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Udaan flies into Cannes

Vikramaditya Motwane’s debut Udaan, will have its first screening at the 63rd Cannes Film Festival. Motwane's work has been chosen to play in the festival’s second most important section.

india Updated: May 20, 2010 19:32 IST
Gautaman Bhaskaran

Gautaman

Gautaman Bhaskaran

The Indian film at the 63rd Cannes Film Festival, Vikramaditya Motwane’s debut Udaan, will have its first screening later in the day. The only entry from India in the Festival’s official sections (not counting Mrinal Sen’s newly restored 1984 Khandar and Ritwik Ghatak’s 1973 Titash Ek Nadir Naam as part of Cannes Classics), Udaan has broken the jinx. For seven years, the famed festival in the French Riviera did not screen an Indian movie. Motwane broke that barrier, and his first work has been chosen to play in the festival’s second most important section after Competition, A Certain Regard.

At a Press conference organised by the India Pavilion – strangely before anybody had seen the film – Motwane answered obviously inane questions from a few journalists there. He said that the movie had autobiographical elements in it, like perhaps any other first work. It could be a book, it could be a film.

Produced by the newly established Anurag Kashyap Films, Udaan in Hindi is two hours seventeen minutes long and is the story of a boy as he grows up in an emotional vacuum. Having studied in a boarding school, he has not seen his father in eight years, and the movie – starring television actors Ronit Roy and Ram Kapoor and debutant Rajat Barmecha – traces their relationship as it struggles to take off.

Before Udaan's inclusion in the festival’s official lineup was announced in Paris on April 15, nobody had heard of Motwane. His earlier claim to fame
was his association with director Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Motwane had helped Bhansali with Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Devdas (screened in Cannes in 2002 as part of the Special section).

Motwane said he wrote the Udaan script in 2003, but could not find money to make it. Some found the script hollow without conviction, some others lambasted the concept. Till, he met Anurag Kashyap (Dev D, Gulaal and Black Friday), who agreed to finance the movie and write the dialogue. The shooting took just 42 days.

The Festival had resisted selecting any work from India since 2003, when Murali Nair’s Malayalam entry, Arimpara, made it to the A Certain Regard.

This ought to have been a grand celebration for India. But it hardly looked so with the Motwane Press meet beginning almost 50 minutes late. Some journalists had left by then, and naturally, for, in a festival the day-to-day schedule is extremely tight. And, the Motwane event coincided with d’Oliver Assayas’ 5-hour-and-33-minute Carlos. Now which international journalist worth his name in print would miss that to attend a Press conference addressed by an unknown director and whose first work had not yet been screened?

Obviously, Motwane’s PR team at Cannes seems to be a rank novice, and the India Pavillion must also share a good part of the blame for the messy way it has been conducting affairs. To cut the story short, it has failed to be a facilitator between Indian visitors (including journalists and helmers) and the international cinema fraternity here. The Joint Director of the International Film Festival of India, Shankar Mohan, now here, tells me that he has been trying to “locate” me for two full days without any success! The important documentary filmmaker from India, S. Krishnaswamy’s talk on Mrinal Sen was cancelled, and shockingly he has had no invites for some of the most important Indian parties, one of them to celebrate Mani Ratnam’s latest Tamil/Hindi Raavanan/Raavan. Its first look was unveiled here.

And, finally, no celebration has been planned for Udaan and when the Information and Broadcasting Secretary, Raghu Menon (who was here for a few days), asked me how best one could promote the Indian movie, I suggested advertisements in the local English dailies and a party. One saw a single advertisement in Variety. There ends the gala.

Unfortunately, Udaan is struggling to fly.