GANGS OF IN­DIA AT CANNES

India Today - - UP FRONT - EDOUARD WAIN­TROP

Two years ago I was or­gan­is­ing a ret­ro­spec­tive of con­tem­po­rary In­dian cinema at Fri­bourg in Switzer­land. Dur­ing that time I took some movies rep­re­sent­ing Mum­bai noir and came upon the work of Ram Gopal Varma. I saw his Sarkar, Ab Tak Chhap­pan by Shimit Amin, Ek Haseena Thi and Johnny Gad­dar by Sri­ram Ragha­van, and Black Fri­day by Anurag Kashyap. I was in­ter­ested in this new In­dian cinema. It was talk­ing about a change in In­dian so­ci­ety and it was try­ing to find a new way to tell de­tec­tive sto­ries. I was sud­denly made aware of the cinema of new Mum­bai di­rec­tors. Then I be­came artis­tic di­rec­tor of the Di­rec­tor’s Fort­night at the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val in 2011. Co­in­ci­den­tally, I met Anurag at the Ber­lin Film Fes­ti­val in Fe­bru­ary this year. He told me his new movie was com­pleted, and he was car­ry­ing a DVD of it. I asked to see it.

The sound was not mixed, some pic­tures were not de­fin­i­tive. But I fell in love with the cinema. It was an epic about gang­sters but re­ally it was the story of love and death span­ning 60 years. And it was clas­si­cal, al­most in the tra­di­tion of the mas­ters of noir in the Hol­ly­wood of the ’ 40s. This cinema sug­gested a lot of things, didn’t quite spoon­feed the au­di­ence. I also found its chang­ing tone won­der­ful. At one mo­ment it was cruel, at an­other it was comic. What’s more, it was in two parts. I had to wait three hours to see the sec­ond part af­ter I saw the first and I tell you I couldn’t wait. It’s 5 hours 20 min­utes in all, with a 20minute break and for au­di­ences at Cannes, we are pro­vid­ing a fam­ily tree of the three gen­er­a­tions of three fam­i­lies por­trayed in the movie.

There’s such a change in the air that I can feel. It’s ev­i­dent in our other two se­lec­tions from In­dia at Cannes this time. There’s Ped­dlers, which is di­rected by Vasan Bala, which I’ve seen and is show­ing at the Crit­ics’ Week and there’s Ashim Ah­luwalia’s Miss Lovely in the Un Cer­tain Re­gard sec­tion, which I have not seen but have heard a great buzz about. I can feel a lit­tle smell of Bollywood in Gangs of Wassey­pur but used in a very dif­fer­ent way. In Gangs, Anurag uses the tra­di­tional form of sto­ry­telling in very dif­fer­ent ways. I will give you the ex­am­ple of a Bho­jpuri rap song which has trav­elled to the movie all the way from the Caribbean. It goes like this: I’m a hunter/ She want to see my gun/ When I pull it out/ Why women start to run?

Why am I so im­pressed with this new cinema? Well, I think the hu­mour is used in a very in­ter­est­ing way. Re­mem­ber that’s usu­ally the most dif­fi­cult as­pect to ex­port. But here it’s re­mark­able be­cause at the heart of it, it is also a story about id­i­otic gang­sters who can kill peo­ple at ran­dom but will not be able to hold a girl’s hand. I can say with con­fi­dence that au­di­ences at Cannes who watch this movie will be de­lighted by it. We are also man­ag­ing a de­bate on May 23, a day af­ter Gangs of Wassey­pur pre­mieres, on the new In­dian cinema, with all the peo­ple we can find ap­pro­pri­ate to the sub­ject.

I haven’t met Ram Gopal Varma but I have met Anurag twice now, once at Ber­lin and then in Paris. He is a fan­tas­tic re­source for a lot of emerg­ing new voices in In­dian cinema. It’s a great feel­ing to be on the verge of dis­cov­er­ing new cinema. It is dif­fi­cult to make peo­ple un­der­stand it at first but then when you slowly find con­verts, it makes the jour­ney worth­while. I re­mem­ber when we showed these In­dian movies at Fri­bourg, a jour­nal­ist at one of the premier Swiss mag­a­zines, L’hebdo, wrote a story ti­tled Cop­pola Masala and re­ally when I watched Ram Gopal Varma’s Sarkar, that’s how I felt.

The last time I came to In­dia was for the In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val four years ago. I could sense the en­ergy but didn’t watch enough cinema. Now I’m glad I did and I’m ready to show it to the world.

Why am I so im­pressed with this new cinema? Well, I think the hu­mour is used in a very in­ter­est­ing way. Here it’s re­mark­able be­cause at the heart of it, it is also a story about id­i­otic gang­sters who can kill peo­ple at ran­dom but will not be able to hold a girl’s hand.

Edouard Wain­trop is the artis­tic di­rec­tor of the Di­rec­tor’s Fort­night at the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val. In­dia has four films at Cannes this year: Gangs of Wassey­pur I and II, Vasan Bala’s Ped­dlers, and Ashim Ah­luwalia’s Miss Lovely. He spoke to Kaveree Bamzai.

ASTILL FROM GANGS OF WASSEY­PUR

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