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'I was neither euphoric, nor nervous'

May 17, 2018 11:06 IST

'At the premiere we got a 4-minute standing ovation...'
...'Strangers hugged me, sobbing...'
...'Some just sat in their seats still immersed in the experience.'
Nandita Das captures the magic of Manto at Cannes.

IMAGE: Rasika Duggal, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Nandita Das and Tahir Bhasin. Photograph: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

Nandita Das has been very busy at Cannes, promoting Manto, her film which features in the Un certain regard category at the famed film festival.

On Facebook, Nandita describes the Cannes experience as a 'roller coaster ride'. Read on:

Finally I got enough of a breather this morning to share the roller coaster ride that I have had in Cannes over the last 5 days.

I arrived at the festival already exhausted with all the last minute work that I had to do on the film. And this after weeks of 18 hour days.

But the carnival-like energy here lifted my spirits.

I began to feel the excitement and nervousness of a director whose film is going to be screened at the most prestigious film festival in the world, with the toughest-to-please audiences and critics.


IMAGE: Producer Namrata Goyal, Nandita Das, Divya Dutta and Rasika Duggal. Photograph: Nandita Das/Facebook

The Festival wanted the names of the three lead actors who would accompany me on stage at the presentation before the premiere. But we had a contingent of 20 odd -- producers and a mix of cast and crew. They all had come with much excitement and anticipation and it was a first time for most.

I wanted to make it special for them and share this moment with all of them. The head of the Cannes Film Festival, Thierry Fremaux, who had the task of reading out all the names, graciously did so.

At the end when I smiled at Thierry apologetically, he, in good spirits said, "It's ok, it's India!"

Cannes is not new to me. I have been coming here since I was invited in the main jury in 2005. Including more recently, to raise funds for Manto. But this time was like no other time.

IMAGE: Tahir Bhasin, Rasika Duggal, Divya Dutta, Namrata Goyal, Nandita Das, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Huma Qureshi. Photograph: Divya Dutta/Twitter

On the day of the premiere, I was neither euphoric, nor nervous. Just happy.

The fact this film actually got made is a miracle.

For it to be in Cannes, is the second miracle.

So I was not even ready for the third one in a row -- an overwhelming response from both audiences and critics.

At the premiere we got a 4-minute standing ovation, strangers hugged me, sobbing.

Some just sat in their seats still immersed in the experience. Some chose to walk out quietly, as if not wanting to break their experience.

Six years of relentless work and challenges had finally found their culmination. So all I wanted to do was to just curl up and sleep! But no such luck.

Next two days went in press interviews. Some questions were bound to be the same and some made me reflect on things I hadn't thought about.

IMAGE: Namrata Goyal, Nandita Das, Divya Dutta and Rasika Duggal. Photograph: Divya Dutta/Twitter

The feedback from reviewers was overwhelmingly positive and their critique interesting as well.

Art is subjective and how people process your film is always intriguing. Most critics connected with the film, the characters and were immersed in the journey.

The praise ranged from calling it the 'Garam Hawa of our times' to 'handsomely mounted prestige piece'.

There was no review that panned the film and that itself was a relief as Cannes critics can be merciless.

Unsparing even of the star directors, like Lars Von Tier, The Guardian wrote 'ordeal of tiresomeness that was every bit exasperating' and for Asghar Farhadi's film, the Financial Times said 'The film dazzled... only on the red carpet'!

The one common thread that many critics discussed was the interweaving of Manto's life with his work.

While most found the 'seamless intertwining' of Manto stories with the narrative fascinating, there were some who were a bit lost as they felt they weren't warned before a story began.

IMAGE: Producer Namrata Goyal and Nandita Das. Photograph: Nandita Das/Facebook

Critics and audiences have a right to question that choice, but this is what I had in mind from the day I began thinking of the film.

I always felt that juxtaposing Manto's real world and with his imagined one in facts was essential to understand the man and the writer.

After all, in his own works the line between fact and fiction are blurred.

Anyhow, everyone will have his or her own take. I respect that.

I made this film as a means to an end -- to trigger conversations, to ask ourselves difficult questions, to face inconvenient truths.

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