By Saibal Chatterjee
New Delhi, May 16 (PTI) The curtains are all set to go up on Tuesday evening on the 75th Cannes Film Festival, the first full-fledged in-person edition of the event in three years, with the screening of Michel Hazanivicius's movie-themed French zombie comedy "Final Cut".
India, the country of honour at the 2022 Marche du Film (Cannes Film Market), marks her 75th year as an independent nation with a six-film package to be screened in the market. It includes actor R. Madhavan’s directorial debut, "Rocketry: The Nambi Effect", scheduled for release in early July.
The five other films cherry-picked by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting are Nikhil Mahajan’s Marathi-language "Godavari", Shankar Srikumar’s "Alpha Beta Gamma", Biswajeet Bora’s "Boomba Ride", Achal Mishra’s "Dhuin" and Jayaraj’s "Tree Full of Parrots". All these will be showcased on a screen in the Marche du Film.
In the festival proper, however, India’s presence is at best fringe. Shaunak Sen’s Sundance World Cinema Grand Jury Prize-winning documentary film "All That Breathes", Pratham Khurana’s short film in Le Cinef (a competition for film schools) and juror Deepika Padukone are the only ‘official’ participants this year in the world’s premier film festival.
On the sidelines of the festival, however, a clutch of new Indian film projects will look for global breakthroughs via pitching and mentoring sessions organised as part of either the Cannes Film Festival or Marche du Film.
Leading this pack is FTII student Gourab Kumar Mullick’s "Starfruits", produced by Umesh Vinayak Kulkarni’s Arbhaat Films, Samir Sarkar’s Magic Hour Films and fellow-FTII alumnus Yudhajit Basu. It is among nine fiction films and one documentary shortlisted for La Fabrique les cinemas du monde, a programme hosted by Institute Francais as part of the Cannes Film Festival.
In the director’s own words, "Starfruits" seeks to present a “contrast to the archetypal image of the ‘gangster’ fighting the system through a unique love story”.
The 10 La Fabrique 2022 filmmakers will be mentored by Midi Z, a Myanmar-born Taiwanese director whose credits include the features "Ice Poison", "The Road to Mandalay" and "Nina Wu".
In the La Fabrique 2022 mix are two other South Asian projects – Abinash Bikram Shah’s "Elephants in the Fog" (Nepal) and Seemab Gul’s "Haven of Hope" (Pakistan). In an unprecedented double break, Shah also has a 14-minute short film in the Cannes Short Films Competition – "Lori (Melancholy of My Mother’s Lullabies)".
Another Indian film that is likely to be in the news in the months ahead is Rajesh S. Jala’s "Chingari" (Spark), produced by the director himself with Prayaas Deepti’s Inquilab Studios. It is one of five projects from across the world selected by the Hong Kong – Asia Film Financing Forum for its “HAF Goes to Cannes” programme.
The short synopsis of "Chingari" reads: “A filmmaker on assignment follows a cremator and an old woman in the ancient city of Banaras with his camera. Soon, hidden realities emerge and the filmmaker’s real mission unfolds.”
Among Jala’s best-known film is the internationally acclaimed 2008 documentary "Children of the Pyre", filmed in Banaras’ largest cremation ground on the banks of the Ganga.
The 'NFDC Film Bazaar Goes to Cannes' line-up has five works-in-progress at different stage of production. These are "Baghjan", Assamese-Moran film by Jaicheng Zxai Dohutia; "Bailadila", a Hindi-Chhattisgarhi film by Shailendra Sahu; Ektara Collective’s "Ek Jagah Apni"; Harshad Nalawade’s Marathi-Kannada-Hindi film "Follower" and Jai Shankar’s Kannada film "Shivamma".
So, while India will continue to be a bit player in the festival, filmmakers from around the country can expect a lot of action in the Cannes Film Market. PTI CORR RDS