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Eight Indian Filmmakers and Entrepreneurs Who Will Rock Cannes This Year From glitz glamour of the Cannes red carpet that usually takes centre stage every year for the media coverage, it is interesting to notice how the focus has shifted to cinema, that celebrates the power of storytelling to bring changes in the society.

By Arundhuti Banerjee

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Namita Thapar, Executive Director of Emcure Pharmaceuticals

In what can be dubbed as a mega achievement, Indian film has been selected for the main competition section - All We imagine as light – after 30 years to business entrepreneur and Shark Tank India judge Namita Thapar walking the red carpet, and the trailer launch of tech entrepreneur Priya Samant's debut film Paro as producer is taking place, this year, Indian cinema is finding a very special space at the global stage of 77th Cannes Film Festival

From glitz glamour of the Cannes red carpet that usually takes centre stage every year for the media coverage, it is interesting to notice how the focus has shifted to cinema, that celebrates the power of storytelling to bring changes in the society.

1. Guneet Monga: Oscar winning Indian film producer Guneet Monga Kapoor along with Women In Film, Los Angeleslaunched a new initiative, as part of the global WIFTI (Women In Film & Television International) network at the Cannes Film Festival. It aims to advancing gender equity in Indian screen industries. Talking about the initiative, Guneet, who is also the founder of the production house Sikhya Entertainment stated , "From being in rooms where male colleagues have had to communicate on my behalf so I'd be taken seriously, to leading International co-productions and studio-scale projects, I've seen and been actively involved in the progress over 2 decades. The study of 156 films reported only 12% of head-of-department positions were occupied by women. My hope for WIF: India is to help lower the systemic barriers in accessing these jobs for women, as well as excite a new era of transformation – by offering mentorship, networking, and opening up fellowships, workshops, and an industry helpline to help sustain the careers of those currently in the industry."

2. Shyam Benegal: It only goes to show how his work hold so much relevance even in the present time as the multiple award winning filmmaker by Shyam Benegal's 1976 released film Mathan is screened at the festival this year. The film starred Late Smita Patil screened at the Cannes Classic special screening section. The film is also starring Naseruddin Shah, late Girish Kannad among others. Prateik Babbar, the son of the late actress Smita Patil will be present at the occasion.

3. Namita Thapar: The successful business entrepreneur and executive director of Emcure Pharmaceuticals Namita Thapar, also a Shark Tank India judge attended the festival this year. She was dressed in an outfit, designed by Lebanese fashion designer Elio Abou Fayssal. She opted for a beautiful ruffled off-the-shoulder gown. She attended the premiere of Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, starring Chris Hemsworth. Though it was her debut at the festival as an Indian entrepreneur, last year Aman Gupta, also a Shark Tank judge made it to Cannes and walked the red carpet with his wife Priya.

However, the most interesting part of her Cannes debut was how she quashed the regular trollers who comment on successful women! Taking up Instagram, Namita addressed a few points where usually women are told at the age of 47, how to dress, that she does not deserve the success she achieved, and that posting Cannes fashion pictures might cause her not to be taken seriously as a businesswoman.

She then wrote, "Who defines who we are and how we need to behave? The biggest gift in life is when …with age, with some white hair, and with guidance from precious mentors, you discover your true authentic self and celebrate self-love. Yes, I will go all out in Cannes…yes, I will put up my pics on social media & oh yes, I will not be apologetic & defensive about who I am :) Here's to taking every stereotype ever created & squashing it with my 6-inch killer heels !!!"

4. Priya Samant: Priya Samant, a tech entrepreneur, is making her debut as a producer at the festival with the film Paro. Apart from being a business woman, Priya is known working as an International Impact Advisor on films like The Kerala Story and Kashmir Files. Talking about the film Priya said, "As a staunch advocate of using impactful cinema to foster social change, 'Paro' underscores the pressing importance of combating human trafficking and exploitation."

The story of the film is revolving around Bride Slavery System, and it is aiming to deliver a powerful message on that demands societal action against human trafficking and injustice. The film is starring Heeramandi famed actor Taha Shah Badussha and Trupti Bhoir. The makers will not only unveil the poster and trailer of Paro but also launch a song titled Lament composed Satish Chakravarthy.

5. Payal Kapadia: After winning the Golden Eye for her documentary film at the Cannes Film Festival 2021, Payal Kapadia is grabbing all the eye balls this time for the film All We Imagined As Light. The selection of this film under the main competition section aka Palme d'Or, her directorial has created history for India as it become the first Indian film in over 30 years to be selected in the Main Competition section of the Cannes Film Festival. The film features - Kani Kusruti, Divya Prabha, Chhaya Kadam, Hridhu Haroon and Azees Nedumangad. The film will be competing alongside some of the celebrated international filmmakers like Andrea Arnold, Francis Ford Coppola, Jia Zhang-Ke, Paolo Sorrentino, Sean Baker and Ali Abbasi. The screening will take place on May 23. In the past, Payal also directed short films Afternoon Clouds and And What Is The Summer Saying which premiered respectively at the Cinéfondation and the Berlinale.

6. Chidananda S Naik: This is a very special short film in Kannada language directed by Chidananda S Naik. It is one of the projects that have been selected out of 2,623 submissions to represent India at Cannes. The 20 minutes short film was hisyear-end project at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII). Talking about his through behind the title of the film, Chidananda said, "The first thing I wrote was the name of the film since sunflowers are closely associated with the sun."

7. Sandhya Suri: The British-Indian documentary filmmaker Sadhya Suri has all the reason to feel excited as her feature film The film Santosh is nominated in the Un Certain Regard Award category. Set in north India, the film is featuring Shahana Goswami as the female protagonist who is playing a police officer. In the past, her narrative short film The Field was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Short Film in 2019.Sadhya released her first documentary titled I For India in 2005 and it was nominated for the grant jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival. Having a degree in Mathematics she started film with the passion for storytelling. Her another documentary Around India With A Moving Camera was used for the exploration of British India archival footage at the British Film Institute.

8. Chinu Kala: The renowned entrepreneur and the founder of the jewelry brand Rubans Accessories, Chinu Kala also made her debut at the Cannes red carpet this year. Leaving her home at 15 with just Rs. 300 in her pocket, Chinu went through a lot of struggle and eventually when she made it to the international platform as one of the successful Indian entrepreneur, she felt emotional about her achievement.

Sharing pictures from the occasion, Chinu wrote on Instagram, "This is a victory for every dreamer, every struggler, and every person who dares to believe in their dreams despite the odds. I call this journey "a big Indian dream" because it's a testament to what we can achieve when we refuse to give up on ourselves." She further mentioned, "The challenges were many, the nights were long, and the path was often lonely. But even in those darkest moments, I held onto one thing: my self-belief. It was this belief that fueled my spirit, turning obstacles into opportunities and pain into power."As her dream came true, Chinu shared one of the most important message for everyone who are going through the struggle right now, "To anyone out there who feels like giving up: hold on. Believe in yourself, even when it feels impossible. Your dreams are worth fighting for."

77th Cannes Film Festival has started on May 14 and will end on May 25.

Arundhuti Banerjee

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