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India Cannes Do It!

Indian women shine at the 77th edition of the film gala

Indian films at Cannes earlier
  • Indian films, which got selected for the Cannes Competition segment earlier, include Mrinal Sen’s Kharij (1983), MS Sathyu’s Garm Hava (1974), Satyajit Ray’s Parash Pathar (1958), Raj Kapoor’s Awaara (1953), V Shantaram’s Amar Bhoopali (1953) and Chetan Anand’s Neecha Nagar (1946). In 2013, Indian cinema sent Bombay Talkies for a special screening to mark 100 years since Dada Saheb Phalke’s Raja Harishchandra.
  • Shyam Benegal’s Manthan restored The restored version of Shyam Benegal’s landmark film Manthan, starring late actor Smita Patil, made a magnificent return to the spotlight with its screening at the Cannes film festival. The restored version of the 1976 movie, inspired by the groundbreaking milk cooperative movement by Dr Verghese Kurien that transformed India into one of the largest milk producers in the world, was showcased under the Cannes Classics segment. The film received a five-minute standing ovation after the premiere. Naseeruddin Shah, Ratna Pathak Shah, Smita Patil's son Prateik Babbar and daughter of Verghese Kurien Nirmala Kurien, attended the event at the festival.
  • FTII students' film wins big Sunflowers Were the First Ones to Know, a film made by the students of FTII won the La Cinef Award at the 77th Cannes Film Festival. Directed by Chidananda S Naik, the film is based on a Kannada folk tale about an old woman who steals a rooster. As a result of her action, the son stops to progress in the village.

The 77th edition of the Cannes Film Festival, which concluded on May 25, brought triple triumph for the Indian film industry. Payal Kapadia scripted history by becoming the first Indian filmmaker to win the Grand Prix award, the second-most prestigious prize after the Palme d’Or; Anasuya Sengupta became the first Indian actor to win the Best Actress award; and a film made by the students of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), won the La Cinef Award at the film festival. These developments herald exciting times for Indian films on the international stage. Payal Kapadia and the three women protagonists of the film posing with the prize became the shot of the 77th edition of the film gala, definitely for Indians.

Kapadia’s film, All That We Imagine as Light, is the first film in 30 years to be showcased in main competition, the last being Shaji N Karun’s Swaham (1994). That the 38-year-old director is set to strike gold with her feature directorial debut became almost certain when it received glowing reviews following the premiere. Some international critics went so far as to compare Kapadia’s work to that of masters like Satyajit Ray and Wong Kar Wai. The critics said Kapadia’s film was a ‘portrait of urban connection’ and some called it ‘poetic meditation’.

All That We Imagine as Light is a Malayalam-Hindi feature film starring Kani Kusruti, Divya Prabha and Chhaya Kadam, and revolves around three women in Mumbai who go on a road trip to a beach town. Chhaya Kadam has had a great run this year with her earlier releases Laapataa Ladies and Madgaon Express. Kapadia’s film is the first Indian film in 30 years to be to be showcased in main competition. In her speech, the filmmaker said, ‘Thank you, Cannes Film Festival for having our film here. Please don’t wait 30 years to have another Indian film.’ All That We Imagine as Light won the second-most prestigious prize of the gala after the Palme d’Or, which went to American director Sean Baker for Anora.

Kapadia is an alumna of the FTII and she led a student protest against the appointment of actor-politician Gajendra Chauhan as FTII chairman. She has earlier won the Oeil d’or (Golden Eye) award at Cannes for acclaimed documentary A Night of Knowing Nothing which premiered under Director’s Fortnight section in 2021. All We Imagine as Light is all set for its North America release, but it’s unclear when the film will be screened in India.

In another development, which break boundaries and scripted history on the global stage, actor Anasuya Sengupta won the best actor award in the Un Certain Regard segment for her role in The Shameless, directed by Bulgarian filmmaker Constantin Bojanov. The film tells the story of a woman who escapes from a Delhi brothel after stabbing a policeman to death. The Shameless explores a dark world of exploitation and misery in which two sex workers forge a bond. Sengupta, a production designer, dedicated her win ‘to the queer community and other marginalized communities.’

In another good news, national award-winning cinematographer Santosh Sivan became the first Asian to be conferred the Pierre Angénieux Tribute award at the film festival. The honour has been conferred in recognition of his ‘career and exceptional quality of work’.

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