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Cannes Dairy Day 4: Leading from the front

Day Three in Cannes and the four handpicked Indian films in different festival sections are set to roll. Appropriately, the one to launch the new wave from India is by Anurag Kashyap, seen as the face that launches the new movement of angst and anger from India. It bears the terse if cryptic title, Ugly.

Anurag Kashyap
Anurag Kashyap at a press conference in Cannes

It screened to high expectation at ‘Directors’ Fortnight,’ a section that prides itself on presenting the pick from all over without fanfare or frills, as in an open, welcoming classroom.

The poster of his film Ugly
The poster of his his film Ugly

The Marriott Hotel film theatre was packed to the aisles, Indians in a minority. The screening started without the usual flurry of cast and crew introductions on stage. This happened post screening as a matter-of-fact question and answer session, in a charged mood that the film generates. The film stars Ronit Roy, Rahul Bhatt, Tejaswini Kolhapure, Girish Kulkarni , Siddhant Kapoor and Vineet Singh. All but the first named are in Cannes.

A still from the Japanese film Like Father Like Son
A still from the Japanese film Like Father Like Son

Kashyap once again probes the dark recesses of the human psyche. It is presented as a fast-paced thriller that with each step reveals yet another ugly side to human needs and behaviour. Set in middle-class Mumbai the film follows Additional Commissioner of Police, Bose, the epitome of rectitude in public but at home a stone-faced tyrant whose wife Shalini by now is a depressed alcoholic.

He cannot forgive her for having chosen classmate Rahul over him as her first husband. She marries Bose when Rahul disappoints as a failed actor. Rahul has visiting rights on their 12-year-old daughter Kali. On one such occasion, he leaves Kali in his car when he goes for an audition, and soon finds that she has disappeared. The manic search for the child opens up a sordid can of troubles where every character has an Achilles’ heel.

On stage, Kashyap talked of the six years he spent on getting his film made. Just the title put financiers off. However, he was determined to make the film in his own way, start to finish. He has made it on a low-budget, using non-stars with whom he has interacted with before.

He explained to his audience that the film reflects India’s patriarchal society and reality, the subject of which grew out of his own isolation, insecurities and concerns over himself and his little daughter (present in Cannes).

Later, the India Pavilion held a reception in honour of the film. Kashyap spoke of the need for producers in the mould of Guneet Monga and Madhu Mantena, film makers as interested in quality work as in box office.

Kashyap felt that the film fraternity should stand up for changes in laws and censorship, which he felt would strengthen government’s hands. Ugly has been produced by Madhu Mantena, Vikas Bahl and Vikramaditya Motwane with Arun Rangachari and Vivek Rangachari for Phantom Films and Dar Motion Pictures.

Up against arms
The opening ceremony this year showcased a trailer that unveiled the menu of films to come. The very next day there were protests in the festival dailies that the films were predominantly and excruciatingly violent. It’s a fact that almost all the films in main sections have a degree of violence so hard to take that some people scream out in horror.

With that, the longing for a kind, gentle film rose with each hour. Patience here was rewarded at last with a superb competition film from Japan, Like Father, Like Son, directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda.

This tender and insightful film takes a page from Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children -- using the link of babies being exchanged in hospital and going to the wrong parents -- and the comparison stops right there. Because Kore-eda’s film is entirely about family ties, how time can or cannot heal emotional wounds, how to raise children and protect their parental world. This is detailed without any preaching or berating.

Human relations between the child and adult is looked at with compassion and understanding from all sides, and is so much stronger for it. The acting of the children and luminous camerawork stays with the viewer and hopefully with
the jury.  

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