Wednesday, 15 May 2013


India is the world’s biggest producer of films, but it has been almost 20 years since the country had a contender for the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival, one of the most important events in the movie industry.

A poster for  Anurag Kashyap's "Ugly".
Over the next 12 days, however, Cannes will be celebrating 100 years of Indian cinema and honouring both established and emerging directors as a fresh generation of filmmakers enters the spotlight.

“The festival is delighted to celebrate one of the most important countries in the world of cinema, a country with a prestigious history and tradition, one whose current day and creative impulses are a perennial example of vitality,” stated  the festival’s organizers.

Although there is no Indian film among the 20 features selected to compete for the Palme d’or, Anurag Kashyap, the 40-year-old “new kid on the block”, will present his film “Ugly” at the Directors' Fortnight during the festival, which runs from May 15 to 26 in the southern French city.

“Ugly” is a drama about a depressed, alcoholic woman and the dark relationship with her ex-husband when their child is kidnapped. It joins “Dabba” (The Lunchbox), a magic-realism feature by Ritesh Batra, and “Monsoon Shootout”, a police thriller by director Amit Kumar, both of which are up for the Camera d'or, an award given to the best first film presented in any category at Cannes. 

Anurag Kashyap
Indian cinema dates from the end of the late 1800s, but it was in 1913 that Dadasaheb Phalke produced “Raja Harishchandra”, a silent film now considered the country’s first full-length motion picture. The period after World War II saw the “golden age” of “Bollywood” and since then India has produced thousands of movies. 

The main event of Cannes’ India focus will be the gala screening and world premiere of “Bombay Talkies”, an anthology of four short films that tackle social issues in a modern way. Kashyap also collaborated on this project, alongside Dibakar Banerjee, Karan Johar and Zoya Akhtar, all seen as the exciting face of contemporary Indian cinema.

One of the best-known Indian films.
Akhtar, 39, is one of still too-few women directors represented at international film festivals like Cannes (only one female director has ever won the Palme d’or - New Zealander Jane Campion for “The Piano”). But Akhtar can fortunately look to some  famous forebears who helped pave the way: Mira Nair (“Monsoon Wedding”) and Gurinder Chadha (“Bend It Like Beckham”), for example.

The festival’s artistic director Thierry Frémaux wants Cannes to be a more inclusive scene, and since his appointment in 2001, the event seems to be getting more diversified. The Short Film jury this year is headed by Campion and includes Indian actress Nandita Das and Ethiopian director Maji-da Abdi.

“Cannes must be open to new ideas, while remaining faithful to its past. Diversity can only enrich it,” Frémaux has said. During his stint, Cannes has welcomed two other guest countries – Egypt in 2011 and Brazil last year.