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|September 10, 2001||
Monsoon Wedding: buzzword at Toronto film fest
Arthur J Pais in Toronto
Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding, the only Indian film in the 18-film Gala section at the Toronto International Film Festival, comes to Toronto showered with praise -- and the Golden Lion Award for best film at the 58th edition of the Venice Film Festival. There were 20 films in the competition in 11 languages.
It is expected to have sold out shows in Toronto. The press screening on Tuesday is also expected to be a standing room only event.
Many critics expect it to get the audience award for the most popular film at the otherwise non-competitive Toronto International Film Festival.
Digvijay Singh, 28, has just made his debut. Nair, who is in her 40s, has directed half a dozen television and big screen films.
Nair is also addressing a press conference in Toronto early next week as part of the Gala section events.
The success of Monsoon Wedding in winning the top award at Venice is clearly a upset.
Though the film had won a lot of praise at Cannes and slew of good reviews at Venice, publications such as Variety, the influential trade publication, had predicted an Iranian film would take home the Lion.
The top pick among 15 magazine and newspaper critics in a daily poll is Raye Makhfi (The Secret Ballot), by director Babak Payami, which tells the story of a voting box that falls from the sky by parachute on election day, Variety said.
But since an Iranian film, Il Gerchio won the top Lion last year, Variety wondered if the judges would look for a film from another country.
Other favourites included Spanish director Alejandro Amenabar's The Others, a hit suspense film starring Nicole Kidman and produced by ex-husband Tom Cruise.
The film, made at about $20 million and distributed by Miramax Films, has grossed a healthy $70 million in North America and is getting ready for a global launch.
Another favourite was Eden, a film about an American Zionist couple who decide to move to Palestine in the 1940s, Variety said.
British film director Ken Loach, known for his leftist films and anti-American stance, was also a big favourite at Venice. His newest film, The Navigators, a story about railroad workers in mid-1990s' Britain whose lives are sadly changed by privatisation, was considered a hotshot for the top Lion.
Monsoon Wedding is a contender for the second tier awards, Variety said.
"This one is for India, my beloved India, my continuing inspiration," Nair told the audience, the Associated Press reported. She called the film "nothing but a testament to life."
Some of the reviews for Monsoon Wedding in Venice were mixed.
In a review titled Fair Weather Satire, the weekly publication, Screen International said Nair's film has been compared to Robert Altman's Monsoon Wedding but "this is pretty wide off the mark -- the satire bites less deep, there is plenty of romance and the potential disasters are resolved in a celebratory song-and-dance finale."
The film revolves around an arranged marriage in New Delhi, and juggles five plotlines, the reviewer continued, without dropping any. Nair received praise for developing her characters but the dialogue was called "often hammy and soaped-up."
In Toronto, one of the early reviews of Monsoon Wedding appeared in the alternate, free distributed weekly, Eye, that gave the film four stars, its highest rating (Maya, too, received four stars).
Only about half a dozen of the 70 films reviwed in the first half of the Toronto film festival got four stars from Eye.
Eye praised Nair for her "distinctive, wholly engaging approach."
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