SUNDAY MAGAZINE

Need for a universal story

Award-winning film: "Vanaja" had a simple storyline and passionate performances.   | Photo Credit: Photo: The Hindu Photo Library

NILOSREE BISWAS

What are India's chances at the international film festival in Cannes?

AS the 60th edition of Cannes opens on May 15 in the French Riviera, the million-dollar question is does India have a chance at one of the world's most pro-glamour film festivals?The Indian media is only fleetingly conscious of the festival's importance worldwide. A large portion of the discussion still veers around whether the India's ambassador at Cannes will visit the festival with her in-laws this year. On a scale of one to 10, this scores 10. While the question of whether Gowarikar's "Jodha Akbar" will make it to the festival in an incomplete form scores just two points.So where does this leave us? Nowhere, I suppose, since nobody seems to have heard about Raka Datta, whose "Chinese Whisper" is the only Indian entry in the competitive section of Cannes, while "Guru" and a host of other films will be screened as popular cinema. Another entry is Mickeal Kummer's "Aditi Singh". The catch is Kummer is of Indian origin so one can count it as an entry with Indian component

A simple story

Earlier this year, "Vanaja" went on to win the debut film Golden Bear award in Berlin. The film's storyline was simple: a young girl from a fishing community wanted to make it big as a Mohiniattam dancer. Rajnesh Domalpalli rooted the narrative to his observations at a very personal level. With first-time performers, "Vanaja" drew its strength from simple story and passionate performances.What does this indicate? Obviously the larger filmmaking community in India needs to do some serious introspection. While most filmmakers use terms like global or crossover cinema, in reality it has not lead to much for Indian films. "Rang De Basanti", which is supposed to be the kind of film that could have clicked in these international film festival circuits, didn't have much to write home about. Neither did the stars click nor did the concept of Gen Next becoming patriotic work in the international festival circuit. Still the Academy Awards and Cannes are golden chances for the Indian film industry. Compete (if they give you a chance) or become a jury member. Can anyone recall when an Indian film was last appreciated in Cannes, if not been awarded in some category? But we recall Aishwarya Rai's and Nandita Das' presence as members of the jury. The handful of films that were recognised in Cannes from 1939 till 2006 are led by "Pather Panchali", which won the Best Human Document in 1956, followed by "Garam Hawa", "Pushpak", "Mayamriga", "Salam Bombay", "Piravi", "Swaham" and "Doshar" )not necessarily in chronological order). Of these "Salam Bombay" and "Piravi" won the La Caméra d'Or or the Best First Film award. That was our last feather in 1989. If Mira Nair is considered as an Indian filmmaker based in the U.S., we can take credit for "Salam Bombay" if not Shaji N. Karun's "Swaham" was the last film to be recognised.

Sensitive and universal

A careful study shows that all these films are sensitive depictions. They narrate stories that are rooted in the life of common people and are largely related to universal man's situation. Unless our filmmakers wake up to the idea of telling a story that a Japanese, a Turkish, an African or a Swiss can relate to, India will have to be satisfied with the extended party at Cannes.