Silver screen

Indian debut movie ‘Masaan’ sparkles at Cannes Film Festival, gets two awards

Neeraj Ghaywan’s debut feature, set in Varanasi won a prize in the Un Certain Regard category as well as a FIPRESCI jury nod.

Filmmaker Neeraj Ghaywan has struck gold at the Cannes Film Festival with his first film, Masaan. The Indo-French co-production, which is set in Varanasi, has picked up two awards at the festival. One is a prize awarded to directors with “promising futures” from the jury of the Un Certain Regard category in which the film was shown. Masaan shared the award with Ida Panahandeh’s Nahid, a drama about divorce and remarriage set in Iran. Several Indian films have been shown in Un Certain Regard in the past, including Kanu Behl’s debut Titli last year, but Ghaywan is the first Indian director to win a prize in this section.



Masaan,  which follows four characters from the ancient city on the banks of the Ganga, also caught the attention of the International Federation of Film Critics, known as FIPRESCI. The nine-member jury, including Indian critic Bitopan Borborah, handed out prizes across categories, and they picked up Masaan as the best film from the 19 Un Certain Regard titles.

Originally titled Flying Solo, Masaan has been co-written by Ghaywan by lyricist and stand-up comedian Varun Grover. According to a press release, the film is about “a low caste boy in hopeless love, a daughter ridden with guilt of a sexual encounter ending in a tragedy, a hapless father with fading morality, and a spirited child yearning for a family”, all of whom “long to escape the moral constructs of a small-town”. The cast includes Richa Chadha, Sanjay Mishra, Shweta Tripathi, Vineet Kumar and Pankaj Tripathi, and is scheduled to open in cinemas later this year.

The Un Certain Regard jury, headed by actor Isabella Rossellini, gave the top award to Grimur Hakonarson’s Iceland-set Rams. The section showcases the films of young and upcoming directors, and is keenly watched by international festival programmers, critics and distributors.

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Tracing the formation of Al Qaeda and its path to 9/11

A new show looks at some of the crucial moments leading up to the attack.

“The end of the world war had bought America victory but not security” - this quote from Lawrence Wright’s Pulitzer-Prize winning book, ‘The Looming Tower’, gives a sense of the growing threat to America from Al Qaeda and the series of events that led to 9/11. Based on extensive interviews, including with Bin Laden’s best friend in college and the former White House counterterrorism chief, ‘The Looming Tower’ provides an intimate perspective of the 9/11 attack.

Lawrence Wright chronicles the formative years of Al Qaeda, giving an insight in to Bin Laden’s war against America. The book covers in detail, the radicalisation of Osama Bin Laden and his association with Ayman Al Zawahri, an Egyptian doctor who preached that only violence could change history. In an interview with Amazon, Wright shared, “I talked to 600-something people, but many of those people I talked to again and again for a period of five years, some of them dozens of times.” Wright’s book was selected by TIME as one of the all-time 100 best nonfiction books for its “thoroughly researched and incisively written” account of the road to 9/11 and is considered an essential read for understanding Islam’s war on the West as it developed in the Middle East.

‘The Looming Tower’ also dwells on the response of key US officials to the rising Al Qaeda threat, particularly exploring the turf wars between the FBI and the CIA. This has now been dramatized in a 10-part mini-series of the same name. Adapted by Dan Futterman (of Foxcatcher fame), the series mainly focuses on the hostilities between the FBI and the CIA. Some major characters are based on real people - such as John O’ Neill (FBI’s foul-mouthed counterterrorism chief played by Jeff Daniels) and Ali Soufan (O’ Neill’s Arabic-speaking mentee who successfully interrogated captured Islamic terrorists after 9/11, played by Tahar Rahim). Some are composite characters, such as Martin Schmidt (O’Neill’s CIA counterpart, played by Peter Sarsgaard).

The series, most crucially, captures just how close US intelligence agencies had come to foiling Al Qaeda’s plans, just to come up short due to internal turf wars. It follows the FBI and the CIA as they independently follow intelligence leads in the crises leading up to 9/11 – the US Embassy bombings in East Africa and the attack on US warship USS Cole in Yemen – but fail to update each other. The most glaring example is of how the CIA withheld critical information – Al Qaeda operatives being hunted by the FBI had entered the United States - under the misguided notion that the CIA was the only government agency authorised to deal with terrorism threats.

The depth of information in the book has translated into a realistic recreation of the pre-9/11 years on screen. The drama is even interspersed with actual footage from the 9/11 conspiracy, attack and the 2004 Commission Hearing, linking together the myriad developments leading up to 9/11 with chilling hindsight. Watch the trailer of this gripping show below.

Play

The Looming Tower is available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video, along with a host of Amazon originals and popular movies and TV shows. To enjoy unlimited ad free streaming anytime, anywhere, subscribe to Amazon Prime Video.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Amazon Prime Video and not by the Scroll editorial team.