The Cannes Film Festival 2012 was held in May and one of the films that was selected from over a thousand was first time director Vasan Bala’s Peddlers. Actor Gulshan Devaiah of Shaitan, That Girl In Yellow Boots and Hate Story was there with his director and talented co-stars representing their film and India. Sailesh Ghelani asks him to give us the low-down on what it’s like to be part of one of the most revered film festivals in the world and to tell us how fabulous his experience was.
How did peddlers get into the critics week at the Cannes Film Festival? What’s the process?
Well we had sent a ten-minute promo, which received a good response from the Cannes festival people, and several rough edits were sent to them for the purpose of selection. Finally, on the 30th of April they announced the official selection for the critics week and Peddlers was one among 7 features to be chosen from 1200 entries. The Critic’s Week showcases 7 features and 7 shorts in competition and apart from prizes there the features also qualify for the Camera d’Or, which is the main prize in the Critic’s Week. The Critic’s Week is a section for new or first time directors.
Was it overwhelming being invited?
Well not really. I kinda had a gut feeling that we would make it. I have such feelings some times. I was really happy for Vasan (Bala) the director of Peddlers. To have his first film compete in the biggest film festival in the world is a big deal. A big deal not only because it’s a tough competition but also it presents great trade opportunities. Many people think of Cannes as only a glamorous affair, it is also very important for marketing films from all around the world. Films find distribution at Cannes.
What is expected of you when you get there?
We the principle actors, crew and the producers were invited by the festival to present our film peddlers. There were cocktails, lunches, interviews and of course the screenings to attend (two out of about seven). It’s not all fun. You are networking, marketing and talking about the film to people. Audiences, press and trade people were all interested in meeting us and talking to us about our film. I attended Cannes with the sole purpose of working to promote our little film and to stand by our dear Vasan Bala.
How does an international film festival/awards show feel different from the ones held in India?
I actually don’t have much experience with festivals. I went to Venice in 2010 and now Cannes… I missed Toronto (for That Girl In Yellow Boots) due to work commitments. The organisers are super-organised and very efficient. When you ask somebody a question they know what to tell you. The jobs are very well defined. Nobody is clueless, which is not generally the case in India. Not that our festivals are dull but we can learn efficiency from them. Cannes is bloody well organised because it’s a small village actually. They handle the stars, the press the trade and the fans very well. Even in the rain the festival runs on time. Super impressive. I love efficiency.
Tell us something about the sights and sounds of this mysterious place called Cannes…
Oh there are sights I tell you. Firstly, everybody is always dressed up especially the women. It’s a big fashion parade. And it’s impossible to walk in Cannes and not be photographed. It does not matter who you are you will be clicked! Cannes comes alive as a small charming village by the sea. There is always a party going on somewhere. Oh the NFDC India party rocked too with Punjabi singer Jasbir Jassi belting out a balle-balle medley. So much buzz, so much fun. The people oh it’s amazing what you get to see there from stars to weirdo’s! Cannes has it all. It’s a beautiful town, charming with all the big designer shops with prices that make you bleed in the bum to superb restaurants that make you cry with their delightful French cuisines. I loved the food, the view from my apartment, and the five-foot tall bread at the local supermarket. It’s lovely. Four days well spent.
Did you watch any other films?
The only other films I watched apart from mine were Gangs of Wasseypur Parts 1 and 2… It’s epic and Anurag’s (Kashyap) best work as yet. It’s like an Indian Western film. But with bullocks instead of horses. Hell it has horses too. It’s so much fun with delightful performances in particular by Nawazuddin Siddique. He is the best actor I’ve seen in recent times.
Were you overawed by it all? Meet any international celebs…?
Never. I’ve learnt from past experiences and am well prepared in order to not be overawed. Actually I did not get to meet or even spot any serious international celebs but some of my team members saw Brad Pitt. I saw a Bugatti Veron and a dozen Ferraris and two Lamborghini’s and a Mclaren F1. Well they are celebs too. The kind I like at least. If Daniel Day Lewis had been present then I would’ve put everything on the line just to see him. If I met him I would not survive the meeting. But he was not there this year unfortunately.
Peddlers got some good reviews. Did it get any distribution deals or tie-ups as well?
Yes the public and critics’ response is very good. We met some French distributes who were keen to pick up our film. I really don’t have any proper information about the business deals. I guess when Guneet (Monga, producer) and Vasan get back from Cannes I’ll ask them. I’m eager to learn about it. I am very interested in having the proper knowledge about the trade aspects of films. It’s like a champion racer knows how to drive real fast but also has in depth knowledge about the functioning of his car. He drives better that way.
Aurag Kashyap was there for his film too. You know him, so did you learn something from how he deals with people in an international setting?
I’ll tell you man he is like a kid jumping around and generally being happy (he had three of his films at Cannes). He is so simple and uncomplicated in the way he conducts himself; he is emotional and it’s so nice to see him have a beaming smile and being himself. He is not pretentious at all. It’s always good to be yourself. He had such humility when he was up on stage. His happiness becomes everybody’s happiness. The one thing I’ve learnt from him is the love and respect he has for his craft. He is so passionate.
What did you and your co-stars do for fun?
Drank cocktails and wine, ate wonderfully food, chatted about this and that, took silly pictures, shared previous festival experiences and danced like mental people at the party and oh dressed to kill every day. Thankfully all my co stars are sharp dressers. So it was fun. Siddharth Menon and Nimrat Kaur are debuting with Peddlers where as Kriti Malhotra (read her interview here) has performed in Dhobi Ghat and Murari Kumar is a live wire performer (he is in Gangs of Wasseypur as well). All really talented actors with their own unique style and processes.
Read more interviews here.