Through the Prism of Time

By Pickle  November 22, 2019

Starting its life as a launchpad for non-mainstream Indian filmmakers who sought global breakthroughs, the Indian Panorama section of the International Film Festival of India has come a long way, as the art-commerce divide became more apparent with every passing decade. Here is how the Indian Panorama section story has evolved when looked through the prism of time and relevance
By Saibal Chatterjee

The Indian Panorama, in many ways the flagship segment of the International Film Festival of India, served a specific larger purpose that went beyond its stated goal of assembling the best films made around the country in the course of a year. Since its formal introduction in 1978, the section aided international festival curators in identifying the films that they wanted to pick for their programmes.

Until the 1990s, the Indian Panorama served as a launchpad for non-mainstream Indian filmamakers who sought global breakthroughs. Many a director, from Satyajit Ray and Adoor Gopalakrishnan to the present generation of independent filmmakers, have benefitted from the exposure it has facilitated. However, in the last 15 years or so, the overt Bollywoodization of Indian cinema has altered the parameters of both the Panorama and the way that curators from across the world approach films made in the world’s most prolific movie-producing nation.

In the early years of the Panorama, the art-commerce divide wasn’t so visible. Even before the birth of the section, in 1961, the second edition of IFFI, the selection of Indian films saw Satyajit Ray (Devi) and Rajen Tarafdar (Ganga) rub shoulders with K. Asif (Mughal-e-Azam) and Raj Kapoor (who produced and starred in Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai, directed by the showman’s cinematographer Radhu Karmakar). Also among the Indian films that were screened in 1961 was Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Anuradha, that year’s winner of the National Award for Best Film.

By the 1970s, however, the distinction between commercially-oriented movies and artistically inclined films became sharper in the light of the emergence of the parallel cinema movement. In Filmotsav 1984, held in Mumbai from January 3 to 16, the films that made the Panorama cut belonged to only one side of the creative divide. Gems like K.G. George’s powerfully feminist Adaminte Variyellu (Malayalam), K. Balachander’s political satire Achamillai Achamillai (Tamil), Kumar Shahani’s Tarang (Hindi), Govind Nihalani’s Party (Hindi), Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s Mukhamukham (Malayalam), Saeeed Akhtar Mirza’s Mohan Joshi Hazir Ho!, and Goutam Ghose’s Paar (Hindi) dominated the selection.

This was a particularly fecund phase for the newfangled New Indian Cinema. The composition of the Panorama made it worthwhile, therefore, for programmers representing the major film festivals of the world to make the trip to India to handpick the latest and the best. To take the 1984 Indian Panorama as a case in point, Party, Mukhamukham and Paar cemented the reputation of the respective filmmakers. Paar was selected by the Venice Film Festival, where it won the Unesco Award and fetched the lead actor Naseeruddin Shah the Volpi Cup.

Panorama, for festival spotters , quickly became the go-to source of great Indian films. Until the mid-nineties the segment kept throwing up films that attracted curators from the world over

Interestingly, the same year saw a trio of strikingly original films from the mainstream Hindi film industry make the Panorama grade – Amol Palekar’s Ankahee, Mahesh Bhatt’s Saaransh and Prakash Jha’s Hip Hip Hurray. It was an outstanding selection of 25 films – probably one of the best in living memory, not the least because even the Mumbai industry seemed to have moved to a space in which filmmakers were beginning to bridge the gap between what was commercially viable and what was artistically valuable.

