Acclaimed Indian actress-filmmaker Nandita Das' directorial "Manto", a biographical on controversial Urdu writer Saadat Hasan Manto, has made its way to the Un Certain Regard segment of the prestigious 71st Cannes Film Festival. The team is ecstatic.
A historical period drama about Manto, who is known for his writings around the partition of India and Pakistan, is the only Indian film competing in the Un Certain Regard category of the gala, to be held from May 8-19.
Nandita, who has been a jury member at the movie jamboree twice -- in 2005 and 2013 -- had last year introduced "Manto" to the Cannes audience via "In Defence of Freedom", a prelude to the feature film.
Now heading to the fest with the film in full form, Nandita's happiness knows no bounds.
"We are in Cannes! 'Manto' is selected in the official section Un Certain Regard. Exciting moment for the entire crew and cast," tweeted the filmmaker, whose 2008 directorial debut "Firaaq", on the aftermath of the Gujarat riots, was also screened at Cannes.
Nawazuddin, who plays the bespectacled Manto in the eponymous film, is also excited.
"'And it is possible that Saadat Hasan dies, but Manto remains alive'. Glad to inform that 'Manto' is selected for competition at Cannes 2018 in Un Certain Regard section. Congratulations Nandita Das and Team 'Manto'."
Actress Rasika Dugal, who essays Safia Manto -- the protagonist's wife -- told IANS: "It will be such an honour to present our film there. In the times we live in, a film which strongly defends freedom of speech, should reach a wide audience not just in our country but across the world."
Rasika added that the film speaks of "fearlessness with sensitivity and that's something to nurture and celebrate".
The film also features Tahir Raj Bhasin as Shyam Chaddha, Manto's friend, confidant and inspiration for a number of stories; Rajshri Deshpande as author Ismat Chughtai and veteran actor Rishi Kapoor in a cameo.
The background score is by table maestro Zakir Hussain, with music composed by Sneha Khanwalkar.
"Manto" will compete with Bi Gan's "Long Day's Journey into Night", Andrea Bescond and Eric Metayer's "Little Tickles", French-Morrocan director Meyem Benm'Barek's "Sofia" and Ali Abbasi's "Border", among others.
Some Indian titles that have been screened in this section earlier include Gautam Ghose's "Antarjali Yatra" (1987), Aribam Syam Sharma's "Ishanou" (1990), "Shaji N Karun's Swaham" (1994), Ashim Ahluwalia's "Miss Lovely" (2012) and Neeraj Ghaywan's "Masaan" (2015). In 1999, Murali Nair's "Marana Simhasanam" won the Camera d'Or for best first feature in the Un Certain Regard section.
Among the films in the special screenings section are Gilles Porte's documentary "The State Against Mandela and The Others", "10 Years in Thailand" and Wim Wenders's documentary "Pope Francis - A Man of his Word".
Netflix has boycotted the festival to protest films produced by streaming platforms from being banned from the competition section.
At a press conference, Fremaux answered questions about the lack of women in the line-up, offering his usual reply that the festival has to deal with the titles that are being submitted.
He also said how the gala will never be the same after Hollywood's sexual scandal following the exposure of producer Harvey Weinstein, describing it as an "earthquake" moment for the industry, hollywoodreporter.com reported.
"The world will never be the same again, the Cannes Film Festival will never be the same again," Fremaux said, adding that the movement sparked by the allegations against Weinstein had also caused an internal evaluation by the festival itself.
"We will discuss our own practices with the festival team. We will discuss equality of salary, we want to question our own process about the parity of the juries," he added.
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