Director Neeraj Ghaywan, whose film "Masaan" created waves at the Cannes Film Festival by winning two awards, says the recognition is an impetus for filmmakers trying to champion independent cinema in the country.
"Masaan" screened to a standing ovation in the Un Certain Regard category at the festival and later went on to win FIPRESCI (International Federation Of Film Critics) and Promising Future awards.
"I wish I could say that I dreamt about this day but honestly I did not even dream of it. I was just excited to be at Cannes with people who inspired me like Vikramaditya Motwane whose 'Udaan' was screened on May 19 in 2010, the same day we had our screening," Neeraj told PTI in an interview.
"The recognition is for people like Anurag Kashyap, Guneet Monga, Manish Mundra and many others who have been fighting so long for the growth of independent cinema with minimal resources, money and against the current of Bollywood.
I told Anurag 'your mentoring has led to this'.
"The Cannes audience is known for being rude to the films they don't like but they are generous in their applause too and Neeraj was overwhelmed when the viewers greeted the film with a standing ovation.
"I was very nervous when I walked into the theatre as I was not sure they will connect with a story so deeply rooted in India. I thought it will be a little alienating but people suddenly started clapping when it was over. I looked at my team and started crying. I felt silly but I kept crying," said Neeraj describing the moment.
The movie, produced by Drishyam Films, Pathe films, Macassar Productions, Sikhya Entertainment & Phantom, will release in India on July 24.
"We just wanted to use the Cannes buzz which we will not get later and decided to go ahead with the release in India," said Neeraj, adding the film will have a theatrical screening in France, Belgium and other countries as well.
After his film's screening, Neeraj stayed back to watch the movies being screened at the festival when he got the invitation to attend ceremonies, not realising that "Masaan" was about to win two awards.
"FIPRESCI pick one film from each category at Cannes and from Un Certain, they picked our film. I dedicated the award to India because I feel it was long due. It was also an unforgettable moment to receive the most promising future honour from Isabella Rossellini," he said.
It was quite a fan moment for the director as he met his cinema icons in Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne and Walter Salles of "Motorcycle Diaries" fame besides actors like Mads Mikkelsen and Marion Cotillard.
Neeraj got the idea to make a film in Varanasi while working on Wasseypur.
Starring Richa Chadha, Sanjay Mishra, Vicky Kaushal and Shweta Tripathi, "Masaan" revolves around a group of characters struggling to escape their small-town confines.
"The film is about interpersonal relationships of these characters. The socio-political issues are just the undercurrents of the story. We are showing a Varanasi beyond the stock imagery. It is a contemporary take on small-town India. For the first time, we have used the local dialect of 'Kashika' which is rarely shown in our films."