The trend continued through the 1980s. The next few years saw the induction into the Panorama hall of fame of films such as Bhabendra Nath Saikia’s Agnisnan (Assamese), Prakash Jha’s Damul (Hindi), Ramesh Sharma’s New Delhi Times (Hindi), Aparna Sen’s Paroma (Bengali), Govind Nihalani’s Aghaat (Hindi), Kumar Shahani’s Khayal Gatha (Hindi), Bharathi Raaja’s Mudhal Mariyadhai (Tamil), John Abraham’s Amma Ariyan (Malayalam), Mani Kaul’s Mati Manas (Hindi), G. Aravindan’s Oridathu and Chidambaram (Malayalam), Saeed Akhtar Mirza’s Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro, Shyam Benegal’s Susman (Hindi), Nabyendu Chatterji’s Chopper and Parashuramer Kuthar (Bengali), Jahnu, Barua’s Papori and Banani (Assamese), Mrinal Sen’s Ek Din Achanak (Hindi) and Satyajit Ray’s Ganashatru (Bengali). Several of these films began their journeys from the Panorama and successfully travelled around the world, enhancing the global profile of Indian cinema.

The 1990s, too, were exceptionally productive in terms of quality. The year 1992 had Goutam Ghose’s Padma Nadir Majhi, Buddhadeb Dasgupta’s Tahader Katha, Sudhir Mishra’s Dharavi and Jabbar Patel’s Ek Hota Vidushak. All these four filmmakers had already emerged as mainstays of India’s parallel cinema movement and their films continued to surface repeatedly in the Panorama in subsequent years.

The Indian Panorama, a section that is made up of both features and non-features, opens global avenues for films made by veterans and newcomers alike

In 1995, among the films that were part of the Indian Panorama were Shekhar Kapur’s Bandit Queen, which enjoyed unprecedented success on the international festival circuit after premiering in Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes the previous year, and Rituparno Ghosh’s Unishe April, a National Award-winning film that heralded the advent of a remarkable new directorial talent. They represented two sides of the spectrum – one was a gritty, disturbing drama set in the Indian hinterland, the other a sharply chiselled, expertly scripted mother-daughter tale buoyed up brilliant lead performances.

No wonder the Panorama, for festival spotters, quickly became the go-to source of great Indian films. Until the mid-nineties, the segment kept throwing up films that attracted curators from the world over. Few went back empty-handed such were the riches on show. However, the game has since changed drastically and the major festivals are now given to employing their own methods to select films. On many occasions in the recent past, new Indian films have been discovered by Cannes, Venice, Berlin or Toronto before making their way into the Indian Panorama and imprinting themselves on the minds of the domestic audience.

One notable example of this is Gurvinder Singh’s critically acclaimed Punjabi-language film Anhe Ghore Da Daan (Alms for a Blind Horse). It premiered in the Orizzonti section of the 68th Venice Film Festival (2011) and then travelled to the BFI London Film Festival, the New York Film Festival and the Busan International Film Festival. Leading festivals on three major continents embraced the film with great enthusiasm. Anhe Ghore Da Daan played in IFFI (as part of the Panorama) only at the end of 2012, picking up the festival’s Golden Peacock for the Best Film – one of only three Indian entries to bag the prize (the other two: Govind Nihalani’s Aakrosh and Goutam Ghose’s Moner Manush).

It may be time for the Indian Panorama to reinvent itself and regain the position of pre-eminence it once had. It certainly hasn’t lost its relevance because despite the growing dominance of star power it still manages to yield slots to small films that address important issues and themes

Or consider the two Indian titles that played in the 2015 Cannes Film Festival’s Un Certain Regard – Gurvinder Singh’s sophomore Chauthi Koot and Neeraj Ghaywan’s debut Masaan. Both films won National Awards in 2016 – the former for Best Punjabi Film, the latter for Best First Film of a Director. But neither of the two was found worthy of being part of the Indian Panorama.

The cycle of major film festivals – Cannes, Toronto, Venice, Berlin, Busan,
Rotterdam – now impacts how Indian films travel around the world. Each of these festivals has its own prism to watch films through. So, what is likely to appeal to the Venice selectors may not make quite the same impact on the curators in Cannes or Toronto. So, the younger Indian filmmakers, the smarter ones among them at any rate, know exactly which festivals are likely to warm up to their films and therefore they take a route that bypasses the Panorama.

