Like Shabana Azmi quipped on social media this week, "Cannes those days was about the film, not the clothes."
Although the country's fashion brigade has been marking its presence at the Cannes festival with exotic, often outlandish outfits, the Indian connection with the film fest goes deeper.
Aishwarya, Katrina and Sonam have not been India's only passport to Cannes consciousness. Quite a few Indian films have won accolades in this film festival since 1946, when the festival was resumed post World War II. Cannes is one of the most prestigious and influential film festivals in the world. Being selected for the festival is an honor and several Indian films over the decades have rightfully won this opportunity.
'Neecha Nagar', Chetan Anand’s directional debut was India’s first film to win a Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival in 1946. Today’s Palme d’Or – was then known as the Grand Prix du Festival International du Film. The anti-imperialist film focused on the vast differences between the rich and the poor in Indian society. Pandit Ravi Shankar made his debut as music director with this film.
Bimal Roy’s 'Do Bigha Zamin' is still remembered by cine lovers for its portrayal of social discrepancies and Balraj Sahni’s performance This 1953 film won the Prix Internationale at the 1954 festival and was also nominated for the Grand Prize.
And of course there was Pather Panchali(1955). Pather Panchali was a landmark movie in Indian cinema. The film won the Palme d’Or for Best Human Document at the 1956 Cannes Film Festival.This movie moved prime minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru to the extent that he ensured that it was entered in the festival. The first screening at Cannes took place on one of the festival holidays at midnight with abysmal attendance of the the jury . But few film critics and Ray’s friends ran from pillar to post to get another screening organised where the entire jury was present.
In 1957 a documentary on the life of the Buddha , directed by director Rajbans Khanna was recognised for its visual fare.Gautama ,the Budha was part of 2500th birthday celebration of Budhha and won special jury mention at the cannes .
From 1957 to 1983 there was a lull at Cannes as far as India was concerned which was broken by Mrinal Sen’s tragic drama, Kharij won the Special Jury prize at the 1983 Cannes festival. It was also nominated for the Golden Palm.Based on tragedy that took place in middle class family this film also won national award for best screenplay. Mrinal sen was also invited as a jury member to Cannes in 1982
In 1988 it was Mira Nair’s Salaam Bombay cronicling life of street children of Mumbai won both the Camera d’Or and the Audience Award at the festival. The Camera d’Or was created in 1978 by Gilles Jacob and is awarded by an independent jury to the best first feature film presented in one of the Cannes’ selections.
Malayalam director Shaji N. Karun’s debut film Piravi, won the Caméra d’Or – Mention d’honneur award at Cannes in 1989. This visually engrossing film was based on the real life incident of the disappearance of an engineering college student.
Malyalam film Marana Simhasanam by director Murali Nair is an unsettling story that talks about the first execution by electric chair in India. It was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival where it won the Caméra d’Or. Marana Simhasanam also served as a member of Camera D’ Or jury in 2001.
In 2002, Manish Jha’s short film, A Very Very Silent Film, won the Jury Prize for the Best Short Film at the Cannes Film Festival. The film deals with the challenging exploration of the social ills that affect women in poverty and how they are victimized physically and mentally.This ver film Maker Made Matrubhoomi in 2003and Anwar (2007)
And finally it took around a decade for , filmmaker Ritesh Batra to bring home an award for his debut film Lunchbox. The film won the Critics Week Viewers Choice Award also known as Grand Rail d’Or at the 66th Cannes Film Festival. Produced by Anurag Kashyap, the film, features Irrfan Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Nimrat Kaur and was one of the four films in the official selection at Cannes.
Anurag Kashyap was also felicitated in personal capacity with the French honor Knight of the Ord er of Arts and Letters in recognition for promoting Indian cinema across the globe. India was also a guest country in 66th cannes festival.
Nowadays though the Indian presence at Cannes seems to be dominated by the glamour quotient than the art quotient.