LAST MONTH, a motley group of Indians drew some attention at the Cannes Film Festival. I am not talking about NFDC’s India party, known for its open display of grandeur. This isn’t, either, about the glamorous orbit of Aishwarya Rai, Mallika Sherawat and Sonam Kapoor who, because of fame or contracts with cosmetic companies, or both, walk the red carpet in the south of France nearly every year.
Images from the red carpet at this year’s Cannes stood out for some new and unusual faces, prominent among them an immensely talented actor named Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Though he recently received acclaim for his performance in Sujoy Ghosh’s Kahaani, Siddiqui is far from a household name in India. Dressed in a sharply stitched suit and a black tie, he stood beside his director Ashim Ahluwalia, whose obscure feature film Miss Lovely, which plumbs the depths of Bombay’s “C” grade film industry in the 1980s, was selected for the festival’s ‘Un Certain Regard’ section, a competitive category introduced in 1978. (Miss Lovely was, in fact, the only Indian film to feature in a competitive section this year; all the others were screened in non-competitive sections.)
Sharing the limelight was the crew of Anurag Kashyap’s ambitious two-part, five-plus hour saga Gangs of Wasseypur, spanning 70 years of Bihar’s coal mining mafia and its internecine wars, which packed a full house in the Director’s Fortnight section. Kashyap also used the platform to promote his small and offbeat in-house production Peddlers, directed by newcomer Vasan Bala and financed through appeals on Facebook, which was shown in the Critics Week section of the festival.