Oscar-winner Resul Pookutty praises Payal Kapadia’s Cannes win: ‘Mainstream Indian film industry had nothing to do with it’

Pookutty emphasised that Kapadia’s win wasn’t just a personal victory but a testament to the resilience and dedication of FTII alumni

Updated - May 26, 2024 10:01 pm IST

Published - May 26, 2024 06:55 pm IST

Payal Kapadia and Resul Pookutty

Payal Kapadia and Resul Pookutty | Photo Credit: Andrea Alexandru; THG

Indian cinema has once again made its mark on the global stage, with Payal Kapadia’s All We Imagine as Light clinching the Grand Prix at the 2024 Cannes Film Festival. This monumental win, the first for an Indian film in three decades, tells the compelling story of two Kerala nurses navigating their lives in contemporary Mumbai. The film stars Kani Kusruti, Divya Prabha, and Chhaya Kadam.

On Sunday, Resul Pookutty, the Academy Award-winning sound designer for Slumdog Millionaire, shared some of his thoughts in a Facebook post. Reflecting on Kapadia’s triumph, Pookutty talked about the role that the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) played in nurturing talents like Kapadia.

He emphasised that Kapadia’s win wasn’t just a personal victory but a testament to the resilience and dedication of FTII alumni. Pookutty pointed out the broader implications of Kapadia’s success, noting the lack of support from the mainstream Indian film industry and government delegations typically sent to Cannes.

“What makes Payal’s win so important?! Not just that she is from FTII, but she is from a group of people/student enthusiasts who are regular people who come from varied corners of India and signed themselves to be strugglers for the rest of their lives. (sic),” Pookutty wrote.

Pookutty emphasized the struggles faced by students at institutions like FTII and SRFTII, who often commit to a life of artistic struggle rather than the more conventional career paths followed by graduates of more prestigious Indian institutions. “When you study at an IIM, IIT or AIIMS, you become managers of MNCs, Engineers and Doctors. But when you sign up to study at FTII or SRFTII you become a struggler,” he wrote.

“That sleepy institute with long hanging roots of the trees and the black road that winds up like a snake from the main gate to the main theatre is where the history of Indian Cinema sleeps and many generations have drawn inspiration from. Every student who studied there has always nurtured a point of view that every govt. looked at it as anti-establishment,” added the Otta-maker, before expressing a sense of pride in how most students who pass out of FTII and the National School of Drama, New Delhi, find work in the country, unlike the case in other institutes.

Pookutty reemphasised that the mainstream film industry had nothing to do with Kapadia’s historic win at Cannes. “The only reason they won is also not because we had inspiring teachers, there were some but not all. The only reason for this National glory is all the inspiring films we saw at FTII and the atmosphere of that place nurtured by all the brilliant artists from all across the globe who visited there and left their energies…

“My only request is whoever or whatever or whichever dispensation are at the helm of affairs, do not destroy that atmosphere which took generations to nurture…. There are many more Payals and Chidanands, Sathosh Sivans and Shaji Karuns are going to come out. Inspire them, and let them show us a mirror that reflects us as a true society where original, logical and scientific temperament is celebrated. Let us create Sovereign minds, that will be a true celebration of cinema and life (sic),” he wrote.

Pookutty ended his note mentioning the court cast that Kapadia is set to face that was filed by FTII. As Kapadia returns from her Cannes triumph, she faces a court hearing next month stemming from her involvement in the 2015 FTII protests against the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as chairman. Kapadia was at the forefront of a historic 139-day protest opposing Chauhan’s appointment due to his perceived lack of qualifications. The protest led to severe repercussions for Kapadia, including the revocation of her scholarship and an FIR being filed against her.

Later, her 13-minute short film, Afternoon Clouds, was selected for the competition category at the 70th Cannes International Festival in 2017. This recognition prompted FTII to reverse its punitive actions, extending support for her travel to Cannes.

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