In Cannes, among the stars


Thursday, May 18th, 2017


Natir Puja is the only film where Rabindranath Tagore is credited as director

 

Very slowly but surely, Bangladesh is establishing a presence at the world’s premiere film festival.

 

Cannes – the very name conjures up images of movie star glamour, unalloyed creativity, and cinema as it should be – artistic, visually captivating, and incorporating a language that is altogether in danger of getting lost in a tsunami of reality-based tv and franchise filmmaking. Every year in May, this quintessential resort town in the South of France plays host to the Cannes Film Festival, that is famed all over the world. It isn’t just another stop on the festival circuit. Cannes is famous for launching many a star into world renown, from 60s French siren Brigitte Bardot to Abbas Kiarostami, the acclaimed Iranian director.

 

It may not be as well-known as the Oscars, but for most filmmakers, Cannes is the beating heart of their craft – mainly for its artistic ethos that rewards directors and producers for their vision, and where they take their craft, rather than how much they can boast in box office takings. Bangladesh has been sniffing at and about the event for some years now, shoring up its presence in various ways, from committing greater media resources to covering the star-studded event to participating in some of the fringe events that spring up like some ancillary industry every year.

 

It may not be as well-known as the Oscars, but for most filmmakers, Cannes is the beating heart of their craft – mainly for its artistic ethos that rewards directors and producers for their vision, and where they take their craft, rather than how much they can boast in box office takings. It’s a place where you feel Rabindranath Tagore, with his natural charisma and humanist outlook, would have belonged. Tagore himself was well-travelled of course, but the festival itself started its journey a bit too late for him – in 1946, five years after his death.

 

Last year, at the 69th edition of the storied festival, a 3D colour recreation of the only film Tagore ever made, Natir Puja (1932), was unveiled at the Cannes Film Market. Professor Karl Bardosh, Hungarian-born American academic and filmmaker, has brought alive the film that provides another fascinating insight into the creative vision of Bengal’s first Nobel laureate. The Bangladeshi stake in it all comes in the form of Executive Producer Enayetullah Khan, editor-in-chief of the Dhaka Courier.

 

Bardosh’s interpretation of the dance drama that Tagore wrote in 1926 for the stage at the Jorasanko Thakurbari is titled Natir Puja – The Court Dancer, and features Sujata Awon Pradhan of Kolkata, where she heads the dance group Nrityalok, in the lead role. She choreographed herself, with Jayati Chakraborty, a leading exponent of Rabindra Sangeet in West Bengal, as the playback singer. Renowned Dutch cinematographer Leonard Retel Helmrich, the master of the ‘single camera shot’ technique, was roped in as cinematographer. Tagore’s script is based on a Buddhist tale that goes back 2400 years.

 

Unsurprisingly, the message it delivers is of religious tolerance, and that fact alone should be enough to ensure its continued relevance in this day and age. The fact that it gives Tagore fans an opportunity to catch a glimpse of what their favourite bard may have envisioned in another, arguably more encompassing medium than what they are used to with his poetry, prose and lyrics, makes it even more intriguing.

 

Cannes factbox

 

— Originally conceived in 1939 as an alternative to the Fascist-influenced Venice film festival, Cannes has been held annually since 1946 apart from 1948 and 1950, when lack of funds led to its cancellation.

— In 1949 the stars started coming: Tyrone Power, Orson Welles, Norma Shearer, Errol Flynn and Edward G. Robinson all appeared that year. Brigitte Bardot made her first appearance in 1953.

 

— In 1960, the first Cannes Market opened its doors to some 10 participants and one screen — a canvas hung from the roof of the old Palais Croisette.

 

— In 1968, film director Louis Malle, who was on that year’s jury with Roman Polanski among others, was one of a group of film-makers who forced the festival to close in the midst of the student and worker uprisings across France.

 

— Jane Campion became the first female director to win the Palme d’Or in 1993 for her film “The Piano”.

 

— In 1997, a “Palme des Palmes” — a super-version of the Palme d’Or best film prize — was awarded to Ingmar Bergman for the 50th festival. The Swedish director did not appear.

 

Reuters.

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