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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Best of both worlds

Writer-director Amit Kumar’s childhood dream of being a storyteller comes true with his first feature film,Monsoon Shootout,screening at Cannes.

Written by Alaka Sahani |
May 8, 2013 2:15:21 am

Against the backdrop of 100 years of Indian cinema,four new movies and a classic will be screened at Cannes. Our guest country status will ensure the presence of movie biggies and fashionistas at the festival,promising a grand Indian outing.

Few filmmakers can claim to be living their childhood dream of making movies,especially when they grew up in Africa without much exposure to cinema. However,Amit Kumar — director of Monsoon Shootout,selected for a midnight screening on a beach during Festival de Cannes — makes this claim convincingly. To back this,he recounts his first brush with the world of make-believe. “When I was around eight years old,my elder brother Anish and I used to play a game called ‘Continue’. I was the narrator — making up situations and superhero characters — and my brother was the sidekick. When my parents would interrupt the game,we would stop playing with the understanding that it would ‘continue’. Somewhere around that time I knew that I would be a storyteller,” says Kumar,who spent his childhood in Botswana and Zambia.

This conviction drove Kumar to quit a cushy job at a multi-national company and eventually study direction at Film and Television Institute of India (FTII),Pune. Though Kumar considers his time at FTII “highly under-utilised”,the exposure to films was excellent. “It’s at FTII that I met Rajeev Ravi,my cameraman,and Asif Kapadia.” London-based Kapadia had come to shoot his graduation film and Kumar helped him on that.

“When Asif returned to shoot The Warrior in 2000,we travelled to Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan,developing the script. During those days,I pitched ideas for The Bypass and Monsoon Shootout to him. I was keen on pitching the latter for Cinema Extreme,but Asif insisted that I develop The Bypass first,” he says. In hindsight,Kumar is happy that he followed Asif’s advice. The Bypass (2003),a short film produced by Trevor Ignman,bagged a BAFTA award,and later,the UK Film Council gave him a go-ahead to develop Monsoon Shootout.

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But locking the script took five more years. During this period,Kumar went on to assist director Florian Gallenberger on Shadows of Time and had his first baby. “The years 2009 and 2010 were spent looking for finance. We had a French and a Dutch producer on board. But as per the rules,we needed an Indian producer since it was going to be an international co-production,” he says. The producers he met in those years wanted a star in the cast. His search ended when he ran into Guneet Monga at a party in 2011.

“It’s about taking decisions and I am not very good at it,” says Kumar,who admits to have taken a long time to decide on the cast. He had Nawazuddin Siddiqi in mind to essay the role of a gangster in Monsoon Shootout ever since The Bypass days. Vijay Varma,as a rookie cop who faces the dilemma of whether he should shoot the gangster,Tannishtha Chatterjee and Neeraj Kabi joined the cast later.

“I don’t think my film is art-house enough. But then it’s not a masala film either. I look at it as best of both worlds. The fact that it’s having a midnight screening shows that it’s gripping enough. The Cannes officials do not put an art-house film for it,” he says.

The Cannes outing,hopes Kumar,will give a boost to his future dream project. “It’s a movie set in the backdrop of World War II. Some years ago,I read about an incident in Burma where the Indian Army was involved. That got me interested. After much research,the script is ready now,” he says. Kumar is hoping to find an international collaborator and producer for his project soon.

India at the French Riviera

Amitabh Bachchan will join Leonardo DiCaprio,Toby Maguire,Carry Mulligan and director Baz Lurhman for the premiere of The Great Gatsby,for the opening on May 15.

Nandita Das,who was in the Cannes jury in 2005,will be part of the Short Film and Cinefondation jury this year.

Ritesh Batra‘s debut feature film The Lunchbox is in the competition section at the International Critics’ Week alongside six other films. One of them is a short,Tau Seru,an Indian-Australian production by Rodd Rathjen about a young nomad in the Himalayas.

Manjeet Singh,director of Mumbai Cha Raja,will get a chance to promote his latest project Chenu at the L’Atelier,a meeting place for producers and exhibitors.

Satyajit Ray’s Charulata will be presented at Cannes Classics as part of the official selection.

Shimmer and Shine

At Festival de Cannes,fashion and glamour always enjoyed as much importance as cinema. A slew of stars will be attending the 11-day event. Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan will be making her 12 th consecutive appearance at the festival. Joining her as brand ambassadors of L’Oreal Paris are Freida Pinto and Sonam Kapoor. Sonam will be donning one of the six special looks inspired by Bollywood,from the black liner,gold dust and red lipstick Rekha look to the pink,sliver and shimmer Zeenat “disco” look.

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