Bollywood is set to steal the limelight at the Toronto International Film Festival starting on September 10. For the first time, the world's premier film event will premiere two Bollywood films - What's Your Raashee? and Dil Bole Hadippa.
"You know, last year our audiences launched Slumdog Millionaire that went on to win everything (at the Oscars). And this year, we are thrilled to have two Bollywood movies under big banners making their world premiere," said Cameron Bailey, Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) co-director.
He said: "It is the first time that two Bollywood films are making their world premiere here. We had major Bollywood films in the past, but not for world premiere. We had their special presentation and galas with the stars. Those films had opened just before the Toronto festival and we had their presentation."
Bailey, who personally selected the two films during his visit to Mumbai in July, said: "These films were in the final stages when I was in Mumbai. These are highly anticipated films and we will be thrilled to see their stars Rani Mukerji, Priyanka Chopra and Hurman Baweja in town."
An avid fan of Rani, Bailey said: "Rani is terrific. She can go the whole range - from serious dramatic roles to light comedy. Here (in Dil Bole Hadippa) she is in the role of a woman who loves cricket but cannot get on the team because she is a woman. It has that Shakespearean conceit when she dresses as a man to get on the team."
Rating Priyanka one of the most versatile actors today, he said: "Priyanka is incredible. In this film (What's Your Raashee?), she does 12 roles transforming herself into 12 completely different women. Now that is incredible."
He said the film festival will also be privileged to host Ashutosh Gowariker whom he described as one of the best directors in India. "We had Ashutosh here previously as director of Lagaan. He is a great maker of period films with such an attention to detail.
"But what is different about him this time - and people would love to see it - is that he has done a contemporary film (What's Your Raashee?), and it is a love story. Wow, he has not done that before. I am sure he will prove himself to be a master again."
Bailey, who gave a big break to Bollywood at the festival three years ago by organizing a gala presentation for the film Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna in the presence of Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan and Karan Johar, said he is determined to raise Bollywood's profile here for two reasons.
"One, we have an avid audience which comes (only) to see Bollywood films and their stars in town. Two, we want to introduce Bollywood to our audiences that do not know this kind of cinema."
In fact, he didn't rule the future possibility of live musical performances by Bollywood stars at the festival. "We would love to showcase the musical part of Bollywood, and it is something we may consider down the line," he said.
"Many may not see it that way, but Bollywood is already a mainstream global player. Stars from Bollywood are globally recognised. People who make and finance Bollyood films are global players. See what Reliance is doing in Hollywood as a major player," he added.
The 34th film festival, which runs from September 10 to 19, will feature more than 300 films, including 100 brand-new, from 64 countries.