It is dismaying to see that not even a single film from India was picked for screening at Cannes 2019. Among the long list of 1845 feature films that were submitted for the official selection, strangely none of the Indian movies made to the final.
An Indian film personality was also missing from the jury panel of this edition. This is quite unusual considering that last year India left a shining mark at the esteemed film festival with projects like Saadat Hasan Manto’s biopic Manto directed by Nandita Das and Rohena Gera’s Sir.
Manto was selected for the prestigious ‘Un Certain Regard’ category and Sir, a somewhat unconventional love story was screened under the Critics Week category.
Not only with the above, but Indian cinema had made a lasting impression in the heart of global cinema lovers with a series of other classic movies in 2018. Pournami made by Pushpa Ignatius was shown at the Short Film Corner.
Bhonsle, a cop drama enacted by Manoj Bajpayee and Devashish Makhija was first unveiled at the Cannes 2018. White, a silent movie created by Aneek Chaudhuri was also premiered at the Marche du Film.
The first look of Vikhas Khanna’s directorial debut The Last Colour grabbed the attention of the public. Even the poster launch event of Dhanush starrer The Extraordinary Journey of Fakirgot movie buffs talking about the high quality of Indian cinema and the artists involved in it.
India’s first venture to the 72-yearold festival is not very recent. It started way back in 1946 with the highest prize there, the Palme d’Or. Neecha Nagar, starring Zohra Sehgal and Kamini Kaushal, was one of the earliest films to achieve world recognition.
In 1952, Amar Bhoopali, the biopic of Honaji bala, a famous Marathi poet directed by V Shantaram was nominated for the honor of the best film. Later, in 1954 Do Bigha Zamin by Bimal Roy made Indian cine-lovers proud once again by winning the top prize at Cannes.
In 1955, Naaz, the child artist in Raj Kapoor’s iconic Boot Polish was the winner of the Special Distinction Award for her remarkable acting skills.
The next year, 1956, too was a successful year for Indian Cinema as Satyajit Ray’s legendary feature drama Pather Panchali won the Best Human Document Film Award.
After a few decades of relatively lukewarm presence, Indian Film Industry once again made its presence felt at the biggest global film festival in the eighties.
In 1983, Mrinal Sen’s Kharij won the prestigious jury award while the director himself was made a member of the jury in 1982.
Another epic creation by him, starring Naseeruddin Shah and Shabana Azmi, Khandaharwas also shown in the category Un Certain Regard in 1984.
The year 1988 was also a big year for Indian films as Saalam Bombay by Meera Nair won Camera d’Or as well as the Audience Award. Director Gautam Ghose’s Antarjali Jatra was screened under the Un Certain Regard category and in the subsequent year, Piravi, a Malayalam movie got Special Mention in Camera d’Or category.
India continued its dream run at the Cannes in the early nineties’ too. A commendable number of regional films were screened under the Un Certain Regard category like Sandeep Ray directed Uttoran, Swaham by Shaji N Karun and eminent Manipuri director Aribam Syam Sharma’s remarkable Ishanou.
In 1997 a short film, The Sheep Thief directed by Asif Kapadia won the Cine foundation prize. The same year Gudiaby Gautam Ghose was screened in Un Certain Regard.
Manish Jha’s directorial venture A Very Very Silent Film in 2002 won the jury award in the category of best short film. 2002 is also famous as the debut year of mainstream Bollywood movies at the Cannes. Devdas directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali made its grand entry at the Cannes while its star Aishwarya Rai was a jury member in the same year.
Sharmila Tagore and Gitanjali Rao were made part of the jury in the years 2009 and 2011, respectively. Another noteworthy moment arrived in the same year with Veril becoming the first Tamil movie to be screened at the Cannes. 2010 was an equally good year for India at the Cannes considering the praise received by Vikramaditya Motwane’s Udaan after its screening in Un Certain Regard category.
The festival in 2012 gave India another sparkling run when Miss Lovelybecame an unexpected entry and Ganges of Wasseypur by Anurag Kashyap was featured at the Director’s Fortnight.
In the same year Peddlers, written and directed by Vasan Bala became the first Indian feature to be screened at Cannes’ Critics Week. Unlucky 13 turned out to be lucky as the biggest international film festival was filled with Indian movies.
Amitabh Bachchan for his cameo in The Great Gatsby was invited to inaugurate the film festival. In 2013 itself Vidya Balan and Nandita Das were chosen to be Jury members. The Lunch Box starring Irrfan Khan and Nirmat Kaur was screened in the category of the International Critics’ Week.
Monsoon Shootout made the world cheer for Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s acting chops. Even the Box Office blunder Bombay Talkies gathered appreciation at the Cannes. Satyajit’s Charulatawas also screened as a part of Cannes Classics.
After a cold 2014, 2015 saw Vicky Kaushal led non-star cast Maasan received standing ovation at the Un Certain Regard section. It even got the prestigious Promising Future prize.
The screening of six Indian films made 2016 memorable. Kabir Bedi’s Mountain of Excellence, Baahubali directed by SS Rajamouli and Memories And My Mother by Vikram Sengupta were screened together.
Raman Raghav 2.0 directed by Anurag Kashyap was screened at the Directors’ Fortnight. The Cinema Travelers was screened in the Cannes Classics category. Gudh directed by a young FTII student made it to the list of the Cine foundation competition.
Assamese film Village Rockstars officially premiered at the Cannes in 2017 after it was cherry-picked by the Hong Kong Asian Film Financing Forum for the Cannes.
But India is missing this year, not just from the Completion category but it is also absent in other dominant sections like the Un Certain Regard, Critics’ Week and Director’s Fortnight. And this big absence of Indian film Industry is definitely not good news for a country that makes more than 2000 films per year.
However, Indian movie lovers can console themselves with the victory of three-minute long short film, Seed Mother. Directed by Indian filmmaker Achyutanand Dwivedi, the film managed to win the third prize in the foreign section of 2019 Nespresso Talents.
Also the trailer and poster release of Jungle Cry starring Abhay Deol in the lead alongside Indian-American actress Emily Shah helped to ease the disappointment after it got a thumbs-up reaction from the audience at Cannes.
And lastly, adding a bit of silver lining to the dark cloud of scarcity of Indian talents and Indian creations at the Cannes this year, three filmmakers will showcase their work in three different sections of the famous Cannes festival.
Cinematographer Modhura Palit from Kolkata, Meghalaya based cinematographer Dominic Sangma, and Saurav Rai a budding writer-director from Darjeeling will definitely try to make up for India at the 72nd French Riviera.
While other Asian films are dominant for the prestigious Palme d’Or, the big question is why the films of the world’s biggest film industry in terms of number of films produced are not even being considered for contention at this year’s Cannes?
Asian films like Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite from South Korea, The Wild Goose Lake directed by Chinese Diao Yinan and Must be Heaven created by Elia Suleiman from Palestine are competing for the Palme d’Or 2019.
In this edition, an unrestricted presence of Asian films can be seen in other segments too. The Orphanage made by 29- year-old Afghan filmmaker Shahbanoo Sadat will be a part of Directors’ Fortnight section.
Among Indian films that were considered for this big movie-extravaganza was Khanaur produced Gurvinder Singh. However, the migration story set in the mystic hills of Himachal, failed to reach the final cut.