Indian Movies at Cannes 2012



The Cannes Film Festival kicked off last week with Wesley Anderson’s “Moonlight Kingdom” leading the way but our eyes are firmly set on the exciting lineup of Indian movies selected this year.

Following a relatively lean period when no Indian movies were selected for screening at Cannes, the last three years have changed that. In 2010, director Anurag Kashyap’s “Udaan”, a coming of age movie about a 17-year-old boy enrolled in an engineering school but whose passion lay in poems and stories, was the first to break a seven year absence of Indian cinema at the world’s biggest film festival. The following year saw two Indian movies selected for screening and this year the number rises to four with newcomer Ashim Ahluwalia’s “Miss Lovely” generating the most buzz.

Selected for screening on May 24 in the Un Certain Regard category—the second most prestigious category at Cannes—Miss Lovely ventures into the murky underbelly of Bollywood in the mid-1980s. The story revolves around two director brothers who shoot c-grade sex-horror movies on a shoestring budget to make a living and end up falling for the same girl, an aspiring young actress. Their struggle to raise money leads them down a path of low-budget movies with little in the way of plotlines; instead, the films serve up sex and horror scenes catering to an audience that desires sleaze and thrill. The plot brings to light the criminal activity, including prostitution and the influence of the Bombay underworld, and exploitation of struggling actors that went on behind the scenes in Bollywood at that time.

Born in Bombay and educated at the Milton-Avery School of Arts at Bard College in upstate New York, Ahluwalia is one of many Indian directors trying to break the status quo of Bollywood movies that rely on songs, dance and now formulaic love stories.

In addition to Miss Lovely, Anurag Kashyap’s “Gangs of Wasseypur” has been selected in the Director’s Fortnight category—an independent, non-competitive section that runs parallel to the main competition section of Festival. The movie revolves around illegal coal mining in the Indian state of Jharkhand and is divided into two parts. Kashyap, never had any formal training, but despite his decade-plus of experience struggled to get his radically different scripts accepted by producers for many years. His big moment came in 1998 when he wrote the script of “Satya”, a movie based on gang wars in Bombay, which went on to be a big commercial hit. Since then Kashyap has gained a name for being one of the new breed of alternative cinema. This will be his second visit to Cannes after the success of Udaan.

Rounding out the group of Indians representing at Cannes, director Vasan Bala’s movie “Peddlers” has been selected for the Cannes Critics’ Week, while a screening of “Kalpana,” a movie from 1948, will run in the Cannes Classics program.

Sahil M. Bansal is a contributing writer at