Exclusive Interview: Filmmaker Neeraj Ghaywan

While back home the media was busy counting frills on Sonam Kapoor’s gown and basking in the excitement of the poster launch of Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s latest outing, a small Indian film, made by a first time director made waves at the 68th Cannes International Film Festival. Neeraj Ghaywan‘s project Masaan, which tells the story of a group of people in Varanasi, waiting to fly away from the restrictions and monotony of small town life, was awarded the FIPRESCI (International Federation Of Film Critics) award. Ghaywan also won the Most Promising Newcomer Award in the Un Certain Regard section of the festival. Long Live Cinema caught up with Ghaywan after he had received his trophies for a quick chat on his big win, his festival experience and his plans for Masaan.

With what expectations did you come to Cannes? Did you anticipate this love for Masaan?
Like I said earlier, I went with zero expectations. Being part of the selection that has such greats is already an honour for me. The standing ovation and the double win was a complete surprise. I wish I could say, this is the stuff of dreams. But I never even dreamt of this day.

What do you think is that universal factor in Masaan which the audiences and jury here related to and embraced?
I think world over the basic human emotions are the same. Cinema weaves them into a social, geographical and cultural fabric.  People have connected with the universality of the story, like the emotions of a father-daughter, of two hopeless lovers, of moral corruption, freedom etc.

How was the first premiere like? There was a standing ovation and you broke down. Looking back, can you collect your thoughts on how that felt?

I have no idea when I started crying. I saw few team members in tears and that’s when I started bawling out. So many years of hard work, the passion that the team put in, it was all worth it for those 10 minutes.

The best film you saw at Cannes.
Sadly, I couldn’t see any films. I was busy with interviews all through. I only got to saw YOUTH which was superb, but not Sorrentino’s best.

Many Indian films, like Titli and Miss Lovely, despite doing well at Cannes fail to get released in our country. Are you apprehensive about that and are there any talks of a release plan?
Not with Phantom films, Dhrishyam and Sikhya Films backing me. We are currently gearing up for a release in India as soon as possible. The film releases in France on June 24, helped by our French producers: Macassar Films, Arte and Pathe films.

Your advice to upcoming filmmakers on how to tell local stories in a universal way.
I am hardly a film old to offer advice. I would say honesty is the biggest asset one could have while making a film.

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