Cannes 2022: From the movies to the red carpet, the spotlight is on India

Seventy-five years old has a beautiful and solid ring. And two years after Covid, the film festival on Earth looks like more than just a celebration. The 75th edition of the Cannes Film Festival The day opens with its usual buzz: red-carpet festivities at the palace, stars sweeping the Croisette, and the movie press lining up for the much-anticipated goodies. It’s May, it’s been, and all is well with the world.

India is the ‘Province of Honor’ at the Marche du Cinema, the film market close to the festival, a giant beehive packed with buyers, sellers and agents. this year, Six Indian films will be officially shown On the market: R Madhavan’s “Rocketry The Nambi Effect”, Nikhil Mahajan’s “Godavari”, Achal Mishra’s “Dhuin”, Shankar Shrikumar’s “Alpha Beta Gamma”, Biswajeet Bora’s Boomba Ride, Jayaraj’s Tree Full of Parrots”. Deepika Padukone joins a very select group of “desis” who did highest jury At the Cannes Film Festival.

In the midst of a pre-travel wave, Mahajan talks about what the word “Godavari” means to him. The death of director Nishikant Kamath, dear friend and mentor of both Mahajan and his lead actor Jitendra Joshi, came as a huge shock. “We couldn’t think of a better tribute to Nishikant than making this movie, which is closely linked to life and death.” The film traces a man full of rage, the kind of “huge amount of pent-up anger” that Mahajan notices in the “male world of the middle class of Maharashtra”, as well as in himself, which no one talks about. It’s unusual for an Indian movie to have a main character so unpopular, and when we start to learn more about him, a river runs through him.

Ashal Mishra’s sophomore effort ‘Dhuin’, which comes after his beautiful poem of wasted time ‘Gamak Ghar’, is another slice of life in an Indian village, but this piece is slender, almost novel length. Filmed during the pandemic, it shows a young man whose eyes are on Mumbai and the movies. Like a lot of other young men, he wants to become the next Pankaj Tripathi, their now-star-turned-son of Trappath. The film needs more scaffolding, but you can see that it comes from a filmmaker with a keen eye.

A handful of other Hindi films will be shown in other sections. Satyajit Rai’s 1970 film “Pratidwandi,” in which a very young Dhritiman Chatterjee plays a disaffected urban Bengali navigating Calcutta affected by rising Naxalism, rising unemployment, and attendant irony, is in the Cannes Classics section. Ray’s pastoral epics of the ’60s (Pather Panchali, the Apu Trilogy) led to his great city movies of the ’70s. A highlight of “Pratidwandi,” brought back by NFAI, is the vulnerable character played by Chatterjee, telling the interviewer that one of the most important signs of their era is the Vietnam War, not the first man to land on the moon. The look on the interlocutor’s face is priceless. It’s a look that separates one generation from another, one belief system from another: two men sit across from each other without a clue how to talk to each other.

Dritiman Chatterjee in Satyajit Rai Pratidwandi.

Saunak Sen’s fantastic documentary “All That Breathes,” which premiered this year at Sundance, is in the specials section, a rare exception to the festival’s insistence on world premieres. Anyone who has lived in Delhi, one of the most polluted cities in the world, has seen birds literally fall from the sky, and knows what it is like to be drenched in a continuous gray. The film marries a keen interest in the environment and an awareness of the capital’s rotten political atmosphere, and you can feel the suffocation faced by concerned and committed young people who tend to injured birds.

Another restored classic is G Aravindan’s “Thampu,” which Cannes film selectors have called the best restored film of the past 15 years, according to Shivendra Dungarpur who runs the Film Heritage Foundation (FHF). He has been working tirelessly on the restoration of the film in collaboration with his partners, and it will be shown in the same theater that showed the restored version of ‘Kalpana’, exactly a decade ago.

“I can’t wait to be there,” he says. Nor can we.

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