Tracing Payal Kapadia's journey, from protesting against Gajendra Chauhan at FTII to winning Grand Prix at Cannes | Bollywood - Hindustan Times

Tracing Payal Kapadia's journey, from protesting against Gajendra Chauhan at FTII to winning Grand Prix at Cannes

ByDevansh Sharma
May 26, 2024 02:55 PM IST

Payal Kapadia, whose film All We Imagine As Light won the Grand Prix at Cannes Film Festival, was once penalised for protesting against her alma mater, FTII.

As Payal Kapadia won the Grand Prix award at the Cannes Film Festival for All We Imagine As Light, lyricist-turned-filmmaker Varun Grover took to X and wrote, “Dissent, in art and in life, is a tough path to choose. But sometimes it does create magic.” Payal has had a history with dissent, which makes her journey of making history at Cannes all the more remarkable. (Also Read – Ali Fazal slams FTII for celebrating Payal Kapadia's Grand Prix win at Cannes Film Festival: ‘Just don’t')

Payal Kapadia won the Grand Prix for her film All We Imagine As Light at the Cannes Film Festival
Payal Kapadia won the Grand Prix for her film All We Imagine As Light at the Cannes Film Festival

Payal's history with dissent

Back when she was in film school, Payal led a student protest against the appointment of actor-politician Gajendra Chauhan as chairman of her alma mater, Film & Television Institute of India, Pune. An FIR was filed against Payal and 34 other students for holding FTII director Prashant Pathrabe captive in his office in 2015. Payal and her group's protest was against Prashant's decision to assess the incomplete projects of students from 2008 batch.

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Payal also led a protest, probably the longest in the institution's history, for 139 days from June till October 2015, against the appointment of BJP member Gajendra Chauhan as the Chairperson of FTII. They questioned his lack of “vision” and “stature,” and thus the credibility to lead a reputed institution like FTII. Disciplinary action was taken against Payal and other students, when they were denied scholarships.

Payal's Cannes debut

In 2017, then-FTII director Bhupendra Kainthola issued a letter of support and covered the travel expenses of Payal as her short film Afternoon Clouds was selected for a screening at the Cannes Film Festival. The 13-minute film screened under the Cinefondation forum (for short films). It revolves around a 60-year-old widow who lives with Nepali house help, set in a single afternoon inside a house. Usha Naik and Trimala Adhikari played the respective roles.

Payal's first Cannes prize

Payal returned to Cannes in 2021 with her documentary A Night of Knowing Nothing. The documentary depicts letters written by a student of FTII to her ex-boyfriend who's not allowed to marry her because they're not of the same caste. Payal won the Golden Eye award for the best documentary film that year.

Payal's latest triumph

Payal scripted history by becoming the first Indian filmmaker to win the Grand Prix award for her directorial debut feature, All We Imagine as Light. The film bagged the second-most prestigious prize of the festival after the Palme d'Or. Her movie is the first Indian film in 30 years and first ever by an Indian female director to be showcased in the main competition. She received the Grand Prix from American actor Viola Davis.

All We Imagine as Light, a Malayalam-Hindi feature, is about Prabha, a nurse, who receives an unexpected gift from her long estranged husband that throws her life into disarray. Her younger roommate, Anu, tries in vain to find a private spot in the big city to be alone with her boyfriend. One day, the two nurses go on a road trip to a beach town where the mystical forest becomes a space for their dreams to manifest, according to the plotline.

The film became a strong contender for the top prize after its screening that saw the team receive an eight-minute standing ovation and glowing reviews from the international critics.

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