Neecha Nagar, a Chetan Anand-directed film, based on a Hindi story of the same name, features a wealthy tycoon trying to drive out residents in a bid to usurp their land. Starring Zohra Sehgal and Uma Anand, it was the first Indian film to gain recognition at the festival, winning the Grand Prix. Sadly, it failed to find distributors afterwards, owing to its lack of dance sequences. Anand, in her book The Poetics of Film, said Satyajit Ray wrote to her and her husband, saying the film had inspired him to continue working on his own debut.


Amar Bhoopali, a Lalita Pawar-starrer directed by V. Shantaram, set in the 19th century, was a biopic on Marathi poet Honaji Bala and his fight against the British rule in India. It won a Grand Prix at the festival.


Do Bigha Zamin, a Balraj Sahni-starrer, revolves around a farmer trying to save his land from a corrupt zamindar who needs the plot to set up a mill. Based on Rickshawalla, a short story written by composer Salil Chowdhury, the film’s director Bimal Roy said he was inspired to make the movie after watching Vittorio De Sica’s 1948 movie Bicycle Thieves. Nominated for the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival, it won the Prix International.


Pather Panchali – Bengali director Satyajit Ray’s film about a family living in abject poverty – was awarded the Best Human Document at Cannes. It was screened twice at the festival, once at night and a second time in the afternoon, when audiences responded with a standing ovation. Pather Panchali was also screened in 1992 in the Special Screenings and again in 2005 in Cannes Classics. Several other films by Ray went on to compete for the Palme d’Or: Parash Pathar in 1958, Devi in 1962, and Ghare Baire in 1984. In the late ’60s, the director was invited to be a jury member, but declined the honour. In 1989, his film Ganashatru was given a Special Screening. In 1994, two years after his death, his son Sandip Ray’s film Uttoran was screened in Un Certain Regard; Ray had written its script and dialogue. In 2013, Ray’s Charulata was restored and screened at the festival to celebrate 100 years of Indian cinema.


Shyam Benegal’s Nishant was selected to compete for the Palme D’or. Shabana Azmi, who starred in the movie, said the director had asked them to walk up and down the promenade at Cannes, wearing saris and coaxing pedestrians to watch the film.


Mrinal Sen’s (left) Khandhar was screened in the Un Certain Regard category. It is the story of a mother and daughter who await the arrival of the daughter’s suitor from the city. A restored print of Khandhar was screened in 2010 as part of Cannes Classics. Sen also had several other films at Cannes in the 1980s. Ek Din Pratidin was nominated for the Palme d’Or 1980; Kharij was nominated in 1983, and won the Jury Prize; and in 1986, Genesis competed for the Palme d’Or. In an interview to The Hindu in 2015, Sen said, ‘Cannes is like a second home to me’. He had also served on the feature films jury in 1982.


In the book Mercy In Her Eyes: The Films of Mira Nair, author John Kenneth Muir said Salaam Bombay! was still in the process of being edited just 36 hours before its debut at the Cannes Film Festival. The movie, centered on a group of children from the city’s slums, was not only met with a 20-minute-long standing ovation when it premiered, but also won Camera d’Or (awarded to a debut film) and Prix Publique (awarded to the most popular film).


Marana Simhasanam, which means ‘throne of death’, is a Malayalam drama revolving around a labourer, who is sentenced to the electric chair after being caught stealing coconuts. The film, funded entirely by director Murali Nair himself and featuring a cast of non-professional actors, was screened in Un Certain Regard, and won the Camera D’or. Nair’s short film Oru Neenda Yathra had been screened in the short films competition of Cannes in 1996. Murali Nair had another film screened in Un Certain Regard in 2001, Pattiyude Divasam/A Dog’s Day, and another in the same category in 2003, Arimpara/A Story That Begins at the End.


