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Panchali in Cannes

Cannes, May 12: The season of classic films at Cannes began today with a screening of Pather Panchali at the Salles Bunuel in the main Festival de Palais.

The screening marks the 50th anniversary of the release of Satyajit Ray’s classic which came to Cannes the following year.

A spokesman for the Indian embassy in Paris confirmed today that Sharmila Tagore, who starred in the third film of the Apu trilogy ' Pather Panchali was the first ' was present. “Members of the Tagore Foundation are also there,” he added.

The audience also included Afzal Ammanullah, who is joint secretary (films), I&B ministry, and director of film festivals.

Dilip K. Basu, international coordinator of the Ray Society and director of the Ray Film and Study Collection at the University of California at Santa Cruz, wrote recently about Ray’s “trailblazing first film” that “the choice of Pather Panchali for the special honour is obvious enough: it is its fiftieth anniversary; it won its first international award in 1956 in Cannes; it is regarded by film buffs as one of the world’s greatest. Ray aficionados the world over will greet and rejoice the news of its selection with pleasure and pride”.

He also said: “The celebratory moment should not obscure the darker side of the story of the making of the film, and its near extinction. Satyajit Ray managed to somehow make his first film, using mostly amateur actors, shooting outdoors in natural light, financing it by pawning his wife’s jewelry, and calling on his mother’s government connections in Kolkata. It was entered into the Cannes competition amidst apathy and outright opposition. Jawaharlal Nehru had to exercise his prime ministerial authority to silence such opposition. Still, the government did precious little to promote the film as is usually done at Cannes.”

He revealed: “It was shown at midnight with four premieres preceding its turn. Most jury members were conspicuously absent. However, a few luminaries were present. The list included Lindsay Anderson, Lotte Eisner, Andre Bazin, George Sadoul, Gene Moskowitz. Impressed, they persuaded Jules Dassin, a jury member, to allow a second screening. Ray’s work won the Special Jury Prize as the Best Human Document.”

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