Anasuya Sengupta's Historic Cannes Triumph: A National Joy

Anasuya Sengupta, at 37, made history by becoming the first Indian to win the best actress trophy at Cannes for her role in 'The Shameless'. The win, celebrated as a national pride, echoes a collective joy felt by the Indian community. Sengupta's acceptance and her work epitomize resilience and unity.


PTI | New Delhi | Updated: 31-05-2024 16:25 IST | Created: 31-05-2024 16:25 IST
Anasuya Sengupta's Historic Cannes Triumph: A National Joy
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The best actress win in Cannes doesn't feel like a personal trophy with the whole country feeling a sense of pride in her accomplishment, says Anasuya Sengupta, struggling to find words to describe what it feels like to be the first Indian to win acting honours in the film gala. The 37-year-old woman from Kolkata bagged the best actress trophy under the Un Certain Regard segment for Bulgarian director Konstantin Bojanov's Hindi language movie ''The Shameless''. ''I still don't have the right word for it. Maybe like the following Friday, I will know the exact word... Everyone feels a sense of pride in my moment of pride and it just elevates that. So it's really not a personal achievement for me... To do it with an entire country, it feels great,'' Sengupta told PTI in an interview.

It was a special year for India at Cannes. And Sengupta wasn't the only reason for it. Filmmaker Payal Kapadia's ''All We Imagine As Light'' became the first film in 30 years to be nominated in the main competition and the first ever from India to win the Grand Prix Award at Cannes. Besides, FTII student Chidananda S Naik's ''Sunflowers Were the First Ones to Know'' won the first prize in the La Cinef competition, making it a triple feat for India.

''We were a group of 15-20 people, maybe less. But it felt like we were representing a bigger feeling because that bigger feeling is there in our country. There's a sense of everybody feeling happiness in my happiness.'' ''I am more proud of Payal's win than I am of mine. And I know she and her entire team feel the same way about me and my team... For the rest of the world to see us there together, in support of each other, doing good work, getting recognised, I feel even more happy for that,'' Sengupta added. Her co-stars from ''The Shameless'' -- Tanmay Dhanania and Omara Shetty -- started celebrating the moment her name was announced, she said. In a haze, she made her way to the stage.

''What Vicky Krieps (jury member) said before announcing the award touched me a lot. She said, 'this year we decided to give it to someone who showed up, went down to hell and gave her skin every day for the film 'The Shameless'. And that meant a lot coming from artists that I have so much respect for.'' ''The Shameless'', which premiered at Cannes on May 17, explores the distressing world of exploitation. Sengupta plays the central character of Renuka, who escapes from a Delhi brothel after stabbing a policeman to death and takes refuge in a community of sex workers in northern India, where she meets Devika (Omara), a young girl condemned to a life of prostitution.

The queer drama is adapted from a story in author William Dalrymple's 2009 book ''Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India'' What also resonated was Sengupta's acceptance speech dedicating the award "to the queer community and other marginalised communities'' for bravely fighting for their rights all around the world.

Stressing on the importance of the ''equal gaze'' on every human being, she said what breaks her heart is that this needed to be ''articulated separately''.

''And I actually have a lot of hope, a lot of love in my heart that I'm not the only one who feels that way. When you say it out there, you see that it resonates with people.

''I believe the majority of us want an equal world... all it takes is just being a good human, being a decent person and treating everyone equally and with respect,'' she said.

Sengupta said she has always pushed herself to explore her artistic sensibilities. A graduate in English Literature from Jadavpur University, the actor said she had been interested in performing arts since childhood.

''I had a great set of parents who completely pushed me towards the arts quite a bit. I used to draw as a kid. When you grow up in a Bengali family, you really get pushed to the extracurricular quite a bit. And by the time I went to Jadavpur University, where I studied, I had started doing theatre a little bit.'' As part of a theatre troupe called Tin Can, Sengupta got her first film role in the Bengali movie ''Madly Bangalee''. She moved to Mumbai after that. While she searched for good characters to play, she worked first as an assistant director and later headed the production design department for films and shows such as ''Ray'', ''Masaba Masaba'' and ''Chippa''.

''I started wanting to do and try something even more different, another art form. That's when I started illustrating. I decided to leave Bombay and moved to Goa. I thought, art, and let's see where it takes me now.'' It was around that time Konstantin contacted her on Facebook and asked her to play the lead role in ''The Shameless''.

She read the script in one sitting, and immediately fell in love with Renuka, the lead character who she wanted to stand up for.

''I wanted to have the opportunity to do my bit in celebrating a woman like her. As an actor, you can't ever judge your character. You can only love your character. I took a deep dive into the character. There was a degree of deep physical work, as she is a street survivor. There was a mental part of it as well. And I tried to stay 200 per cent committed to wanting to tell the story.'' Summing up the experience of being at Cannes and then winning an award there, Sengupta said just to be in the same room as filmmakers like George Lucas and Xavier Dolan, the Uncertain Regard jury head was ''absolutely glorious''.

''It's like the creme de la creme of film festivals. We were lucky as our film was screened relatively early and we stayed on to watch other films. I'd never been to Cannes before. ''There is the glam aspect, which is also fun and exciting, but at the heart of it is thousands of cinema lovers from all parts of the world coming together, watching films and talking about them afterward. For me, it culminated so beautifully into the end point being awarded by my heroes and getting to engage with them... We keep dividing ourselves, but art brings us all together.''

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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