Photo: Hindustan Times
Photo: Hindustan Times

PVR to kick off exclusive film club with ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’

'The Grand Budapest Hotel' will be shown in Mumbai on 21 Apr

Mumbai: Wes Anderson’s acclaimed new movie, The Grand Budapest Hotel, is coming to town—sort of.

The idiosyncratic period comedy will inaugurate PVR Cinemas’ new initiative, an exclusive series called PVR Screening Room, which aims to screen well-regarded Indian and international movies for well-regarded people. The Grand Budapest Hotel will be shown in Mumbai on 21 April, the first of an invite-only series curated by critic and television show host Anupama Chopra.

The idea behind the elite film club is to “showcase hidden gems, films that wouldn’t otherwise come to India, nothing too arty", said Ajay Bijli, chairman and managing director of PVR Ltd. “A lot of my friends who are discerning movie-goers have always wanted a club or an activity like this, where people get to watch a film, talk about it afterwards, and socialize," added Bijli, who founded the company with his brother, Sanjeev, in 1995, and set up India’s first multiplex in Delhi’s Saket neighbourhood.

PVR Screening Room is modelled on similar black-tie and red-carpet film events around the world. For now, the showcasing will be restricted to Mumbai and Delhi, and the fortunate few on PVR’s guest list. Although the subsequent titles have not yet been finalized, they are likely to include movies that have been shown at prestigious film festivals, but are deemed too box-office unfriendly to be released here. The films will be shown uncut, since the event is private and non-commercial. No movie can be released in cinemas without a rating from the Central Board of Film Certification, but the rule doesn’t apply to private screenings or film festivals. Indian cinephiles who refrain from pirating controversial titles, for instance, Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac, can access uncensored versions only at film festivals.

“Ajay and I have been throwing ideas at each other for years," said Chopra, who will introduce the films and conduct post-screening discussions. “It’s so much fun to watch these terrific movies together. The selection will be eclectic—there is no point in showing movies that nobody will come for, but terrific movies that we might not otherwise get to see. For instance, there was that lovely film The Kids Are All Right (from 2010), but it never came to India."

The Grand Budapest Hotel, which premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival, has been widely praised for its decorative and meticulous production design, and is touted as a sumptuous big-screen experience that should not be illegally downloaded and condensed into a computer screen. It’s the kind of movie that PVR Cinemas’ distribution wing might have picked up for a release in India in the normal course. PVR Cinemas, which operates 421 screens across 97 multiplexes, has shown several offbeat films over the years, including Run Lola Run, Dogville and The Tree of Life, and it also released the bulk of this year’s Oscar-nominated movies including American Hustle, 12 Years A Slave and Her. The multiplex chain’s Director’s Rare initiative also showcases independent cinema by offering directors a limited-window screening platform to release their films. The costs for Director’s Rare are borne mostly by the filmmakers, but PVR Cinemas will be footing the bill for its new project. The benefits are intangible and invaluable: the event is likely to bolster the company’s reputation for distributing offbeat international cinema in India, promote its exhibition spaces, help the chain make friends and allies in the Hindi movie business, generate tabloid-friendly red carpet photo opportunities, and eventually ease the company’s return to movie production after mixed successes with such films as Taare Zameen Par and Shanghai.

It’s not clear, however, what impact PVR Screening Room will have on the kind of films the company imports for distribution, and whether it will give up the challenge of shaping movie-going culture in the long term by releasing financially risky, but critically important films in the short term. “The idea behind the closed-door event is to see how it goes, gauge the reaction, expand it to something bigger, perhaps," Bijli explained. “If the reaction is good, we might even release the film later—you never know where it can go."