But like all film festivals, it's also the quality of films that count. And this year's Celebration of Indian Cinema segment has a choice selection of features that encompass the diversity of a country that speaks innumerable languages and houses various film industries besides Bollywood. tabloid! looks at some of the films.
Ladies vs Ricky Bahl
Kicking off the selection this year will be the world premiere of the much-anticipated, very commercial film Ladies vs Ricky Bahl starring two of Bollywood's fast rising stars Ranveer Singh and Anushka Sharma. Last seen in last year's surprise hit Band Baaja Baaraat, the pair were lauded by critics for their easy camaraderie and comic timing. In Ladies… Singh plays Ricky Bahl who makes a living by deceiving women until he meets his match in the form of Sharma's character. Maneesh Sharma, who directed Band Baaja Baaraat, completes the hit trio. The cast and crew of the film will walk the red carpet prior to the gala screening at the Madinat Arena.
Palas In Bloom (Akam)
From the South Indian state of Kerala, known for its bourgeoning art house films, comes Palas In Bloom (Akam), a film by Shalini Usha Nair. Nair, better known for assisting renowned directors in the Malayalam film industry, adapts a novel by renowned author Malayattoor Ramakrishnan called Yakshi. Starring Fahad Fazil and debutante Anumol, the film retells the classic novel in contemporary settings. Young architect Srini (Fadel) suspects that his wife Ragini (Anumol) is not what she appears to be and begins to wonder if she is a yakshi — a female demon, who in the guise of a beautiful woman, seduces men and drinks their blood. The film's screening will be its world premiere.
Life is a Game (Maithanam)
Also from South India, this time from Tamil Nadu, one of the biggest film industries after Bollywood, is a film by debutant director Muthusamy Sakthivel. Life is a Game (Maithanam) is the story of four friends from a small village who will do anything for each other. All in Tamil, the film has already opened to rave reviews in India, and features Suresh Guru, Jyothi Raj, Sekhar and Kennedy in lead roles.
7th August (Baishe Srabon)
From West Bengal comes this film by Srijit Mukherji which explores the dark underberlly of the capital Kolkata and the bhadraloks (gentlemen) of the city who have been raised on literature, music, fine arts, politics and sports. Linking the violence in the city's dark alleys, with one of the most controversial chapters in the history of Bengali Poetry — the Hungryalist Movement of the 1960s, the film stars Prosenjit Chatterjee, Parambrata Chatterjee, Raima Sen, Abir Chatterjee and Gautam Ghosh, who made a comeback after 29 years.
Having already travelled to the Chicago International Film Festival, Kshay, which means corrode, is director Karan Gour's take on obsession and its consequences. Based in Mumbai, the 92-minute black and white film tells the story of a housewife obsessed about an unfinished sculpture of Hindu goddess Lakshmi, which eventually corrodes her sense of reasoning.
Another Bengali film from east India, Laptop will see the return of Rahul Bose to art house fare. Bose, who started his career with indie films before hitting the bright lights of Bollywood, is the central character in this feature which narrates how a single commodity — a laptop — connects several lives and narratives as it changes hands. The film, which will premiere at International Film Festival of India, is also competing in Diff's Muhr AsiaAfrica's Feature category. Both director Kaushik Ganguly, known for tackling issues surrounding sexuality in his films, and Bose will walk the red carpet for the film's screening.
Rohit Pandey's 16-minute film in Hindi tells the story of a city hit by violence. At the border of the town, a man takes care of all the death around. One night, he notices a strange woman wandering through the empty streets. As her behaviour changes, so does his own journey. The film is also competing in the Muhr AsiaAfrica Short Films category.
Sound of Old Rooms (Kokkho-Poth)
Another offering from Kolkata, India's cultural capital, this documentary film traces the coming-of-age of a poet living in the city. Filmed in a combination of cinema-verite and neo-realist styles, this up-close documentary takes the viewer through the life experiences of Sarthak, a man trying to hold on to his calling of being a poet while juggling a regular family. The film is also competing in the Muhr AsiaAfrica Documentary Films category.
Jai Bhim Comrade
From one of India's most controversial and critically acclaimed documentary filmmakers, Anand Patwardhan, comes this three-hour-plus film which explores the history of activism by Dalits (backward caste) in Maharashtra. Based in the aftermath of the killing of 10 activists in Mumbai in 1997, the film has been in the making for 14 years. It will also compete in the Muhr AsiaAfrica Documentary Films category.