It may be time for the Indian Panorama to reinvent itself and regain the position of pre-eminence it once had. It certainly hasn’t lost its relevance because despite the growing dominance of star power it still manages to yield slots to small films that address important issues and themes. All it now needs to do is reactivate its international connections. The way the Panorama can do it is by plugging into the global scene without losing its local essence. There has got to be a greater inclination towards artistically adventurous films with the power to travel beyond the confines of the culture they are rooted in. A tough ask, yes. But eminently within the realms of reality.

Write a Reply or Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


76th Venice International Film Festival to Open With Hirokazu Kore-eda’s ‘The Truth’

Virtual Nab Show Express will Take Place May 13-14, 2020

Heard About Enjoy Enjaami. Here it is

Dada Saheb Award Gets Rajinikanth

MIPTV Director Lucy Smith Gives Sneak Peak of Digital MIPTV

What Buyers Expect From Digital MIPTV

China Eyes Animation Content at MIPTV

Sikkim is India’s Most Film Friendly State

National Film Awards: Sushant Singh’s Chichchore, Dhanush, Manoj Bajpayee, Kangana Among Winners

UNESCO, USO India, Toonz tie up for World Water Day Animation Creation

Virtual Pre-Cannes Screenings For Buyers Before July Physical Market

Accreditations Are Open For Cannes 2021

Stage set for Cannes from July 6. Spike Lee, Cannes Jury Head

Matchmaking Biz Accelerator At Digital MIPTV 2021

MIPTV 2021 Trend: Increasing Demand for Distribution & Co-Production

MIPTV honours A+E Networks president Paul Buccieri

Thanu For Making Producers’ Mission Possible

Mehrunisa Aims more Destinations

Delhi Photographer Sohrab Hura’s Film The Coast in Berlinale’s Forum Expanded

Berlinale Talents 2021: Nine Talents from India

Tamil Film Pebbles by Vinothraj Wins Tiger Award at Rotterdam

Re-Imagined European Film Market 2021

EFM Global Market Screenings in Tokyo, Melbourne, Sao Paulo, Mexico

Berlinale Co-Prod Market: 35 Films from 25 Countries

Books at Berlinale 2021: 10 Books will be Pitched for Screen Adaptation

Highlights: Berlinale Series Market & Conference

Uday Shankar forms New Tech and Media Venture with James Murdoch

With Film Visa, Global Producers Can Now Shoot in India

CII Seeks Industry Status for M&E in Union Budget

51st IFFI Will Capture New Narratives in Cinema

15 Films Compete for Golden Peacock at #IFFI51

Top IFFI Picks: Another Round, Mehrunisa, Wife of A Spy

Hybrid IFFI From January 16

CII BIG PICTURE SUMMIT 2012: Growth Triggers From Ronnie

What Media Guru Amit Khanna Said in CII BIG PICTURE SUMMIT 2012

LATAM Market Ventana Sur from November 30

Blue Efficience Roped in For Ventana Sur

Films to watch @ Ventana Sur

India Rolls out Red Carpet to Foreign Filmmakers

Ramesh Sharma’s New Documentary Film on Gandhi at AFM

The Warrior Queen of Jhansi at AFM – Buy, Sell & Engage

Embracing Cinema Through Screens of all Sizes

Nomadland wins People’s Choice at Toronto

MIPCOM 2020 Goes Entirely Online

South Korea will be MIPCOM 2020 country of honor

India, the Window of Opportunity

Get Ready for Hybrid IFFI

Film Making Centres of India

Get Your Film Take Wings at Virtual Film Bazaar

Make at least Ten co-productions in a year

Filmmakers Should Make use of India-Canada Treaty

TIFF: The Show and Business Goes on

Navigating Toronto Film Festival and Industry

Make in India, Show the World

Be Part of the Pickle India Focused Toronto Edition

ads2OTT set to Launch in Oct 2020

MovieSaints to release Memories of a Forgotten War

Truth Is Dead

Submissions Open For Berlinale Co-Production Market

Gender Equality-Berlinale Eliminates Silver Bear for Best Actor and Best Actress

All3Media, A+E Networks, BBC Studios, ZDF Join MIPCOM 2020 Global UPFRONTS Lineup

