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Breaking out of Bollywood

Nizhalkkuthu (Shadow Kill) was one of the Indian classics being screened


India is the world’s largest producer of films but filmmakers are struggling to break outside the Bollywood mould.

The diversity of new Indian talent was the focus of an Open Doors networking section at the Locarno Film Festival, where 12 film projects were promoted – chosen from among 200 submissions in 18 languages from 30 different Indian regions. Four of the films won cash prizes, with the top SFr30,000 award going to The Trapper’s Snare by Shanker Raman.

Just how to develop Indian cinema was the subject of a panel of top industry experts who passionately debated what lessons should be learnt from Bollywood. Panelists agreed cinema was moved towards a new diverse identity, away from the “cheap and easily accessible” song and dance formula, as one panelist described it. Revered contemporary filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan argued Bollywood was a "distracting force" and no lessons could be learned. However actor Kabir Bedi, who got his break in Bollywood, said it carried a "very powerful social message": "The language of Bollywood is the most widely spoken in India. It almost consciously preaches good relations between Hindus and Muslims."

Elsewhere in the festival, 13 Indian classics were screened, with Gopalakrishnan presenting his 2002 work Nizhalkkuthu (Shadow Kill).

Jessica Dacey in Locarno,

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