In a way, this year has a lot of Indian cinema happening at Cannes.
Kamal Hassan must be a disappointed man these days. The South Indian superstar, also called Ulganayagan, must have hoped against hope that his latest Tamil movie, Viswaroopam, would be at the Cannes Film Festival this year.
But that was not to be.
(The 12-day cinematic event began on the extraordinarily scenic French Riviera on Wednesday.)
Some weeks ago, Kamal had his public relations team all keyed up for what he thought would be his big time at Cannes, undoubtedly the most celebrated and the biggest movie festival in the world. Indian media had been abuzz with Kamal’s reported statements which said that Viswaroopam would be at Cannes, and in Competition. Not just this, but that the film would be judged by a nine-member jury, headed by the Italian master, Nanni Moretti.
The India media, which can be awfully naïve or just plain lazy to check and verify facts, swallowed the bait. Kamal was to be at Cannes, the reports said, and this must have got thousands of his fans across India delirious with joy.
But, when Cannes announced the official list of movies, Viswaroopam did not figure anywhere in it. Was Kamal disappointed? Was he ashamed that his PR exercise went so horribly wrong? One would never know.
Instead of Kamal’s work, what was selected was Ashim Ahluwalia’s Miss Lovely, an independent Hindi work by a first-time director. It will be part of the A Certain Regard, with 20 entries. This is the most important section after Competition, a section devoted to discovering potential talent, a section where some of world cinema’s great names emerged.
The last Indian work to screen at Cannes was Vikramaditya Motwane’s Udaan in the 2010 A Certain Regard.
Set in the Mumbai of the mid-1980s, Miss Lovely is a story of sleaze and suspicion. Two brothers, Vicky and Sonu, make C-grade films, and fall in love with the same woman.
Miss Lovely stars Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Niharika Singh and Anil George.
Apart from Miss Lovely, Uday Shankar’s 1948 Kalpana will screen in the Festival’s Classics Section. The movie was digitally restored by Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Foundation. Fortunately, a copy of the original negative was found at the National Film Archive of India that the Foundation used to create a brand new print.
Renowned dancer Uday Shankar wrote and directed only one movie, and Kalpana traces the story of a young artist’s dream to establish a dance academy. The film has Shankar and his wife, Amala, playing the leads.
The Cannes Classics was created in 2004 as part of the Festival’s efforts to perpetuate the memory of great cinema. Since then many restored movies have been screened at the Festival, and they included Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali and Mrinal Sen’s Khandar. Ray was dead by then, but Sen was present to see his creation bright and beautiful. Both films, classics indeed, looked unbelievably lovely.
In a way, this year has a lot of Indian cinema happening at Cannes. Two parallel events take place during the Festival: Directors’ Fortnight and Critics Week. Two Indian movies, Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur – five hours long in two parts – and Vasan Bala’s Peddlers will play in these sections.
Bala’s work, also set in Mumbai, traces the story of woman with a mission and a drifter. When they meet or collide, sparks fly.
Kashyap scripts the story of vengeance and vendetta that consumes three generations of a family living in Wasseypur.
It is another thing that Kashyap has been telling the Indian media that two of his films are at Cannes. Yes, Cannes alright, but the movie is not part of the Festival, only part of a parallel event. And, Gangs of Wasseypur is not two films. It is one, divided into two parts.
But who cares what goes in newspapers and on television.
Gautaman Bhaskaran is a Chennai-India based author, columnist and film critic, and can be contacted at [email protected]. He is an FMT columnist.