The weather outside went with the title of the midnight screening, Monsoon Shootout. It was one of the rainiest weekends in Cannes festival history. But that didn’t prevent a full house in the 2,000-seater Lumiere Theatre.
This was the Indian film in 2013 to get the full red carpet treatment. Director Amit Kumar, lead actors Vijay Verma, the omnipresent Nawazuddin Siddiqui and a radiant Tannishtha Chatterjee, along with producers Guneet Monga, Asif Kapadia beamed at the rapturous 10-minute applause they won at the final fadeout.
Amit Kumar’s earlier short film, The Bypass (2003) quickly established him as a director to look out for. He has waited six years finally to make his feature debut. NFDC is among the producers and nurtured the project along with script labs. The film is a long look at the crime-ridden life in the back streets of a big city (mainly Mumbai).
The police force itself is brutalised by what it has to deal with. The climax is a decisive moment in a cop’s life when he must pull the trigger to end a man’s life -- but is the man a criminal? Three different answers offer three different life-changing views. Vijay Verma, on whom the film rests, gives a compelling performance of a man caught at a moral crossroads.
The world premiere of Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox followed, with a totally different pacing and content. It presents Mumbai’s street and office life and follows a quaint love story. An office dabba (lunchbox) cooked by a neglected young wife is wrongly delivered to a middle-aged Christian office worker, Saajan Fernandes, who is about to retire. What follows is an exchange of letters secreted among the chappatis in the lunchbox.
The bored young woman puts her cooking talents to work as she prepares dishes for this stranger's approval. Finally they become more personal in what they say to each other. She is unhappy in her marriage and he is lonely as a widower. They want to connect but, as the film makes amply clear, life is not so simple. This is a thoughtful, gentle film. Irrfan is masterly as the diligent accountant slowly adapting to his talkative and more opportunistic successor (Nawazuddin Siddiqui). The discovery here is Nimrit Kaur as the troubled, questioning housewife.
The evening hours moved on to the screening of Bombay Talkies. Long queues were turned away after hours of waiting. The four directors Karan Johar, Anurag Kashyap, Zoya Akhtar and Dibakar Banerjee were in their element, introducing their work and interacting with the crowd. Reviews are awaited.
India gala party
Late night, festival heads Gilles Jacob and Thierry Fremaux hosted a gala dinner in celebration of India Year. It was addressed by Dr K Chiranjeevi, Minister of State with Independent Charge for Tourism, Government of India. There was a glamorous turnout, including Aishwarya Rai Bachchan,Vidya Balan, Nandita Das and the star directors Cannes is honouring.
Inside Llewyn Davis: A quick review
A leading Cannes daily has top 10 film critics placing their ratings every day on each competition film as it unfurls. Inside Llewyn Davis by the prolific American brothers, Joel and Ethan Coen, has scored highest so far. Their films find a place every time in Cannes Competition. Inside Llewyn Davis is a superb fictional take on early 1960s folk music in New York.
The laid-back humour of the directorial duo lends comedic touches to the dark underside of life at the time. In the film, the protagonist takes a road trip to Chicago hoping to land a big recording job -- and it is a roller-coaster experience that borders on insanity.
The film starts with its anti-hero having to look after his host’s tabby cat. At the laugh-riot of this film’s press conference, one of the directors said, “The film had no real plot, so we threw in the cat.”
Brilliant folk music adds lustre to a beautifully shot film.