Cannes Xpress 2023: Here's what happened when Anurag Kashyap's Kennedy premiered

Straight from Cannes to electronic devices near you, our writer brings you the lowdown on one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world
Cannes Xpress 2023: Here's what happened when Anurag Kashyap's Kennedy premiered

Big crowds and long queues marked the world premiere of Anurag Kashyap’s Kennedy at the Grand Theatre Lumiere, popularly known as GTL, on Thursday. The film played in the official Midnight Madness section of the Cannes Film Festival. Among those flocking the GTL were significant Indian guests attending Cannes—filmmakers Bobby Bedi, Vikramaditya Motwane, Sudhir Mishra, Vignesh Shivan, and actor Pradeep Ranganathan to name a few.

After an earlier screening of the restored print of Aribam Syam Sharma’s Ishanou—beautifully realised by Shivendra Singh Dungarpur’s Film Heritage Foundation—in the official Cannes Classics segment and Yudhajit Basu’s short film Nehemich in Le Cinef competition for students’ films, it was the day of back-to-back premieres of two Indian feature films—Kanu Behl’s Agra (in the parallel Directors’ Fortnight segment) besides Kashyap’s KennedyBoth played too long-standing ovations, some walkouts, and middling reviews. Meanwhile, Kashyap’s die-hard fans (including non-Indians) could be seen taking selfies with him after the screening till the wee hours of the morning.

Cannes has been Kashyap’s favourite hunting ground. Fourteen of his productions, five of them as the director (Gangs of Wasseypur 1 & 2, Ugly, Raman Raghav, Bombay Talkies, and Kennedy) have played at the festival. Though none of his films have made it to the prized International Competition, they have featured across various other official sections—Un Certain Regard, Out of Competition, Midnight Madness—and the parallel Director’s Fortnight and Critics’ Week.

But Kennedy marked a rare first for him at Cannes. It played at the grand and highly coveted GTL, arguably the best theatre in the world. “For me, it’s the biggest high. It’s a filmmaker’s pilgrimage. We did sound check on our film yesterday and were blown by the experience,” said an excited Kashyap, in an interview with The New Indian Express, a few hours before the premiere.

The festival laid it out for him with all the kingly protocols in place: arrival in limousines, welcome at the top of the stairs by General Delegate Thierry Frémaux, pictures on the red carpet, and the official photocall the day after.

For the red-carpet-obsessed India—which is technically more a sideshow on Ground Zero than the centerpiece that it is turned into—Kashyap was also busy making his own fashion news. Posing as James Bond in a Manish Malhotra tux one day, showing off his blue Balenciaga mules during the press interviews and black Space Shoes from the Red-Carpet collection of the same company at the premiere. Balenciaga, incidentally, has been in a major controversy recently over its child-bondage ad campaign. “They are so comfortable,” was his reason for the choice.

Called the Indian blue-eyed boy of the international film festival circuit, often to the omission of other films and filmmakers, Kashyap scored more of a miss than a hit in Kennedy with the international critics and film buffs.

However, like, dislike, or indifference for the film aside, the generosity of the film’s studios and producers has been heart-warming. They have been impeccable in helping get a big contingent of the young cast and crew to Cannes to experience the big moment firsthand. Not only that, but they also ensured that as per protocol all of them arrived at the venue in limos. “My support system in the film industry is not the trade but the filmmakers and the filmmaking community. They make it possible for me to make films,” said Kashyap in this show of gratitude.

For the rest of his stay, he did what truly needs to be done at Cannes: watch the best of international cinema. “So far, I have seen 19 films. It’s the best place to watch movies and I use all my privileges to get access to them,” he said, explaining why he went missing from the film’s own team party at the Pizza Cresci restaurant the day before the screening. He couldn’t afford to miss Marco Bellocchio’s Kidnapped. Cannes for him has been and will always be about getting nourished by cinema.

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