Tracing Payal Kapadia’s journey, from protesting against Gajendra Chauhan at FTII to winning Grand Prix at Cannes | Bollywood

Payal Kapadia’s receipt of the coveted Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival for her masterpiece ‘All We Imagine As Light’ has sparked a flood of admiration. Renowned lyricist and director Varun Grover reflected on her achievement, remarking, “Choosing the path of dissent, in both life and art, can be an arduous one. But occasionally, it leads to enchanting outcomes.” Payal’s award-winning moment at Cannes gains an extra layer of significance considering her earlier involvement in protest and advocacy. (Read More – Ali Fazal’s critique of FTII’s celebration of Payal Kapadia’s Cannes Grand Prix victory: ‘Just don’t’)

At the Cannes Film Festival, Payal Kapadia was honored with the Grand Prix for her film ‘All We Imagine As Light’

The Genesis of Payal’s Activism

During her time as a film student, Payal spearheaded a demonstration opposing the appointment of actor and politician Gajendra Chauhan as chairman of her educational establishment, Film & Television Institute of India (FTII) in Pune. She, alongside 34 other students, was implicated in a legal case for allegedly confining FTII’s director Prashant Pathrabe in 2015. The protest was in response to what was seen as mismanagement of the assessment process for unfinished student works dating back to the 2008 batch.

Get early access to the freshest updates on India’s general elections exclusively through the HT App. Download it Today!

Payal also initiated what is likely the longest sit-in in the institution’s history, spanning 139 days from June to October 2015, challenging Gajendra Chauhan’s role due to perceived deficiencies in his vision and qualifications to head the esteemed FTII. The repercussions were severe, including the withdrawal of scholarships for Payal and her companions engaged in the protest.

The Cannes Initiation

In 2017, Bhupendra Kainthola, head of FTII at the time, endorsed Payal by funding her travel to the Cannes Film Festival where her short film ‘Afternoon Clouds’ was chosen for the Cinefondation forum, dedicated to short films. Depicting a storyline set within the span of an afternoon, ‘Afternoon Clouds’ highlights the life of a 60-year-old widow and her Nepali maid, with actors Usha Naik and Trimala Adhikari bringing the characters to life.

Payal’s Premiere Success at Cannes

Payal Kapadia’s next venture to Cannes in 2021 brought her documentary ‘A Night of Knowing Nothing’ into the limelight. Telling a tale through the letters of an FTII student to her former partner, divided by caste barriers, this poignant narrative clinched the Golden Eye award for outstanding documentary filmmaking.

Payal’s Recent Cinematic Milestone

Payal made her mark as the first Indian filmmaker to seize the Grand Prix for her debut feature ‘All We Imagine as Light’, just a notch below the revered Palme d’Or. It is the first film from India to enter the main competition in 30 years and is notably the first ever by an Indian woman director. Payal was presented the award by the accomplished American actress Viola Davis.

The movie ‘All We Imagine as Light’, blending elements of Malayalam and Hindi, narrates the story of Prabha, a nurse whose life is thrown into turmoil by a sudden gesture from her long-absent husband. Meanwhile, her youthful colleague Anu is on a quest for privacy within the urban sprawl to be with her beau. On a celestial journey, these two nurses embark on a transformative road trip to a seaside hamlet where a mystical forest gives wings to their dreams, unveiling the narrative’s soul.

Such recognition became even more tangible after audiences and critics accorded the film’s screening an extended eight-minute ovation along with resounding endorsements from across the globe.

Leave a Comment