India's indies poised on the cusp of a new era in Cannes

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.
The Cannes film festival takes place in May in France.
The Cannes film festival takes place in May in France.PHOTO | AFP

NEW DELHI: With an entry in almost every major section of the 77th Cannes Film Festival, which kicks off on Tuesday evening 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.

Indian cinema's previous best at Cannes was in 2013, when it sent five films to various sections "Monsoon Shootout" (Midnight Screening), "Bombay Talkies" (a Special Screening to mark 100 years since Dada Saheb Phalke's "Raja Harishchandra"), "Ugly" (Directors' Fortnight), "The Lunchbox" (Critics' Week) and "Charulata" (Cannes Classics).

In 2012, too, India had a substantial presence in Cannes with "Miss Lovely" (Un Certain Regard), "Gangs of Wasseypur" (Parts 1 & 2), "Peddlers" (Critics' Week) and "Kalpana" (Cannes Classics). But for many years before and since, the pickings have been dishearteningly slender.

One notable aspect of the Indian films in Cannes this year is that they are all either helmed by female directors or are women-centric except one.In what could herald a new era, these films, made by directors endowed with sensibilities and approaches entirely their own, have shaken off the shadow of the gangster genre.

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 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.

Indian-British filmmaker 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.

The Cannes Film Festival will conclude on May 25.

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