Two days, seven films: Cannes can't do more for India
To celebrate the simultaneous 60th anniversaries of India's independence and the world's number one film festival, Cannes is mounting a special focus on the diversity of Indian cinema.
The package, which will run parallel to the festival's official selection, includes seven Indian films chosen from across genres, languages and styles.
The India Focus, organised as part of the Tous les Cinemas du Monde (All the Cinemas of the World) section, kicks off on May 19 with the screening of the Malayalam film Saira, the debut effort by homoeopathic practitioner-turned- filmmaker Biju Kumar.
Saira deals with the impact of terrorism on the lives of ordinary people. The 90-minute film looks at how an act of communal anger reduces the lives of a Muslim classical musician and his television reporter-daughter into tatters.
Two other debut films -- Bhavna Talwars Dharm, featuring Pankaj Kapur as an ascetic man of god whose life changes for good when his family adopts a little boy, and Mridul Toolsidass and Vinay Subramanians quirky Missed Call, a movie in English about a young mans obsession with his hand-held camera -- are part of the package.
Among the other films in the package are two commercially successful Hindi productions, Rajkumar Hirani's "Lage Raho Munnabhai" and Mani Ratnam's Guru. Also in the line-up is Kolkata filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh's Dosar, a black and white drama about marital indiscretions.
The Tamil-language Veyil, directed by Vasantha Balan, completes the India Focus. Veyil represents a significant first for Tamil cinema - no film in the language has ever made it to Cannes before.
It is certainly noteworthy that the worlds premier film festival has chosen to turn the spotlight on the worlds largest movie industry in this special commemorative focus.
But to put Indias participation in the section in perspective, the "Tous les Cinemas du Monde" section is designed for emerging film industries around the world and is put together primarily to capture filmmaking traditions in little- known centres of the globe.
For India to be placed alongside countries like Lebanon, Angola, Kenya, Slovenia and Colombia is hardly an honour of the proportions that certain sections of the media are making it out to be.
However, in deference to the sheer size of the Indian movie industry, the Cannes festival's organisers have decided to devote two days to the country.
"Tous les Cinemas du Monde" is a seven-day event that usually devotes only one day to a country. Size does matter. But, then, so does quality.
It is on the latter count that Indian filmmakers still need to do a lot of work if they are to make the transition from the fringes of Cannes to its very centre.