which are largely a translation of the filmmaker's own experiences and philosophical musings into cinematic images, may not seem palatable to the average Indian cinegoer coming as they do amidst the candyfloss stuff and comedies ruling the roost, but Pan Nalin believes that such films would definitely appeal to the audiences in India today.

Talking to UNI here before the release of his 'Valley of Flowers', starring Naseeruddin Shah, Milind Soman and a French actress, Pan Nalin said,'' no matter what the trends, I believe there is definitely an audience for such kind of films with different sensibilities. This is proved by the success of my debut venture 'Samsara' which has, before arriving to India, made wav es the world over, picking up more than 30 prestigious awards and earning more than Rs 100 crore. Infact, in none of the 60 countries where 'Samsara' has been screened till date, has any distributor lost his money on the venture.

In any case, with an increasing number of multiplexes coming up in India in recent years, there is a new kind of audience thronging the cinema halls which would be appreciative of sensible films like 'Samsara' and 'Valley of Flowers.'' The filmmaker said trial shows for the films held over the last few weeks had elicited an encouraging response.

''Infact, after watching 'Samsara', many distributors in India have shown interest in my next film 'Valley of flowers', which stars veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah, model-turned-actor Milind Soman and a French actress. This is despite the fact that 'Valley of Flowers' is not a typical Bollywood film and only 20 per cent of it is in Hindi,''the filmmaker said.

Though Pan Nalin admitted that the delay in release of 'Samsara' in India (the film released in Australia in 2003) was largely because at that time there were no outlets for such films in India, he nevertheless feels the increasing multiplexisation in India has thrown open a new avenue for 'different' kind of cinema that 'Samsara' and 'Valley of Flowers' represent.

''When I made 'Samsara' three years ago, distributors here did not show much interest in the film saying that a cinematic venture with no stars and no songs had no chance in the Indian market. It's only recently that Sony Pictures expressed an interest in distributing the film in India, which I think is a brave move on their part.'' ''I had almost given up hope of getting the film released in India. However, Sony pictures felt that a film like 'Samsara' with as universal theme, was as relevant today as it was three years ago,''the filmmaker said.

''Also, today, the coming up of multiplexes all over India is bringing to the cinema halls a new kind of audience which is appreciative of films like 'Samsara and 'Valley of Flowers',''he said.

While 'Samsara', which features New York-based actor Shawn Ku and Chinese actress Christy Chung in the lead roles, has a cast drawn from 13 countries, 'Valley of Flowers' feature Indian actors Naseeruddin Shah, Milind Soman and a French actress.

'I believe in casting persons who look for the character rather than for their star status,''the filmmaker said.

His penchant for staying close to reality in his films is evident from the fact that while 'Samsara' was entirely in Laddakhi language and shot at an altitude of 15000 ft, 'Valley of flowers', which traverses two centuries, beginning in the early 19th century and ending in the new millennium, was shot in several continents and is largely in French language, only 17 per cent of it being in Hindi.

Now that 'Valley of flowers' has been chosen to be the opening film at the eighth edition of the Osians' Asian film festival, to be held in the capital from July 14 to 23, the filmmaker is quite excited.

''Screened at the Asian film festival will give the film the right kind of exposure in that it will be seen by an audience with sensibilities different from the average cinegoer,''he said.

However, he said in order to ensure a wider acceptability for the films in India, where languages like Hindi and Tamil are spoken by a majority of people, Sony pictures was making arrangements to dub the films in these languages.

Asked if he planned to make a typical Bollywood film in the near future, Pan Nalin said,''I would love to make a Bollywood film provided I have the right kind of story.''


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