‘All We Imagine as Light’ Director Payal Kapadia : Cannes Facetime

Payal Kapadia‘s “All We Imagine as Light” is the first Indian film in competition at the Cannes Film Festival in 30 years

Published Time: 22.05.2024 - 11:31:32 Modified Time: 22.05.2024 - 11:31:32

Payal Kapadia‘s “All We Imagine as Light” is the first Indian film in competition at the Cannes Film Festival in 30 years. A graduate of theFilm and Television Institute of India (FTII), Kapadia’s “Afternoon Clouds” was a 2017 Cannes Cinefondation selection and she won the festival’s Golden Eye award in 2021 for her documentary “A Night of Knowing Nothing.”

Fiction feature “All We Imagine as Light” follows two nurses (Kani Kusruti and Divya Prabha) from Kerala, southern India, who are roommates in Mumbai. A trip to a beach town allows them to find a space for their desires to manifest.

What made you want to tell this particular story?I was interested in women who come to a different place to work, and be financially independent. And it was something that I had seen growing up in a family of a lot of women, and also the ideas that we have, that financial freedom can in some way, give us some kind of autonomy, in India it’s more complicated than that. Which is something that I wanted to explore in the film, that when does one truly have that autonomy for our personal desires and choices.

Mumbai is a city which has a lot of contradictions. Because it is slightly easier for women in our country to come to work. But it’s also an expensive city. And it’s a difficult city to live in, to commute every day. I wanted to have all these contradictions. And in a space like Mumbai, which is extremely capitalistic – one of the stories in the film is about a woman who’s losing her house. And it’s the gentrification of the Lower Parel and Dadar areas that I’ve seen my whole life. It’s a very important part of Mumbai, a history that we need to remember.

“All We Imagine as Light” is a film of two halves, moving from the big city to a beach town. What was the intention behind this?We see a lot of women working, but women at leisure is something that I wanted to explore, which is how the second half is positioned. But slowly the space and the sense of time starts to change. And the second half leaves the reality of the first and takes on a completely fairy tale form is what I hope for, like a contemporary fable.

What do you wish to convey through the film?I think the film is about friendship, really. And it’s about being supportive of each other. In friendship amongst women, sometimes what comes in the middle of it is patriarchal values. And it spoils friendships in some way. So my hope is that to have solidarity and friendship, that is free from these things that bind them.

The majority of the film is in Kerala’s Malayalam language, which is not the language you grew up speaking, because most nurses are from there. Was that difficult for you?The language is a whole culture. It was really difficult to the beginning -

to understand how to work with the language, but I had a lot of support from a co-writer. I met actors who are really supportive. It was like working in theater where we would do the scenes like we were preparing for a play, and there was a lot of contribution from their end as well. And because they are Malayali, it added a lot of the context from their side. It became like an entity that I had a sight of, but was growing because of many different elements, which is a nice, rewarding way to work.

The film is the first from India in competition at Cannes in 30 years. Do you feel the weight of an entire country on your shoulders?I do not. I think that people should look at things in context. I’m really happy to be selected. But there are various reasons why films get selected to competitions because there are factors in programming that people think about. I just think it’s sad that we didn’t have more films from India, because we make wonderful films. I hope that from now on, there’ll be many more films in competition from India. And it won’t take a 30-year gap to have one.

I’d also like to point out something that’s very important to me, is that there are three films in Cannes by people who are from FTII – Maisam Ali’s “In Retreat” in ACID and Chidananda S. Naik’s short “Sunflowers Were The First Ones to Know…” in La Cinef. It’s important for us to realize the importance of the public film school where we get these opportunities to think about cinema in a different way. And these are the films that go to international festivals.

Your film has funding from France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, the U.S. and the U.K., besides India. Why is it so difficult to fund independent films in India?In my opinion, it’s because there is a lack of a larger system in place in India, where there is no single body that can help you with financing your film. The NFDC National Film Development Corporation, and Films Division before that, used to give finances to smaller films. We don’t have that any more except in states like Kerala. Also, there are a lot of people in our country and not that many fundingopportunities.

In France they have a really great system for supporting independent firms by taxing everything that’s released in their country. I always think that in India, if a small tax was put on ticket sales of all films and that money was put into a fund, which supported independent films, wouldn’t that be lovely?

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