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Indian films in strong contention at Cannes 2024

BY MAHADEV DESAI

India has a strong presence at the 77th edition of the prestigious Cannes Film Festival in the French Riviera from May 14th to May 25th, with seven outstanding and diverse films vying for awards. Additionally, India inaugurated the Bharat Pavilion and followed it up with the Bharat Parv celebration.

The Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Shri Sanjay Jaju, and the Ambassador of India to France, Shri Jawed Ashraf, inaugurated the Bharat Pavilion on May 15. The Bharat Pavilion is being organized by the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) in collaboration with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI), under the aegis of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. The pavilion has been designed by the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. A Bharat Stall has also been set up through the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). Shri Jaju noted, “It is heartening to have more Indian projects in the Cannes official selection this year, one each in the competition and in Un Certain Regard. Both these projects have been supported by the government with incentives as well as official co-productions. The Bharat Pavilion here would serve as a hub for networking, collaboration, and promotion of Indian cinema on the global stage.” He added, “The astounding variety of films that India produces and the growing importance of the Diaspora combine to bolster the reach and impact of the nation’s ‘soft touch.’”

The Bharat Pavilion at Cannes.

India then hosted Bharat Parv (Festival of India) for the first time at the ongoing film festival, during which the official poster and trailer of the 55th India International Film Festival (in Goa, India) in November 2024 were unveiled. More than 250 esteemed delegates and luminaries enjoyed an evening celebrating the rich culture, cuisine, and handicrafts of India along with Indian cinema.

Official Selections of Indian Films at Cannes 2024

The Malayalam film “All We Imagine as Light,” directed by Payal Kapadia, will be screened on May 23. It tells the story of two roommates who work as nurses at a hospital in Mumbai. Nurse Prabha’s routine is disrupted when she receives an unexpected gift from her estranged husband. Meanwhile, her younger roommate, Anu, struggles to find a private spot in the city to be intimate with her boyfriend. A trip to a beach town allows them to explore their desires and find a space for their emotions to manifest. The film promises to be a captivating exploration of love, self-discovery, and perspectives. It will compete for the coveted Palme d’Or.

Santosh,” directed by British-Indian filmmaker Sandhya Suri, will be screened under the Un Certain Regard category. The film is about a young widowed woman named Santosh (Shahana Goswami) who inherits her husband’s job as a police constable in rural Northern India. When a low-caste girl is found raped and murdered, Santosh becomes involved in the investigation under the guidance of the feminist inspector Sharma (Sunita Rajwar). The film promises to explore themes of grief, memory, and the complexities of human relationships.

A restored version of “Manthan,” a 1976 award-winning Hindi movie directed by Shyam Benegal, which was India’s first crowd-funded movie, made history by becoming the first Indian film to be screened in the Classics section. The movie features Naseeruddin Shah, Amrish Puri, Smita Patil, Girish Karnad, and Kulbhushan Kharbanda.

A 16-minute Kannada short film, “Sunflowers Were First Ones to Know,” directed by FTII student Chidananda S. Naik, has been selected for the prestigious La Cinef Competitive section. The intriguing title hints at a film that delves into deeper themes. The story revolves around an old lady whose rooster goes missing. To bring the rooster back, a novel approach involving a prophecy is used, leading to the exile of the old lady’s family.

The film “Sister Midnight,” directed by Karan Kandhari, will premiere at Directors’ Fortnight Cannes and is the only Indian film selected for the Cannes sidebar. It stars Radhika Apte as Uma, an oppressed young woman who faces the challenges of married life in a Mumbai slum. The film portrays her journey, fueled by a desire for revenge.

The movie “Shameless,” directed by Bulgarian-American Konstantin Bojanov, was shot in Nepal and India. The film has been chosen for the Un Certain Regard section. It explores themes of religion, sexuality, and societal norms, focusing on an illicit romance between Renuka (played by Anasuya Sengupta) and Devika (played by Omara Shetty) in a small-town brothel in Northern India.

Maisam Ali, a Ladakh native born in Iran and an FTII alumnus, is the first-ever Indian filmmaker whose debut film, “In Retreat,” will be screened under the ACID (Association for the Distribution of Independent Cinema) section in Cannes, which promotes independent cinema. The film follows the journey of a middle-aged man (played by Harish Khanna) from Ladakh who returns home after a long absence. The story deals with themes of loneliness, alienation, identity, belonging, and home, and touches upon the diversity in Ladakh.

Indian filmmaker Mansi Maheshwari has secured a spot in the La Cinef category. The animation director, born in Meerut, earned her place at Cannes with her film “Bunnyhood,” which she made as her graduation project at the National Film and Television School (NFTS) in London. The nine-minute animation film explores young girl Bobby’s anxiety when she finds out the truth during an unexpected hospital visit. Mansi Maheshwari plays the role of Bobby, while Nina Wadia lends her voice as Bobby’s mom.

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