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Cannes Do No Wrong? Why Do We take Our Films To Cannes?

Nandita Das Speaks From Cannes

There we go again. It is that time of the year when our films and filmmakers head to the scenic French town for a bit of a sun and a lot of hype, and nothing else.

How many of the films that we take to Cannes each year actually end up being recognized as cinema of worth in the international arena?

If the truth be told, Indian cinema remains a bit of a joke in the international arena. We have the regular festival desi junkies, and they know who they, visiting Cannes, Berlin, Toronto, etc etc year after year. And what happens after these films are shown and apparently applauded at these global film festivals(every Indian entry claims to get a standing ovation)?Nothing!

My dear friend Hansal Mehta’s Omerta which was screened at the Toronto Film Festival last year, released in India last month to near-empty theatres and abysmal collections.Anurag Kashyap’s Mukkabaaz which opened to tremendous expectations sank without a trace,and with it sank the talented actor Vineet Singh’s hope of becoming a star.

Not only do films get labeled ‘festival types’ actors too get branded as festival regulars. Nawazuddin Siddiqui has rapidly become the festival actor. He was seen in Cannes again this year representing Nandita Das’s Manto. A film that will win wah-wahs from the critics but would be largely ignored by the masses who would rather see a bio-pic on Sanjay Dutt than Sadat Hassan Manto.

The sad fact of life about self-crowned cinematic masterpieces is that they amount to nothing more than self-pleasure. All those associated with a ‘festival film’ thinks they have a great product on their hand while audiences prefer Judwa 8 to Omerta and Golmaal 19 to Titli.

That’s the sobering truth all arthouse cinema must live with.

Coming back to Cannes, I’ve seen everyone from Manoj Bajpai to Mallika Sherawat at Cannes this year. What are they doing there? Manoj , it seems, is representing a film titled Bhosle.Like many of the films that choose to be premiered at international film festivals this one too is likely to sink when it releases back home.

At least Manoj and Nawazuddin have a reputation for being festival-friendly actors. But what is Mallika Sherawat’s credentials for attending theCannes Film festival year after year? Whom doe she represent? Has she ever had a single film of hers shown at Cannes? Does she even qualify an an actor any more?

We need to seriously answer questions about Indian cinema’s presence in the international arena. Besides Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox which Indian film in recent times has made a global impact?

​Shekhar Kapur who is the only Indian filmmaker to make a global impact since Satyajit Ray thinks India has a long way to go in the Western market. “​I think a global curiosity about Bollywood in the West has existed for nearly ten years .However that curiosity still remains unexplored by us .I think we’ve a huge amount filmmaking talent. But they are not provided the right opportunities. The same happened with our very bright scientists who had to go to the US to further their careers.It is changing in other spheres of our activity in our country. But not in filmmaking.”

Shekhar feels it is lack of funds which is the culprit. “There is a reason why China is so far ahead. They aspire to be world class. We don’t.Someone like Anurag Kashyap is defeated by the finances here.The funding here does not allow us to compete with world cinema. Though mind you, when I made Bandit Queen it was done at a really measly budget.I think the problem has been that there are too many of our filmmakers who aspire to genres that do not come naturally to us. Indian filmmakers got very heavily influenced by Mexican films. Because Mexican filmmakers have attained a global recognition that we have not. We are just happy being small players. When our films do 200 crores or 300 crores we are happy.Everyone congratulates one another. Slumdog Millionaire did 2,000 crores.

Shekhar agrees the only Indian film in recent times to have a made a global impact is The Lunchbox. “Oh yes, that is an Indian film which got noticed the worldover. Now the director Ritesh Batra is making films from outside India.I believe we’ve chained ourselves by celebrating the Indian market.It is dominated by just a handful of big players. Any business that is monopolized by just a few players cannot grow because there isn’t much innovation or diversity.”

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