NürnbergMesse’s Content India Show from October 29-31

Berlinale 2021 Will be a Physical Festival; EFM in Hybrid Format

Best of 2020: A Dazzling Dozen

Striking the Right Chord

Ishaan Khatter looking ‘beyond clouds’ with promising upcoming projects

IFFI 2020 Adopts Hybrid Online-Physical Edition

India Unbound

20 Films That Make us Believe Freedom is Priceless

Krishna Janmashtami Special

National Education Policy: Game Changer

18 Must-See Films at Venice 2020

Ayushmann Turns Athlete

Indian Trio in Venice

Blockchain: The Future is Now

Not right time to open cinema halls: Ravi Kottarakara

Meet, ERICA. AI Actor in a SCI-FI Film

Vidya Balan Set to Shine as Shakuntala Devi

Straight Answers From Alexander Shulgin

Content is king for Saregama’s Yoodlee

Nuggets From Animation Thought Leaders

NYIFF Takes Virtual Route

From The Heart Of Disney

New Model of Filmmaking in India

My Journey: How I Did It

Animation in the Age of Art & Tech

Making Filming in India More Easy

Gaurav Banerjee: Star Unveiled

FDI cap of 26% for News Aggregators Under Consideration

The Changemaker

COVID-19 has Accelerated Digital Shift Towards Across Sectors

No Business as Usual for Film Industry

What’s Wrong With our News Media Today ?

The Fire Inside Regina

Gaming Industry Braves Covid

Disney +Hotstar Leads the Disruption

Taapsee’s takes on OTT, Nepotism & Covid

Oscar Invites QUBE’s Senthil Kumar to be its Member at Large

What’s New Search Engine Neeva Can Do That Google Cannot?

The New Oscar Award Date April 25, 2021

India to Offer Incentive Package for Film Shoots and Co-Production

‘NFDC Film Bazaar Goes to Cannes’

Strings of Genius

A Ray That Still Lights The Way

Best of the Cannes Official Selection 2020 Films

Most Awaited Films of India

56 Films: Cannes Reveals 2020 Lineup

The Making of Cannes 2020 Film Selection Process

Cannes Virtual Film Market Extends Earlybird Registration to June 12

Annecy Jury Members

Take a Look at Annecy Competition Lineup

Getting Back to Business, Reveals Media Consumption Pattern

Cannes 2020 to Announce Festival Selection Lineup on June 3

20 Work in Progress Tiltles Unveiled for Goes to Cannes

Annecy VR Works Selections for Digital MIFA Market

Film Bazaar’s Work in Progress Films from India Goes to Cannes Virtual Market

Navigating Virtual Cannes Film Market 2020

Meet the Streamers: HBO Max & Quibi Keynotes at Cannes Virtual Film Market

Dedicated Cannes XR Virtual Edition from June 24-26

Screen Moms; Best Movies to Stream on Mother’s Day

Vijay Deverakonda: The Lovable ‘Rowdy’

Sai Pallavi: Natural Beauty is a Natural Actor Too

Cannes Virtual Film Market Registration Opens May 13

COVID-19: Nuggets from Netflix’s Ted Sarandos on Filming and Safety Protocols

Maitreyi Ramakrishnan is New Sensation in Netflix Original Series Never Have I Ever

