Indian Film Festival Brings Bollywood Back to Phnom Penh

While Indian film is synonymous with Bollywood for many casual moviegoers, the second edition of Indian Cinema Week in Phnom Penh seeks to highlight the diversity of productions from a country that makes more than 1,600 movies every year.

From an 8-year-old girl who tries to reunite her widowed father with an old college flame to a storekeeper who takes God to court when an earthquake destroys his shop, the stories will “showcase the latest trends in the Indian film industry,” Indian Ambassador Naveen Srivastava said last week at an event announcing the lineup.

A scene from 'Bajrangi Bhaijaan' directed by Kabir Khan
A scene from ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’ directed by Kabir Khan

Most of the 13 films to be screened at the Chaktomuk theater from Thursday through Sunday are recent releases from the world’s largest film industry, Mr. Srivastava said.

Fans of Bollywood—a name referring to Bombay, now Mumbai, which is home to a prolific Hindi-language film industry—will get their fix with films that feature the elaborate sets and dancing that have made the genre famous. Other films will tackle issues of modern life in India, ranging from students under pressure during exam time to parents with handicapped children, Mr. Srivastava said.

“The industry is quite diverse. India, as you know, has 22 official languages. So…there are films in other languages of India such as Telugu, Malayalam, Tamil, and they have their own well-developed film industries,” he said.

All films being shown this week will have English subtitles.

Cambodia’s first Indian Cinema Week in 2014 attracted 3,000 people, including older moviegoers who used to watch Indian films in the 1960s, said Cedric Eloy, project manager at the Cambodia Film Commission.

“Indian films have been very popular in the past in Cambodia and have even influenced Cambodian filmmakers like Yvon Hem,” a star film director of the 1960s, he said.

“Hopefully this new generation of Indian films will inspire, of course, the audience, but also some filmmakers to write compelling stories.”

Admission to all screenings is free.

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