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INDIA’S TRYST WITH CANNES: 1946-2010

By Nandita Dutta(Archive FILE)

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010 

Vikramaditya Motwane s “Udaan”, the film that made it to Un Certain Regard at Cannes International Film festival after seven years has been the talk of the town lately. With Udaan, Indian cinema s seven-year-long jinxed relationship with the premier film festival has come to an end. Murali Nair s Arimpara was the last film to have made it to Un Certain Regard, the section that carries the second most prestigious award, in the year 2003. Prior to that, Sanjay Leela Bhansali s Devdas was presented as a special screening out of competition at the festival in 2002.

Come to think of it, India and Cannes have had a cordial relationship right from the start. 1946, the year one of the oldest film festivals began at Cannes, Chetan Anand’s Neecha Nagar was screened as a Feature film in competition. Neecha Nagar was a pioneering effort in realistic Indian cinema and it won the Grand Prix du Festival International du Film (Best Film) at the maiden edition of Cannes. The next recognition for Indian cinema came after a while when in 1951, three short films– Festival Time, Private Life of a Silkworm, and Rajasthan N degree 1 by Mohan Dayaram Bhavnani were screened in the competition section for short films. Bhavnani remained a hot favorite at Cannes for quite some years.

In 1952, one film competed in the Feature film category while two competed in the Short film category.  Amar Bhoopali by V. Shantaram was the feature film while Green Glory by M. Ahmed and Rustic Delights by V. R. Sarma were the two short films.  1953 was another great year for Indian cinema at Cannes. Raj Kapoor’s Awara was the feature film in competition while three short films- Kumaon Hills by Bhavnani, New Lands for Old People by Krishna Gopal and The Great experiment by V.R Sarma competed in the short films category.

The success story continued unhindered for the next nine years and the account is such-

1954- Do Beegha Zameen by Bimal Roy (Feature film in competition)

Mayurpankh by Kishore Sahu (Feature film in competition)

Feminine fashions by Mohan Dayaram Bhavnani (Short film in competition)

Folk Dances of India by Mohan Dayaram Bhavnai (Short film in competition)

1955- Biraj Bahu by Bimal Roy (Feature film in competition)

Boot Polish by Prakash Arora (Feature film in competition)

Symphony of Life by T.A. Abraham (Short film in competition)

The Golden River by Pittamandalam V. Pathy (Short film in competition)

1956- Pather Panchali by Satyajit Ray (Feature film in competition)

Shevgyachya Shenga by Shantaram Athavale (Feature film in competition)

1957- Gotoma The Buddha by Rajbans Khanna (Feature film in competition)

Magic of the mountains by Mohan Dayaram Bhavnani (Short film in competition)

1958- Parash Pathor by Satyajit Ray (Feature film in competition)

Mandu by Neil Gokhale (Short Film in Competition)

1959- Lajwanti by Narendra Suri (Feature film in competition)

Taj Mahal by Mushir Ahmed (Short Film in Competition)

1960- Sujata by Bimal Roy (Feature film in competition)

Shringar by Ravi Prakash (Short Film in Competition)

1961- Kangra ET Kulu by N.S Thapa (Short Film in Competition)

1962- Devi by Satyajit Ray (Feature film in competition)

The year 1963 didn t see any Indian film in the official selection at Cannes but the golden era of Indian cinema was back in 1964 with Moni Battacherjee’s Mujhe Jeene Do in the feature film competition and Dr. Gopal Dutt’s Himalayan Lakes in Short film competition. The next official selection came in the year 1968 with Santi S. Varma’s short film Akbar and the next in 1971 with another short film The Epitaph by Gurucharan Singh.

It was in 1974 that M.S Sathyu’s Garam Hawa was nominated for the Palm d Or or the Golden Palm, the highest prize awarded to the competing films at the Cannes film festival. In 1976 Shyam Benegal’s Nishant and in 1980 Mrinal Sen’s Ekdin Pratidin entered Cannes as the official selection in the Feature film category.

Un Certain regard, meaning a certain outlook was introduced at the Cannes in 1978 to present films with all kinds of visions and styles. Mani Kaul’s Satah Se Uthata Aadmi was the first Indian film to find a place in this category in 1981. Adoor Gopalakrishna’ s Elippathayam followed suit in 1982 and Mrinal Sen’s Khandhar in 1984.

Meanwhile, Mrinal Sen’s Kharij participated in the feature film competition in 1983. Ray’s Ghare Baire was screened in the competition in 1984. This was truly the era of the maestros Ray and Sen. Sen secured his place at the Cannes for the fourth time in 1986 with his feature film Genesis in competition. Ray’s Ganashatru was screened out of competition in 1989. His masterpiece Pather Panchali which competed way back in 1956 was also presented again out of competition in the year 1992.

Antarjali Yatra by Goutam Ghose was screened in Un Certain Regard in 1988, Shaji Karun’s Piravi in 1989 and Aribam Syam Sharma’   s Ishanou in 1991. In 1994, Shaji Karun’s Swaham competed in the feature film category while Sandip Ray’s Uttoran was screened in Un Certain Regard.

Un Certain Regard remained a favourite section of Indian filmmakers as their films continued to be screened in this section at Cannes. In 1995, Susant Misra’s Indradhanura Chhai, Srinivas Krishna’s Lulu in 1996 and in 1997 Goutam Ghose’s Gudia were presented in Un Certain Regard. Shaji N. Karun’s Vanaprastham and Murali Nair’s Marana Simhasanam were screened in this section in the year 1999. Murali Nair’s short film Oru Neenda Yathra and Manish Jha’s short film A Very very Silent Film competed at Cannes in 1996 and 2002 respectively.

Two Indian films also won the Camra d’Or (“Golden Camera”) at the Cannes. Camra d’Or is an award for the best first feature film presented in one of the Cannes’ selections (Official Selection, Director’s Fortnight or International Critic’s Week), is awarded by an independent Jury.  Meera Nair’s Salaam Bombay and Murali Nair’s Marana Simhasanam won this award in 1988 and 1999 respectively. Shaji N. Karun’s Piravi won the Camra d’Or- Mention Spciale in 1989.

The filmmaker who secured maximum nominations at Cannes was short filmmaker Mohan Dayaram Bhavnani with a total of seven nominations. Satyajit Ray followed with six nominations. Indian cinema s journey to Cannes over the years has been even and odd. Not to mention, for a cinema that won the Best Film the very first year Cannes commenced, it has been a rather rough patch of late. But Udaan has done it this time, hope more Indian films follow suit!

 

About Ashok Palit

Ashok Palit has completed his graduation from Upendranath College Soro, Balasore and post graduation from Utkal University in Odia Language and literture.. He has also carved out a niche for himself as a scribe of eminence after joining the profession in 1988. He is also an independent media production professional. He brings loads of experience to Advanced Media, Ashok Palit as a cineaste has been active in film criticism for over three decades. As a film society activist, he soared to eminence for his profound commitment to the art film appreciation and aesthetics of cinema. His mode of discourse is often erudite but always lucid and comprehensible marked by a perfect acumen so rare in the field. A film aesthete with an immense fond of critical sensibilities, he wrote about growth and development of odia cinema in New Indian Express, The Times of India, The Hindustan Times, The Asian Age and Screen. He has been working as an Editor for Cine Samaya from 2002-2004.. He had made solid contribution on cinema in many odia Dailies and weekly such as Samaj, Prajatantra, Dharatri, Samaya, Satabadi, and weekly Samaya.

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