Egypt is not unfamiliar with Indian films and Bollywood stars. Amitabh Bachchan, the living legend of Indian cinema, enjoys the same iconic status in India as in Egypt. His movies from 70s and early 80s are still screened on Egyptian television, a time when commercial cinema in India was dominated by the image of the “angry young man, when realistic cinema was dubbed as ‘alternative’ and enjoyed a limited audience.
Indian cinema has come a long way since then, introducing innovative story lines and technical advancements. Today, a large number of Indian films are released abroad and regularly grace film festivals around the world.
A solid line-up of Indian films is set for next week’s 33rd Cairo International Film Festival which has chosen India to be this year’s guest of honor.
On November 10, the festival will open with Hindi film “New York. Directed by Kabir Khan, the film deals with prejudices that emerged in the aftermath of 9/11. Starring the current heartthrob of Indian cinema, Katrina Kaif, and the versatile Neil Nitin Mukesh, the movie tells the story of three inseparable friends attending college in the US in 2001. They come together eight years later when one of them is branded a terrorist and the other is out to prove that he is not one.
Naseeruddin Shah plays the protagonist in “A Wednesday, a gripping drama about a common man’s fight against a system that allows fair trial to proclaim terrorists but is ineffective in guranteeing even a modicum of security to its citizens. The unexpected events unfolding towards the end are gripping; it also comes with a message that touches the heart.
A retrospective of films by the three time National Award winner Madhur Bhandrakar is also scheduled for this year’s edition. Bhandarkar’s films are intensively researched and deal with culture-specific and work-specific milieu. His film “Page 3 delves into the dysfunctional lives of the rich and famous.
“Corporate peels away the glossy veneer of a jet-set corporate life, exposing the nexus between business and politics and the harsh reality of corporate espionage with all its maneuverings and ruthlessness. “Fashion chronicles the meteoric rise of a small town girl in the world of fashion against the glittering backdrop of haute couture in India.
Though the term Bollywood is synonymous with the Indian film industry, it actually represents only the Hindi film industry centered in the city of Mumbai (formerly Bombay). With at least 24 other languages spoken by at least a million people each, India also boasts of a thriving regional film industry.
The Indian Panaroma section will feature some notable films from South India. “Naalu Pennungal (Four Women), which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, is composed of four distinct parts that chronicles the stories of women from different strata of the society. In each, a woman must submit to a role society dictates for her; the moment she tries to withdraw, she is forced to conform yet again.
The director of the film, the brilliant Adoor Gopalakrishnan, has won several national and international awards and will also chair the International Jury at this year’s Cairo International Film Festival.
“Kanchipuram is a sensitive portrayal of the conflict between a father’s promise to his daughter and his ideologies. The father is an expert silk weaver himself, yet he is unable to afford a silk sari for his daughter. He is forced to steal silk threads in order to weave a silk sari for his daughter’s wedding. His love for his daughter turns him into a traitor to a movement he has espoused.
Another notable entry in the Indian selection is “Gulabi Talkies, winner of the Best Indian Film Award at the 2008 Osian’s Cinefan Festival of Asian and Arab Cinema. Multi-layered and multi-nuanced, the film deals with myriad emotions through the story of a mid-wife pitted against the numerous social, economic and political changes taking place at the end of the 20th century in a coastal village in south India.
Pankaj Kapur’s outstanding portrayal of an upstanding Brahmin Hindu priest is the highlight of the film “Dharam. The character he plays adopts a child, who wins his heart completely, only to learn later that he is a Muslim. An enlightened Kapur becomes the voice of reason amidst the bloodbath of communal riots.
Anil Kapoor and Irrfan Khan, who starred in Danny Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire, are expected to attend the closing ceremony. Bollywood actress Celina Jaitley, who is the brand ambassador of Egypt tourism in India, will also be present.
A host of other Indian films from different genres are slated for the festival.