India celebrates its cinema this year with a special jewel in a century-old crown. It is a special invitee to the Festival de Cannes, mecca of the auteur film, where selection alone sets up the film and its maker artistically and commercially.
In 2013, the jury which will award the Palme d’Or glitters with celebrated names. Its President is Stephen Spielberg and includes Oscar winners like director Ang Lee (Life of Pi) and American-Australian actress Nicole Kidman.
But of special interest among the jurors is India’s own Vidya Balan, who crowns recent achievements with this special recognition. Balan will take centre-stage throughout as part of the international jury.
Cannes brings special notice this year to India's new age cinema verite film makers, an unprecedented crop which is opening up new avenues and styles in the Seventh Art here.
Anurag Kashyap alone features in as many as five of the Indian films in the festival's official selection. His five-headed show of strength involves his latest film Ugly, an official selection in the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight. This is a section characterised by independent cinephile standards and ready audience appeal. Anurag is also director of one of the four segments in the gala screening of Bombay Talkies, Cannes’ tribute to India this year. Other directors are Karan Johar, Zoya Akhtar and Dibaker Banerjee. Anurag’s production facility has worked on the production side of the American entry, The Congress directed by Ari Forman, which opens Directors’ Fortnight .
Another development this year is that for the first time Mumbai’s new production houses are no longer at loggerheads or cagey about their performance and earnings. In fact they are pooling their resources and adding strength to India’s nouvelle vague.
DAR Motion Pictures produces three of the officially selected films in Cannes this year: Ugly, The Lunchbox and co-produces Monsoon Shootout. Viacom 18 Motion Pictures is behind Bombay Talkies. There is the formidable Guneet Monga, who runs her own Sikhya Entertainment, and is business partner with Anurag Kashyap. She oversees the finances and selling strategies of many new films.
In all this, the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) lends strong support. Its skillful moves in recent years has partnered festivals abroad and run script writing labs, while aiding and abetting our own Film Bazaar in Goa.
India will stand tall and glamorous in more ways than one. Amitabh Bachchan will be there; he has a small role, as he readily admits, in the festival’s opening film. The Great Gatsby, based on the Scott Fitzgerald masterpiece. Amitabh will be accompanied by wife Jaya and daughter-in-law Aishwaria Rai, the latter a former (2003) International Competition juror. She too may set a record as an special invitee who has walked the red carpet 10 years in a row. Nandita Das -- well remembered for her stint as international jury member in2005 -- is on the Cinefondation (students films) Jury.
Satyajit Ray’s timeless Charulata will screen at Cannes Classics in its new restored version. Showing yet another new aspect of cinema trends today -- a concern for preservation -- the restoration has been commissioned by the Kolkata-based RDB Entertainment and completed at Pixion Studios / Cameo Media Labs. RDB Entertainment are the producers and world rights-holders of other Ray classics, besides Charulata: Mahanagar, Nayak, Kapurush, Mahapurush and Jai Baba Felunath.
Cannes 2013 is going to be a hard act to follow. As far as India is concerned, its new talent seems all set to getting there.