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India Is All Set To Shine At Cannes

By Saibal Chatterjee
May 13, 2024 14:36 IST
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IMAGE: Kani Kusruti in All We Imagine as Light.

With an entry in almost every major section of the 77th Cannes film festival, which kicks off on Tuesday, May 14. with French musician-filmmaker Quentin Dupieux's Le Deuxieme Acte (The Second Act), India will have no dearth of action during the 12-day event.

Never before in history have Cannes and its sidebars found space for eight Indian, or India-themed, films. As many as six of these will be in contention for awards.

So when the festival winds down on May 24 and 25, the media contingent from the world's largest film-producing nation might, fingers crossed, have plenty to write home about.


Leading the Indian charge at Cannes 2024 is Payal Kapadia's India-French-Dutch co-production All We Imagine as Light, a film in Malayalam and Hindi. It competes for the Palme d'Or, the festival's top prize, the first Indian film to do so in three decades.

Kapadia will have to beat off, among others, Paolo Sorrentino, David Cronenberg, Andrea Arnold, Kirill Serebrennikov, Paul Schrader, Yorgos Lanthimos. Jia Zhangke and two previous Palme d'Or winners, Francis Ford Coppola (who won for The Conversationand Apocalypse Now, both in the 1970s) and Jacques Audiard (for Dheepan, 2015).

Indian-British film-maker Sandhya Suri's Santosh and Bulgarian director Konstantin Bojanov's The Shameless, in which Nepal stands in for India, are in the running for awards in the Un Certain Regard section.

FTII alumnus Chidananda S Naik's Sunflowers Were the First Ones to Know is in the La Cinef competition for film school entries. Mysuru-based Naik is a qualified doctor.

After graduating from medical college, he practised for some time before enrolling in a one-year course in the television wing of the Film and Television Institute of India. Sunflowers was Naik's final television film at the institute.

IMAGE: A scene from Bunnyhood.

La Cinef has Indian film-maker Mansi Maheshwari representing the UK.

The Meerut-born animation director is in the line-up with Bunnyhood, a self-reflexive graduation film made at the National Film and Television School, London.

Maheshwari studied knitwear design at the National Institute of Fashion Technology, Delhi and developed an interest in stop-motion animation.

During the COVID lockdown, she made a bunch of animated shorts of varying lengths. She is a 2024 National Film and Television School graduate.

IMAGE: Radhika Apte in Sister Midnight.

Karan Kandhari's Sister Midnight, an India-British noir drama starring Radhika Apte, is in the Directors' Fortnight selection.

The film will vie for the newly-introduced Quinzaine des Cineastes People's Choice Award.

Kapadia's FTII batchmate Maisam Ali, a Ladakh native born in Iran, is the first-ever Indian film-maker to break into ACID Cannes. His debut feature, In Retreat, has been picked for the parallel section devoted to independent cinema.

In Retreat is an austere meditation on the notion of home conducted through the minimalistic story of a man who, in his 50s, returns to Leh after a long absence and baulks at the idea of reconnecting with the place he drifted away from many years ago.


IMAGE: A scene from Maya: The Birth of a Superhero.

In the Cannes Film Festival's inaugural edition of the Immersive Competition, a title with an India connect is one of eight selected VR (virtual reality) projects, Maya: The Birth of a Superhero, a British work crafted by multidisciplinary artist-activist Paulomi Basu and her longtime collaborator C J Clarke.

IMAGE: Smita Patil in Manthan.

Rounding off India's presence in Cannes this year is a 4K restored version of Shyam Benegal's 1976 crowdfunded film Manthan. Written by the director in collaboration with playwright Vijay Tendulkar and shot by Govind Nihalani, the film features in Cannes Classics.

Manthan, which throws light on the pioneering milk cooperative movement spearheaded by Dr Verghese Kurien, has been restored under the aegis of the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation by Shivendra Singh Dungarpur's Film Heritage Foundation, Prasad Corporation, Chennai, and L'Immagine Ritrovata Bologna.

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Saibal Chatterjee
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