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Banaras battle pitch in Cannes

A poster of the documentary

Cannes, May 18: In a distinctly non-veg restaurant in Cannes, where most filmmakers were enjoying seafood with chilled Rose wine for their Sunday lunch, an Indian producer was explaining a 90-minute documentary.

The Battle for Banaras will try to unravel the incredible rise and rise of Narendra Modi to the outside world.

Manu S. Kumaran, founder and chairman of Medient Studios, explained his is a global outfit that now owns Atlas, the oldest film sales company in the world. “We will sell the documentary everywhere in the world.”

The Kamal Swaroop-directed documentary has been shot like a feature film. “It’s not a news documentary,” emphasised Kumaran, whose company “came out of India but has offices in London, Munich and Los Angeles”.

Kumaran described the film’s genesis: “When (Arvind) Kejriwal challenged Modi and Modi accepted — or whatever happened — it was decided they were going to fight each other and we were expecting that the Congress was possibly going to field Priyanka Gandhi there to make it a real, real fight.

“But obviously, the Congress read the national mood correctly and decided not to fight this time. So the whole thing was decided in three days. We started shooting on April 10 and we will shoot till May 21 — we are waiting for Mr Modi to finalise his cabinet. We will wait for the reaction in Banaras to that.”

Normally, Cannes associates India with Bollywood but Kumaran is hoping to take advantage of the newfound interest in Modi. “So the issues are: which way is India going to go? What is the future of India? Is it the educated, urban elite-driven Right-wing nationalist message or is it the have-nots rising up in a revolt like they did in the Delhi elections?” Kumaran said.

“How are these crowds formed? There is a book by a German, Elias Canetti, called Crowds and Power. So Swaroop read this book 30 years ago and felt this is the best manifestation of the theories in that book. So he is going to do some exploration of how these things evolve — the difference between a mob and a crowd. In many ways the election results in Banaras reflect the rise of Modi — we have for the first time in 34 years voted for a person or an ideology or an active agenda. The majority of India voted for something.”

Kumaran revealed: “We are building a studio in America — this is the one film in production right now. This is meant for Indian theatrical release. We will see how it plays out in the West. We are going to release it in India on Independence Day. The speeches are all in Hindi. But there will be an English language version of the documentary as well.”