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Cannes Film Festival: Indian Filmdom’s Annual Carnival

Almost two hundred Indian filmmakers, stars, producers and distributors make the yearly trip aiming to crack new deals and sign off co productions agreements.

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Indian cinema and its presence at the world’s most important film festival held annually at Cannes usually exists in a parallel universe to the other important events in the glitzy seaside town in the South of France. Almost two hundred Indian filmmakers, stars, producers and distributors make the yearly trip aiming to crack new deals and sign off co productions agreements. But only a small number returns the next year.

This year was no different.

The main setback was that there were no Indian films selected in the important sections of the festival. For the record, no Indian film has been in competition since 1994 and an Indian filmmaker has never won the Palm ‘or Prize at Cannes. Nevertheless National Film Development Corporation had stylishly kept the enthusiasm forIndian Cinema at Cannes alive for three consecutive years between 2010-2013. The India pavilion had the highest footfall and there was a measurable success for Indian participants in the networking events held every day from morning till evening. The thoughtfully curated panels and discussions led to firm handshakes and possible future collaborations. The India Party was the hottest ticket in Cannes and team NFDC hosted some of the best all night long beach bashes in the history of the film festival complete with tasteful invites, Indian music and cuisine. The success of Indian cinema in the film festival curcuit in thoseyears and the success of NFDC Film Bazaar at Goa has a lot to do with this initiative and the Independent Indian filmmaker has never had it that good in Cannes since.

The India Pavilion this year once again funded by Information and Broadcasting ministry that worked hard to successfully sustain the brand of the largest cinema industry in the world. A delegation led by Mr. Amit Khare, Secretary and Mr. Ashok Parmar, Joint Secretary, took meetings with International filmdom to understand the operating climate in other nations for filmmakers and invited the producers to find locations for shooting in India. There were reports of a possible financial subsidy for international coproduction and films being shot in India being in the works. The International Film Festival of India at Goa now in its 50th edition was visibly promoted and assistance was sought to further improve participation of celebrities, films and filmmakers from all parts of the world. Similar efforts were made to promote the NFDC Film Bazaar 2019. The focus on India was enhanced by useful interaction set up with theIsraeli film delegation and a few panels on coproduction.

The highlight of the Indian presence at Cannes this year was multiple Oscar winning Indian composer A. R. Rehman’s presentation of a prelude to his forthcoming virtual reality (VR) film Le Musk. The unique immersive experience directed by Rehman and partly funded by tech giant Intel was at the specialsection at the Cannes XR section in the market section. A few Indian film actors accompanied by filmmakers like Shaji Karun, Ketan Mehta, Rahul Rawail, Madhur Bhandarkar, Rima Das and Pan Nali made appearances at the pavilion to interact with the delegates and hold useful Q&A sessions. Some film trailers andposters were successfully launched too amongst largely an Indian audience. Panels on global financing of films and finding international distributors the core activity of the film market for filmmakers and delegates were surprisingly left out of the agenda. Also ignored was the vast reservoir of knowledge of the top Indian film critics about global trends in cinema that were in attendance at the festival. In addition, acclaimed filmmakers Mira Nair and Anurag Kashyap who first earned laurels at Cannes and were at the festival startlingly gave the India Pavilion a complete miss.

In the Modi 2.0 era, Indian government’s participation and funding of Indian attendance at film festivals and markets must be streamlined with a farsighted and goal oriented policy for a much greater impact at these global events rather just than fleeting appearances of stars on the red carpet. It must also have a strong tie in with the International film festival of India and the Film Bazaar at Goa in addition to the state funded films division, films archive, film institutes and mass communication schools. Further National film award winning young filmmakers and directors must be assisted in participating in these world-class events. Valuable lessons can be learnt by our planners from the experiences of other nations who have millions of dollars of foreign film projects reaching their shores by promoting themselves adequately at film festivals. Also being a people’s business the key operating persons at all such markets must remain fairly constant. Social media and broadcasting networks should be used extensively to cover the activities of the Indian delegation and other Indian stars and filmmakers at the festival.

As one of the largest producers of films on Earth India has a convincing story to sell and it must do it more intensely.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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Bhuvan Lall

The author is the Chairman of Lall Entertainment

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