The Best Movies of 2001-2019 Not Streaming in OTT Platforms

Best Movies of the New Millennium Streaming Now

Best Movies of the New Millennium Streaming Now

Best Movies of the New Millennium Streaming Now

Best Movies of the New Millennium Streaming Now

Best Movies of the New Millennium Streaming Now

Annecy Unveils Virtual Film Festival and Market in June

Roskino to Host Russian Virtual Digital Content Market from June 8

27 Rishi Kapoor Films to Stream at Home Now

51 International Film Festival of India, Goa ( 20 -28 November, 2020)

Films to Watch in 2020

Christopher Nolan Films Tenet in Mumbai

A Call From Uttarakhand For Filmmakers Of The World

FFO Rolls Out Red Carpet For Foreign Filmmakers

INDIA@BERLINALE-Indian Cinema’s Voices Emerging

51st IFFI TO Mark Satyajit Ray’s Centenary Celebrations

Infusing Life With Dubbing AT VR Films & Studios

Sailing well in Animation Waters

Berlinale 2020: India’s Laila Aur Satt Geet Selected for ‘Encounters’ Section

Prateek Vats’ Eeb Allay Ooo! in Berlinale Panaroma

Berlinale Shorts: Ekta Mittal’s ‘Gumnaam Din’ to showcase of pain of separation

Berlinale Talents: Seven Indians Make It to the List

My Salinger Year is the Opening Film at 70th Berlinale



Berlinale Forum Celebrates Golden Jubilee in 2020

Berlinale 2020 Poster Unveiled

British Actor Jeremy Irons Will Be the Jury President of Berlinale 2020

Amit Khanna: The Renaissance Man

Fantastic Friend




10 Achievements of Amit Khanna

Reflections on Amit Khanna

Valuable Moments

India Enchants John Bailey

The Big Bachchan of Bollywood


IFFI 50 & Fantastic-Lifetime Achievement Award to Isabelle Huppert




Transforming Hollywood from pixels to voxels

Government of India committed to Safeguard IP content: Commerce Secretary

Must do Things at AFM

Why India Attracts Foreign Filmmakers

Pickle at MIPCOM 2019


Super Audio: Licensed to Thrill

Jungle Book Season 3 Ready

Issuance of VPL in India

Editor’s Note: 44th Toronto International Film Festival Pickle Sept 2019 Edition


Seven Indian Indie Filmmakers To Watch

Indian Cinema Of Today: A Culturally Responsive Artifact

Indie Resurgence

Indian Films At Toronto a Sparkling Quartet

IFFI Matters @ 50

Four Indian Films at the Toronto International Film Festival 2019

India Pavilion at Toronto International Film Market 2019

Made in Afghan Film ‘Hava, Maryam, Ayesha’ To Compete at Venice Festival

Keerthy Suresh: The Mahanati of Mahanati. Best Actress, National Film Award

Uttarakhand Bags National Award for Most Film Friendly State

66th National Film Awards Winners for 2018

Watan Adds Colour to Indian Independence Day

dream hampton and Brie Miranda Bryant to Feature in MIPCOM’S Women in Global Entertainment Lunch 2019

Making a Song and Dance of it

NFDC Invites Applications for Production of Films in Indian Languages; Deadline September 8, 2019

IFFI Calls for Entry for Indian Panorama in 50th Edition

Ease of Filming in India

Come, Film In Inida

Why TikTok wants to invest $1 billion in India?

Priyanka Chopra’s The Sky is Pink Set to Premiere in 2019 Toronto Internaitonal Film Festival’s Gala Section

Gitanjali Rao’s Animation Feature Bombay Rose to open Critics’ Week at Venice International Film Festival

Indian Cinema’s Soft Power Misses the Mark in Nirmala Sitharaman’s Maiden Budget Speech

Shahid’s Kabir Singh Becomes Top-Grossing Film of 2019

Finance Minister Proposes FDI Norm Relaxation in Media

Media & Entrtainment as Champion Sector Figures in the Economic Survey 2018-19

Indian Cinema’s Steady Rise on Global Stage

Glimpses of the future

IFFI Marching Towards 50th Edition

Cannes or Netflix? Is Netflix an acceptable remediation for Cannes’ decades-long little regard for Indian Cinema?

Play Small & Live Long Did Wonders for Me

Pickle May 2016 Cannes Edition

Shooting Locales in India – Jharkhand

Reliance Industries Completes 5 per cent Acquisition in Eros International

Blockchain in M&E: Future Decoded