There were no filmmakers or actors on the jury either.
The Cannes Film Festival 2019 was an event which featured a plethora of Bollywood stars on the red carpet, however, not many Indian films were screened.
Around 1,845 Indian films were rejected by the festival’s decision-makers.
In 2002, Amitabh Bachchan had asked: “So, what does it take to get one of our films to compete at Cannes?”
An aide replied: “A serious theme and plenty of marketing.”
Amitabh nodded, non-committally, but none of his films has competed for the Palme d’Or, one of the festival’s most prestigious awards.
Despite many complaining that not enough Indian films are been screened, there has been no change.
In fact, the 2019 festival has marked a new low as 1,845 films were submitted for consideration. None of them were accepted apart from Afternoon Clouds, a short film by Pune Film Institute graduate Payal Kapadia.
There were no filmmakers or actors on the jury either. Chetan Anand, Mrinal Sen, Shekhar Kapur, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Vidya Balan were on the jury in previous years.
Mira Nair’s debut film Salaam Bombay! in 1988 won the Camera d’Or as well as the Audience Award. She said:
“The tastes and agendas of the selection committee and that of Indian cinema don’t necessarily align.”
Some of Nair’s films had been rejected by Cannes in the past, most notably Monsoon Wedding (2001).
The film’s rejection particularly annoyed Nair especially because it won the Golden Lion at the Venice festival.
New Delhi radio broadcaster and critic Indra Mohan Sahai had spoken against the festival’s then-President Gilles Jacob about “the all too apparent prejudice” against Indian entries.
Jacob and current President Pierre Lescure tried to resolve the issue to an extent.
The following year, Devdas was showcased to a somewhat mixed response among those who had attended the festival.
Bollywood actors such as Shahrukh Khan and Preity Zinta steadily began fetching up photo ops at the famous Carlton Hotel.
Over time, Bollywood actresses have been making waves on the red carpet in dazzling outfits.
The Cannes Film Festival 2019 saw Kangana Ranaut, Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra and Hina Khan showcase their stunning outfits on the red carpet.
Some films have attracted attention at the festival such as Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur in 2012.
Cannes has also been responsible for showcasing the work of rising filmmakers within Indian cinema. The 1975 film Nishant by Shyam Benegal made an impact but none of his later films was screened.
Indian films which have won awards at Cannes is a rarity but many films have gone ignored at Cannes says the Mumbai Mirror.
One of the reasons may be because they have been hardly promoted and marketed. But it is debatable whether the financial deals in order to market the film would be worth it.
While the number of rejected Indian films in 2019 was alarming, Cannes may embrace the quality of Indian cinema in the future.