About May–June every year Indian audience is subjected to the resplendent faces of Indian actresses (and sometimes actors) parading on the red carpet of Cannes. Hundreds of clicking cameras document every step of the rather painstaking and slow journey lasting only few metres while people back home are strategically fed with these images of pomp and glamour. But while the number of Indian participants on red carpet (in this fashion) increases every year the number of Indian movies eligible to enter the competition remains at an abysmal zero.
The following four categories of Cannes Film Festival are generally considered to be most talked about events due to the nature of the programs, these are, In Competition (competing for Palm d’Or since 1975), Un Certain Regard (representation of cultures near and far), Cinéfondation & Short Films (dedicated to short and medium length films). Barring Un Certain Regard the other three categories are competitive in nature. There are other sections, some of which are invitation based, that showcase classics, noteworthy films by debutants, Tous les Cinémas du Monde (an ode to the diversity of cinema) etc.
Cannes Film Festival commenced its journey in 1946. The very first festival exhibited Chetan Anand’s Neecha Nagar in the competition category. Nearly every year (due to budgetary issues the organisation of the festival was interrupted in 1948 and 1950) thereafter Indian film industry found its worthy representation in the Competition section until 1964.
- 1946 – Neecha Nagar, Chetan Anand
- 1952 – Amar Bhoopali, V Shantaram
- 1953 – Awara, Raj Kapoor
- 1954 – Do Bigha Zamin, Bimal Roy & Mayurpankh, Kishore Sahu
- 1955 – Biraj Bahu, Bimal Roy & Boot Polish Prakash Arora
- 1956 – Pather Panchali, Satyajit Ray & Shevgyachya Shenga, Shantaram Athavale
- 1957 – Gotoma the Buddha, Rajbans Khanna & Bimal Roy (Producer)
- 1958 – Parash Pathar, Satyajit Ray & Pardesi, Khwaja Ahmed Abbas
- 1959 – Lajwanti, Narendra Suri
- 1960 – Sujata, Bimal Roy
- 1962 – Devi, Satyajit Ray
- 1964 – Mujhe Jeene Do, Moni Bhattacharjee
Thereafter, this trend was somewhat subdued but continued till mid–80s.
- 1976 – Nishant, Shyam Benegal
- 1980 – Ekdin Pratidin, Mrinal Sen
- 1984 – Ghare Baire, Satyajit Ray
- 1986 – Genesis, Mrinal Sen
After 1986 no Indian full length feature film has competed for Palm d’Or. In 2007 a special screening of Guide took place as an ode to Indian cinema.
It is worthwhile to ponder a little bit about what exactly is being celebrated by audience of this country in terms of ‘success’? The attractiveness of smiling faces and shapely bodies maintained by various cosmetic, medical and / or chemical procedures look wonderfully captivating from the glossy pages of entertainment magazines and thereby profitable for businesses associated with the beauty industry, yet, like cheap perfumes this allure does not take much time to wear off. And when it happens, the viewers of this yearly circus as well as the lovers of film are left with a sense of emptiness mixed with bewilderment. The dresses, most of the time, are provided by European couture designers and same could be said for the cosmetics and jewelleries. And if at all produced in India, definitely, these are triumphs of the designers’, craftsmen, stylists’ or chemists’ not actors’ or directors’.
Even considering the selection or non–selection of a movie into a certain film festival to be not the appropriate method of judging its merit but certainly walking up and down on the carpet cannot be described as a ‘victory’ for Indian cinema. By the standards of the films mentioned above we are actually tainting our glories already achieved on the stages of Cannes decades ago.