India’s Payal Kapadia shines at the Cannes Film Festival

Payal Kapadia with cast members of All We Imagine As Light. PHOTO: X @PayalKapadial

Payal Kapadia’s “All We Imagine as Light” has won the Grand Prix at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

The Grand Prix is the Grand Prize of the festival. It is the second-most prestigious prize  after the Palme d’Or. The Grand Prix is bestowed by the jury of the festival for a Competing Feature Film. There is also the FIPRESCI Prize from The International Federation of Film Critics for films from the main competition section,

Payal Kapadia with her cast holding the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival. PHOTO: X RichaChadha reposted by @PayalKapadial

Kapadia’s  “All We Imagine as Light,” was the first In-Competition Indian entry at Cannes after 30 years. It is Kapadia’s first narrative feature film, which received a standing ovation for eight minutes after its premier.

The film is a sensitive story of three women whose shared lives bond them together. Washington Post has called it “a delicate, poetic story of sisterhood among single women in Mumbai”.  The Guardian has compared it to Satyajit Ray’s “Mahanagar”.

Mumbai seems to have joined the list of metropolises which have become protagonists in literature and in many remarkable films. In the art and realism years of Hindi Cinema of the 70s, many impressive films were made on and about life and survival in the crowded and expensive city and of forming close not-by blood-relations. Kapadia’s “All We Imagine as Light” brings back memories of those films.

Payal Kapadia. PHOTO: X @PayalKapadial

Story of three women of different ages sharing a common profession of nursing whose lives are thrown together through sharing of an apartment, “All We Imagine as Light” has a universal appeal.

The story revolves around a red rice cooker which arrives from Germany where the central character Pratibha’s husband is supposedly gone to find work soon after her marriage. The cooker becomes a symbol of many possibilities for Pratibha who has been waiting, either for her husband to return or to be free of him to go to a doctor who loves her.

Anu is a little younger, is in love with a man her family would never accept, but continues with her romantic relation in spite of that, trying to find some private corner in the crowded city. Re-development of slums and existing short buildings into tall high-rises is an everyday affair in Mumbai, forcing Parvaty out of the city. All three lives are thus poised on unpredictability which each character tries to deal with.

Cannes Film Festival. Photo: Courtesy Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

This year, in another first for India, Anasuya Sengupta has won the Best Actress (Un Certain Regard) for her performance in the Hindi-language movie “The Shameless,” directed by Bulgarian director Konstantin Bojanov. La Cinef (Premier Prix) was won this year by Chidananda S. Naik’s “Sunflowers were the first ones to know..”

This year, all three top prizes at the Cannes Film Festival have been won by films about women. This year’s jury included Greta Gerwig, the highest grossing female director in history; Lily Gladstone, Eva Green, Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda and French actor Omar Sy.

Many Indian films have won prizes at the Cannes before. In 1946, Chetan Anand’s “Neecha Nagar” won the Grand Prix du Festival International du Film.  In 1954, Bimal Roy’s “Do Bigha Zamin” won the International Prize. Mrinal Sen’s “Kharij” won the Jury Prize in 1983. Mira Nair’s “Salaam Bombay” won the Caméra d’Or Audience Award in 1988.

In 2006, “Printed Rainbow” by Gitanjali Rao won the Grand Rail d’Or Audience Award, the Kodak Discovery Award and the Young Critics Award for Best Short Film. In 2013, Ritesh Batra’s “The Lunchbox” won the Grand Rail d’Or Audience Award. And in 2022, Shaunak Sen’s “All That Breathes” also won the Golden Eye.

The Cannes Film Festival is a major annual film festival, where films in all genres including documentaries are first shown. Along with Venice and Berlin Film Festivals, Cannes is a major and prestigious film festival in the world. Other major film festivals include Venice, Berlin, Toronto and Sundance.



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