Indian film school productions conquer Cannes festival

Cannes, May 27 (UNI): Once dominated by film schools in Europe and the US, the competition section for student productions at the Cannes film festival has a new entrant — India.

For the second time in three years, a diploma film by an Indian film school student is turning heads at the Cannes festival. Nauha, directed by Pratham Khurana, a film direction student from ace Bollywood director Subhash Ghai founded the Whistling Woods International, Mumbai, is among the nine entries at the Cannes festival’s La Cinef programme for film school productions.


In 2020, CatDog by Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune student Ashmita Guha Niyogi, won the 15,000-euro (approximately Rs 12 lakh) top prize at La Cinef section. Afternoon Clouds by Payal Kapadia, an FTII alumnus, was the first Indian film to compete in the Cannes film school competition in 2017.

The Cannes festival’s film school competition was launched 25 years ago to discover and encourage the next generation of the world’s filmmakers.

Nauha (an Urdu word meaning ‘to mourn the loss’) is among 16 films in La Cinef this year selected from 1,528 entries from film schools around the world. The 26-minute-long film, which the Delhi-born Khurana made for his final semester at the Whistling Woods International undergraduate filmmaking programme, explores the relationship between an ailing elderly man and his caregiver.

Shot in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic in Mumbai last year, Nauha tells the story of Kishan, a 22-year-old man from Uttarakhand who arrives in the national capital in search of a job. Kishan soon becomes the caregiver for an elderly man living in Noida, Uttar Pradesh.

“Urbanisation and migration are the big themes of the movie,” says Khurana. Other characters in the movie include a watchman and the domestic help of the elderly man’s neighbour, both migrants from other states. “There is so much diversity in our country,” says Khurana, who was born and raised in Delhi.

This year, there are three films from the United States in La Cinef, followed by two each from France and the UK. The head of the jury choosing the winners is Egyptian filmmaker Yousry Nasrallah, director of such films as ‘Scheherazade, Tell Me a Story’ (2009) and ‘After the Battle ‘(2012).

The Jharkhand-born Niyogi’s CatDog, which won the top prize of La Cinef in 2020, was a 21-minute diploma film about two children inhabiting a fanciful world of their making. The 13-minute-long Afternoon Clouds by Kapadia, who went on to feature in the Director’s Fortnight parallel selection of the Cannes festival with her first feature film, A Night of Knowing Nothing last year, tells the story of Kaki, a 60-year-old widow who lives with her Nepali maid, Malti.

If the continuing dominance of Indian film school productions at the Cannes film festival in recent years is any indication, the future of cinema in the country is in safe hands.

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