Come May 17, the Cannes Film Festival will roll out its landmark 70th edition on the fantastic French Riviera. This year, the 12-day event will be in a far more celebratory mood that usual with the dashing, debonair and unbelievably young Emmanuel Macron having been elected President of France.
The festival also happens in a year that coincides with seven decades of India’s Independence from centuries of British slavery. However, despite the general-delegate of the festival, Thierry Fremaux, evincing a keen interest in this unusual coincidence during this writer’s meeting with him at the Dubai International Film Festival last December, Indian cinema is conspicuously absent from the Cannes selections, except for a minor student movie. Also disappointing has been India’s no show in the two important events - Directors’ Fortnight and Critics’ Week - which run along with the festival, thought they are outside of and independent of it. What is more, there is no Indian on the festival’s juries, though the A Certain Regard list of jurors is not yet complete.
But in what seems like a never-say-die attitude, India is planning big all right. For a starter, the National Film Development Corporation of India (NFDC) will be in charge of the India Pavilion on the beach -- a control the organisation lost some time ago with unhappy consequences for the nation producing the largest number of movies. The pavilion was shabbily run in the years when the NFDC was out.
And the corporation is planning to return with a bang. It has roped in the Union Information and Broadcasting Minister, Venkaiah Naidu, who will be at Cannes for at least three days meeting the Indian and international press as well as others.
Outside the purview of the government, several Indian film producers, directors and actors would be flying into the Cannes Market - arguably the largest in the world. So what if the festival has not chosen any Indian movie, we would take our works and screen them in the Market - and invite buyers and the media. This appears to be the spirit.
In fact, one of the prime motives of any filmmaker attending Cannes is get his or her work sold, and one of the ways to achieve this is to screen it in the Market - which is almost as effective as having it shown in the festival, in one of its sections like Competition, Outside Competition, Special/Midnight Screenings, A Certain Regard, etc.
Happily, an essentially Tamil movie (also to be made in Hindi and Telugu), Sangamithra, with Jayam Ravi, Arya and Shruti Haasan will be promoted at the Market with the director, C Sundar, also present. One says happily because South Indian cinema has been unusually shy of Cannes, and the few helmers or actors who have been there have largely remained in the shadows of their Bollywood brethren. One is told that the Sangamithra team, including its producer, Murali, and art director, Sabu Cyril, will walk the red carpet in what may be seen as an enormous publicity push. As Jayam Ravi quipped, their Cannes journey would be a challenging one.
Undoubtedly so, for Cannes is a huge, huge circus where making a point or getting oneself noticed is no mean task, and Sangamithra and its players need to be prepared for this daunting experiment.
Another ‘South Indian’star, Amy Jackson - strictly a British model who has made Chennai her home and Tamil cinema her passion (with she even boldly proclaiming that “I am a Tamil girl”) -- will also be at Cannes. However, she will not be publicising an India film. Rather, it will be an Indo-British project, helmed by Andy Morahan. The two will be screening the trailer of the movie, Boogie Man.
And as already mentioned in these columns, Nandita Das will also be at the festival to give a fillip to her upcoming, Manto. Not quite a biopic, but more a perspective on his radical ideas -- as Das had once told this writer during an interview in Chennai -- the film on Pakistani playwright and essayist Saadat Hasan Manto could not be coming at more appropriate time, when the freedom of every kind is under threat in India. Manto may become a big talking point at Cannes - now that the French feel that by choosing Macron they have been able to regain liberty.
Finally, three award-clinching Marathi movie will also be at the Market’s viewing rooms. They will be Dashakriya (Tenth Day) by Sandeep Bhalachandra Patil, Cycle (Prakash Kunte) and Take Care, Good Night (Girish Joshi). These works have been picked by the Maharashtra Government in an attempt to showcase the state and its cinema to a global audience.
So, we are all set to witness what may be termed as a march by Indian cinema into Cannes. Yes, the Market, which -- as some would say -- is where the ‘rokda’ rules.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran will cover the 70th edition of the Cannes Film Festival from May 17 to 28.)
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