'All We Imagine As Light': How Payal Kapadia's film on Malayali nurses made history at Cannes

Divya Prabha and Kani Kusruthi play the lead characters in the film directed by Payal Kapadia. Photo | Instagram (divya_prabha_)

Payal Kapadia's 'All We Imagine As Light', which was among the frontrunners for the Palme d'Or award, may not have won the prestigious award, but nevertheless made history after it was took home the Grand prix, the second most important prize at the Cannes. Ever since it premiered at the Cannes, the movie revolving around two nurses from Kerala, had made headlines. For one, it was the first Indian film to win an eight-minute standing ovation at the Cannes. The film's presence at the Cannes was also special for another reason. It broke India's 30-year-old 'Palme d'Or' jinx by competing in the category after Malayali filmmaker Shaji N Karun's 'Swaham' in 1991.
Read Also: Payal Kapadia asked me to audition for 'All We Imagine As Light' after seeing my performance in 'Ariyippu': Divya Prabha

'All We Imagine As Light' revolves around two Malayali nurses, played by Kani Kusruti and Divya Prabha, who are trying to explore their life and find a connection in metropolitan Mumbai. The film's setting has an international appeal, as it is set in Mumbai, a glamorous and all too familiar terrain for non-Indians. Remember the Oscar-winning 'Slum Dog Millionaire', the Indian movie, which was set in Mumbai's slums?
Payal Kapadia's 'All We Imagine As Light' also has a strong French connection. It is an Indo-French production, bankrolled by Petit Chaos from France and Chalk and Cheese Films from India. Payal who is no newcomer to the Cannes, made a strong impact in 2021, when her documentary, 'A Night of Knowing Nothing,' won the the Golden Eye award. Even during her years as a student at the Film and Television Institute of India, the director was known for her firebrand activism and her capability to tell stories differently. However, this time, she hit the bull's eye, selecting a film on two nurses, a profession, which holds international appeal. The movie, according to most reviews, is a glowing tale of sisterhood, which makes it even more special.

Filmmaker Shaji N Karun expressed his happiness on the film receiving standing ovation at the Cannes. He said the recognition India receives at the Cannes is special, since the festival celebrates art and culture in its truest form. He had hoped that Payal's film would bring home the Palme D'Or. He added that the over exposure of Bollywood films has hampered smaller films from countries like India to make it big at the Cannes. “People still believe Bollywood is Indian cinema. This is probably why India could not make it to the Palme D'Or category for the last 30 years,” he said.

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