[email protected]: ‘Big moment for India’

‘When you are selected to represent the country at a festival like this, you realise, ‘Wow, like 15 years of my career’.
‘And you feel, ‘Okay, not bad. I think I have done really well’.’

Being a jury member at the Cannes film festival is a personal triumph but also a victory for the South Asian community and a recognition of India and its values, says Deepika Padukone, the first Indian since Vidya Balan in 2013 to be chosen for the honour.

Padukone, part of the eight-member Cannes competition jury at the festival that runs from May 17 to 28, is also hoping the discussion in the media this time will be more about the celebration of Indian talent and cinema and less about fashion.

Balan’s sartorial choices had come under intense scrutiny when she was part of the jury, which will reward one of the 21 films in competition with the Palme d’Or at the festival’s closing ceremony.

“I hope we realise that there is so much more… Of course, fashion is fun, it should be fun. It’s also a very personal thing.

“But I hope that Indian media has learned from that last experience and realises that we have the power to actually change that narrative and talk about what a big moment this is for India,” Padukone told PTI in an online interview ahead of the festival.

“I don’t think it deserves pages and pages of news. I think what we should be talking about is the celebration of India. The celebration of Indian talent and cinema,” she added.

The star of films such as Piku and Padmaavat is part of a jury that includes French actor Vincent Lindon, English actor-film-maker Rebecca Hall, Iranian film-maker Asghar Farhadi, Swedish actor Noomi Rapace, Italian actor-director Jasmine Trinca, French film-maker-actor Ladj Ly, American film-maker Jeff Nichols and Norwegian director-screenwriter Joachim Trier.

Padukone said she is looking forward to the two weeks she will spend watching films and interacting with fellow jury members.

“While it does feel like a personal victory, it also feels like a slightly larger victory for the South Asian community… We can literally count on our fingertips the number of times anyone from India has been on the jury or has had the opportunity to represent the country at a platform such as this,” the actor said.

“To see India being recognised at a global level at a platform like this… I think it says a lot about where we are as a nation and the road ahead for us as a nation,” the Gehraiyaan actor added.

This is not the first time she has been part of the festival. Her previous engagements were brand related and red carpet appearances.

Indians who have been a part of Cannes jury include the late Mrinal Sen (1982), director Mira Nair (1990), author Arundhati Roy (2000), Aishwarya Rai Bachchan (2003), Nandita Das (2005), Sharmila Tagore (2009), Shekhar Kapur (2010) and Vidya Balan (2013).

Padukone said she is grateful for the opportunity.

The 36 year old, who recently became the first Indian to be signed on by French luxury brand Louis Vuitton, said her selection as a jury member at Cannes inspires her as a producer-actor as it shows that people around the world are “actually sitting up and recognising India and its values”.

Padukone said she doesn’t often look back at her career but being selected as a jury member for a prestigious festival like Cannes has made her reflect on her journey.

“I do look back, but maybe not often enough. But it’s moments like these that make me look back at my journey. When you are selected to represent the country at a festival like this, you realise, ‘Wow, like 15 years of my career’. And you feel, ‘Okay, not bad. I think I have done really well’,” the actor said.

Deepika, legendary badminton player Prakash Padukone’s elder daughter, said she lives with the attitude of an athlete, not letting success or failure affect her.

“My inherent nature is maybe that of an athlete where you don’t dwell too much on the result of anything — good or bad. It’s more like you observe and learn from any situation and then move forward. It’s something that my dad taught me and sports taught me — that whether it is success or failure, you don’t take either of it too seriously.”

Delhi-based film-maker Shaunak Sen’s documentary All That Breathes and Pratham Khurana’s short film in Le Cinef (a competition for film schools) are India’s only cinematic representation at the main festival.

Sen’s Sundance World Cinema Grand Jury Prize-winning documentary premieres in the ‘Special Screening’ segment of the gala.

The festival will also showcase a restored version of Satyajit Ray’s Pratidwandi.

India is the official country of honour at the Marche du Cannes (Cannes Film Market).

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