Devdas, the Shahrukh Khan-starrer about a wealthy law graduate and his relationship with his childhood sweetheart played by Aishwarya Rai, made its debut at Cannes. The next year, Rai became the first Indian actor to be a jury member at Cannes.”It was not easy making Devdas. I suffered a lot. When the film was invited to Cannes, it felt like my two and a half years of penance has paid off,” said director Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Years later, Cannes International Film Director Thierry Fremaux said his committee members criticised him for screening the film as they had not expected to see such a commercial film at the festival. He, however, said he had no regrets.


Sharmila Tagore (centre) was a member of a jury headed by French actress Isabelle Huppert (in white). Here she is pictured at the Cannes premiere of Coco, with actors Asia Argento and Robin Wright and filmmaker Hanif Kureishi.


Vikramaditya Motwane’s coming-of-age drama Udaan was screened under the Un Certain Regard category. The Ronit Roy-starrer, which depicts a young boy returning home after eight years in a boarding school, almost didn’t get made as Motwane’s script was rejected repeatedly.


The Nawazuddin Siddiqui-starrer Miss Lovely, which marked director Ashim Ahluwalia’s feature debut, traces the lives of two brothers producing erotic horror films in the 1980s. It competed in the Un Certain Regard section. The Hollywood Reporter called it “a commendably bold way to approach material that might otherwise have drifted into routine lowlife crime-thriller territory”.


The 319-minute-long Anurag Kashyap-directed film Gangs of Wasseypur was screened in Cannes as part of the Director’s Fortnight, before being split into two parts for a release in India. Starring Manoj Bajpayee and Richa Chadha, it depicted Jharkhand’s coal mafia through the tensions among three crime families. One of the most anticipated movies at the festival, it received a standing ovation.


Amitabh Bachchan, fresh off his performance as Meyer Wolfsheim in the Baz Luhrmann-directed The Great Gatsby, declared the festival officially open. “The energy and excitement of International greats in the field of entertainment…unforgettable.” he had tweeted at the time. Here he is pictured with his Gatsby co-stars Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire and Leonardo Dicaprio.


Anurag Kashyap was front and centre at Cannes, with a gala screening of Bombay Talkies being held to commemorate 100 years of Indian cinema. The director had helmed one of the four short films in the anthology. Kashyap’s feature Ugly was also screened as part of the Director’s Fortnight that year. The Ritesh Batra-directed film The Lunchbox, which Kashyap also produced won the Critics Week Viewers’ Choice Award also known as Grand Rail d’Or.


Nandita Das and Vidya Balan were selected to be part of the international jury. This was Das’s second time as a jury member, with her being selected in 2005 too. While she was a member of Cinefondation and Short Films Jury in 2013, Balan was on the jury panel headed by Steven Spielberg. Sadly, Balan’s accomplishments were eclipsed by her sartorial sense, with articles devoted to slamming her Sabyasachi outfits.


The Amit Kumar-directed Monsoon Shootout was screened out of competition, while Manjeet Singh’s Chenu was selected at the L’Atelier of the Cinefondation – a section that screens movies which have the potential to interest buyers. The Telugu revenge drama Eega was screened at the film market section.


Titli, directed by Kanu Behl, and produced by Aditya Chopra and Dibakar Banerjee, was screened in the Un Certain Regard category.


Masaan was screened in Un Certain Regard. It won a FIPRESCI (International Federation Of Film Critics) award and a Prix de l’Avenir (a special jury prize for promising debut films). Director Gurvinder Singh’s Punjabi film Chauthi Koot was also screened in the same section.


Anurag Kashyap’s Raman Raghav 2.0 premiered at Director’s Fortnight. The movie revolves around a man who went on a killing spree in the 1960s. “A lot of people have no clue about festivals. I feel we’re making a lot of good films. But somehow or the other, they are just not going out. The very first festival that comes along, they (the filmmakers) give it to that one,” said Kashyap.


Manto, Nandita Das’ biopic based on the life of poet Saadat Hasan Manto, will be screened as part of the Un Certain Regard section.


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