Cannes do: On a big win for indie cinema at the 77th edition of the film festival

Indian films are beginning to make a splash on the international stage 

Updated - May 28, 2024 07:28 am IST

Published - May 28, 2024 12:30 am IST

The moment after Payal Kapadia scripted history by becoming the first Indian film-maker to win the Grand Prix award at the Cannes film festival for All We Imagine as Light will be etched in cinematic memory. As the 38-year-old walked to the stage, she pulled along the three main women protagonists of her film, Kani Kusruti, Divya Prabha and Chhaya Kadam, and the four posing with the prize has become the shot of the 77th edition of the festival, definitely for Indians. Bagging the second highest honour after the Palme d’Or (which went to American director Sean Baker’s Anora) for her trilingual debut feature, an Indo-French collaboration, which shines a light on the story of two Malayali nurses and migrants working in ‘Maximum City’ Mumbai, is a big win for indie cinema. The last time an Indian film was in the competition section was 30 years ago with Shaji N. Karun’s Swaham in 1994. “Please don’t wait 30 years to have another Indian film,” Kapadia said in her acceptance speech. Eschewing the usual song-and-dance trope or larger-than-life heroes, Kapadia’s film is about a friendship between three very different women. She said friendship is a very important relationship for her, “because it can lead to greater solidarity, inclusivity and empathy towards each other. These are the values we should all be striving for”.

The other important takeaway is Kapadia’s remark that “it takes a village to make a film”. Thanking her cast and crew, Kapadia talked about the Indian film-making ecosystem — “There are interesting films being made in India, and I am only a product of that.” She also rooted for the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), with which she had a run-in in 2015, where she said she watched world cinema. She was effusive about the strong film industry presence in most States, singling out the Malayalam film industry for its support to good cinema. India clearly made a splash at Cannes this year, with Kolkata’s Anasuya Sengupta winning the Best Actress in the Un Certain Regard section for her turn in Konstantin Bojanov’s The Shameless; British-Indian film-maker Karan Kandhari’s Sister Midnight in the parallel Director’s Fortnight selection; FTII student Chidananda S. Naik’s short Sunflowers Were The First Ones To Know winning the top prize in the official LaCinef section, Cannes’s competition for film school students; Cannes Classics releasing a remastered Manthan, Shyam Benegal’s 1976 film, and so forth. For Kapadia, this was her third outing in Cannes — she had won the best documentary prize in 2021. With the Grand Prix prize just three years later, Kapadia will inspire young independent film-makers to tell their stories, and, hopefully, get the backing they deserve.

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