The prestigious film festival, since 1939, caters to the critical and commercial interests of the film fraternity and also helps to sketch the cinematic image of different countries. This non public festival provides massive media exposure to the new filmmakers for launching their films, selling them to the distributors from all over the world and promoting them in the film arena.
Journey of Indian Films at Cannes International Film Festival
Indian films have since long captured the attention and appreciations of international juries at the event. Many of the movies which could not achieve much success in the country have won the hearts of global filmmakers for their eminent and moving depiction of unique tales and concepts. Trend of the Indian celluloid industry have mostly been inclined towards the popularity of movies meant primarily for entertainment while the instances of thought provoking and off beat films marking their presence in the Indian market have been quite low. Low budget projects often suffer publicity and marketing issues which also lead to their dull presence in the Indian film industry. Such movies also acquire a brilliant and global platform at Cannes International Film Festival to showcase their work and gather critical applauses and prominence for their work. Although the event has screened a number of Indian films over years and has admired many of them, only a few of them have walked away with prestigious accolades.
After the commencement in 1939, Cannes International Film Festival encountered a break of 6 years due to World War II and resumed in 1946. In the same year Chetan Anand's film ‘Neecha Nagar’ bagged the top prize at the event known as the 'Grand Prix du Festival International du Film'. The movie was amongst the earliest efforts in portraying a realistic concept in Bollywood. The movie focussed on the huge social gap between the rich and the poor and was successful in creating new waves in Indian cinema.
Raj Kapoor's film ‘Awaara’ is a story of a poor guy and a rich girl and the challenges that life throws at them. This venture was shortlisted for the much coveted honour of Palme d’Or.
‘Amar Bhoopali’ is a Marathi biographical film based on the life of the poet and musician Honaji Bala. He had also contributed in popularizing Lavani dance. Directed by Rajaram Vankudre Shantaram, the movie is set in the early 19th century in the backdrop of final days of the Maratha confederacy. The movie depicted the love of Honaji Bala for both dance and women.
‘Guide’ was one of the first Indian films to be made in collaboration with an international team. This Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman starrer enjoyed an offbeat status in India.
Do Bigha Zamin
‘Do Bigha Zamin’ is a social-realist Bollywood movie which narrates the tale of a farmer named Shambu Mahato. It portrays his struggles to protect his land after he was burdened with an artificially inflated debt. The film exhibits a pleasant balance between entertainment and art, featuring songs of legendary playback singers Mohammed Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar.
‘Pather Panchali’, a Bengali film, was the creation of the eminent filmmaker Satyajit Ray and was the first movie of the 'Apu trilogy'. The film mostly featured amateur actors and narrates the story of a young boy belonging to a rural family. The soulful portrayal of the needs of the family which compels them to relocate in a new city for survival presents an excellent example of lyrical realism which the director is famed for. In 1956, the film received the 'Palme d'Or' for Best Human Document at Cannes International Film Festival.
Gotoma the Buddha
Rajbans Khanna's documentary film ‘Gotoma The Buddha’, based on the life of Lord Buddha, earned praises at the 1957 festival for its simplistic story and visual fare. The film released as a part of Buddha's 2500th birthday celebration.
‘Kharij’, a Bengali film, is the adaptation of Ramapada Chowdhury's novel by the same name. This tragic drama directed by the acclaimed director Mrinal Sen depicts the story of the accidental death of an under aged servant and its effect on the couple who hired him. The movie brilliantly exposes the political exploitation of underprivileged classes in the country. The movie won the 'Special Jury Prize' at the 1983 Cannes International Film Festival.
Mira Nair's first feature film ‘Salaam Bombay!’ was a worldwide success. This documentary-narrative was about the children dwelling on the streets of Bombay tackling complex issues of drug dealing, prostitutes, pimps and poverty. The movie featured real children from the streets of the city who enacted their life experiences. The movie bagged two awards at the 1988 festival namely the 'Camera d'Or' and the 'Audience Award'.
‘Piravi’ was the debut venture of Malayalam director Shaji N. Karun. The movie is based on the true story of the disappearance of an engineering college student. It won 'Camera d'Or' award at 1989 festival.
‘Marana Simhasanam’ is a Malayalam short film set in the backdrop of Kerala. The film narrates the disturbing tale of the first execution by electric chair in India. It portrays a desperate villager sentenced to death for stealing some coconuts to feed his family. With minimal dialogues, the film deals with the ruthless issue of political manipulation and class oppression. The film was the winner of 'Camera d'Or' at the 1999 festival.
A Very Very Silent Film
Manish Jha's short film ‘A Very Very Silent Film’ unfolds the social vices which affect women poverty victimizing them mentally and physically. The film walked away with the 'Jury Prize for the Best Short Film' at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival.
Directed by Vikramaditya Motwane, ‘Udaan’ made a mark at Cannes in May 2010 which was chosen for the 4th Annual Asia Pacific Screen Awards to be held in Australia on 2nd December.
‘The Lunchbox’ is the debut venture of filmmaker Ritesh Batra who succeeded in bagging an award for India at Cannes after over a decade. This epistolary romantic film won 'Grand Rail d'Or' at 2013 festival.
‘Miss Lovely’ follows the story of the Duggal brothers, who produced sleazy sex-horror films and share a jointly critical relationship. The film competed in the Un Certain Regard section and was considered to be out-of-the-box by many critics.
Directed by Kanu Behl, ‘Titli’ is the story of a boy who forms a pact with his wife to escape family roots. Prior to its theatrical release in India, Titli premiered at Cannes in the Un Certain Regard section.
Nandita Das’s biographical drama ‘Manto’ (starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui as the legendary Urdu writer Saadat Hasan Manto) and Rohena Gera’s Sir (starring Tillotama Shome as a domestic worker) in the Un Certain Regard and Critics Week categories respectively.
‘Village Rockstars’ is about a little girl in a village in Assam who wants to own a guitar and form a band. A story of hope and profound simplicity, this refreshingly original movie has been shot in the nondescript hamlet of Chhaygaon, with the cast being made up of mostly local villagers.
Malayalam film-maker Jayaraj, ‘Bhayanakam’ bagged three awards - best director, best adapted screenplay and best cinematography - at the 65th National Film Awards. The beautifully depicted film is based on a chapter in Kayar, the epic novel written by Jnanpith award-winning Malayalam writer Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai.
Sinjar bagged the titles of the Best Jeseri Film and the Indira Gandhi Award for Best Debut Director at the 65th National Film Awards. The movie traces the journey of two housemaids in Iraq who are taken hostages by the ISIS along with the Yazidi women and flee from captivity only to end in a closed society.
Directed by Kaushik Ganguly, Bengali film ‘Nagar Kirtan’ won big at the 65th National Film Awards, with four honours to its credit - Special Jury, Best Actor, Best Costume and Best Makeup Artist. The moving drama revolves around a flute player, played by Ritwik Chakraborty and a transgender, played by Riddhi Sen.
Anurag Kashyap's revenge saga, ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’, was screened at the Directors' Fortnight and was initially five hours in length. His other movies ‘Ugly’ and ‘Raman Raghav 2.0’ also played at the Directors' Fortnight in 2012 and 2016 respectively.
The visibility of Indian films at Cannes is a testimony of how the Indian filmmakers have enthralled the international film fraternity through ages, making the nation proud. The emergence of experimental filmmakers and evolution of intriguing genres has greatly aided the Indian film industry in casting permanent imprints on the global film arena.