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From protesting Gajendra Chauhan at FTII to winning the Grand Prix at Cannes: Payal Kapadia's journey

Payal Kapadia was once punished for demonstrating against her alma mater, FTII. Her film All We Imagine As Light won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival.

Written by  Annesha Barua -- May 26th 2024 04:18 PM
From protesting Gajendra Chauhan at FTII to winning the Grand Prix at Cannes: Payal Kapadia's journey

From protesting Gajendra Chauhan at FTII to winning the Grand Prix at Cannes: Payal Kapadia's journey

PTC News desk: Varun Grover, a lyricist turned director, posted on X after Payal Kapadia's All We Imagine As Light won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival, saying, "Dissent, in art and in life, is a tough path to choose." However, occasionally it does produce magic. Given Payal's past with dissident views, it is all the more amazing that she made history at Cannes. 

Payal's past of disapproval


Payal spearheaded a student demonstration during her time in film school to oppose the appointment of actor-politician Gajendra Chauhan as chairman of the Film & Television Institute of India, Pune, her former alma mater.

When Payal and 34 other students held FTII director Prashant Pathrabe captive in his office in 2015, a FIR was lodged against them. Payal and her friends objected to Prashant's choice to grade the unfinished projects of the 2008 batch of students.

In addition, Payal organised a protest against BJP member Gajendra Chauhan's selection as FTII chairman that lasted 139 days, from June to October 2015—possibly the longest in the history of the organization.

They questioned his ability to run a reputable organization like FTII because they felt he lacked "vision" and "stature." When scholarships were refused to Payal and other students, disciplinary action was initiated against them.

Payal's premiere in Cannes

Then-FTII director Bhupendra Kainthola supported Payal in 2017 by writing a letter of recommendation and paying for her travel costs when her short film Afternoon Clouds was chosen for a Cannes Film Festival screening. The thirteen-minute movie was shown on the Cinefondation forum (short films).

It takes place in a single afternoon within a house and centers on a sixty-year-old widow who lives with Nepalese house staff. The characters were portrayed by Trimala Adhikari and Usha Naik, respectively.

Payal's initial Cannes award

In 2021, Payal brought her documentary A Night of Knowing Nothing back to Cannes. In the video, letters sent by an FTII student to her ex-boyfriend—who is not permitted to marry her due to their different castes—are shown. The Golden Eye for best documentary that year went to Payal.

Payal's most recent victory

With her directorial debut feature, All We Imagine as Light, Payal made history as the first Indian filmmaker to win the Grand Prix. After the Palme d'Or, the movie took home the second-most prestigious award of the festival.

Her film is the first to be shown in the main competition in thirty years and the first ever directed by a woman from India. The American actor Viola Davis presented her with the Grand Prix.

In the Malayalam-Hindi film All We Imagine as Light, Prabha, a nurse, gets an unexpected present from her long-estranged husband that completely upends her life. Anu, her younger roommate, searches the large city for a quiet place where she may spend time alone with her boyfriend, but to no avail.

The plotline states that one day, the two nurses take a road trip to a coastal resort where the enchanted woodland turns into a place where their wishes come true.

Following its premiere, which saw the crew get an eight-minute standing ovation and excellent praise from foreign reviewers, the movie emerged as a serious contender for the top prize.

- With inputs from agencies

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