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Updated: May 21, 2014 16:14 IST

From Mumbai to Cannes

SUDHISH KAMATH
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Filmmaker Manjeet Singh
Special Arrangement Filmmaker Manjeet Singh

Manjeet Singh on his next project Chenu selected by the Cannes Film Festival’s L’Atelier

Manjeet Singh’s debut film Mumbai Cha Raja has won a lot of hearts ever since its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival and subsequent screenings at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival and Palm Springs International Film Festival. Incidentally, the film also went on to the win the Special Jury Award back home — at the Mumbai Film Festival.

And now, even before Mumbai Cha Raja gets a release, his next project Chenu has been selected by the Cannes Film Festival’s L’Atelier (co-production market) to be held during the festival in May. Chenu is one of the 15 projects from around the world, and the only Indian film, to be selected into the market.

“It’s an honour to be selected in the most powerful co-production market,” says Manjeet. “This will speed up the funding and bring on board reputed producers, sales agents and distributors from around the world.”

Chenu is the story of a Dalit boy from a village in North India, who is drawn into an ongoing war between leftist naxalites and fascist landlords, after his sister’s fingers are chopped by a landlord for plucking mustard leaves from his farm. After being denied justice, Chenu’s family is drawn to the naxals.

An endorsement from one of the most prestigious festivals in the world has come as a shot in the arm for Manjeet who has had to face multiple rejections in his efforts in trying to get Chenu made. “It’s a stamp of approval that Chenu belongs to best of world cinema. It also an indication of the faith that authorities at Cannes have in my directorial abilities, after they watched Mumbai Cha Raja, that I will be able to do justice to this wild story I have conceived.”

Chenu was a script that Manjeet wrote even before Mumbai Cha Raja but had little luck with. Not that it was easy to get Mumbai Cha Raja made. Like Chenu, Mumbai Cha Raja is also about a kid from the fringes of society. Rahul, a slum kid has to deal with his alcoholic father and long-suffering mother and find happiness during the chaos of the last two days of the Ganpati festival when thousands of idols are immersed into the sea.

“There is very little support for independent films. People projected as champions of Indie cinema don’t have time to watch the film and corporates barely even reply to emails,” says Manjeet, who turned to crowd-funding for the post production of Mumbai Cha Raja, which he hopes to release soon. “We’re still looking for distributors,” he says.

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