So happy I don’t have words for it: Chhaya Kadam on Cannes win for ‘All We Imagine As Light’

12:56 PM May 28, 2024 | PTI |

New Delhi: One of the most photographed moments from the Cannes red carpet this year was the jig by the All We Imagine As Light team at the premiere. It was a sign the film, the first in 30 years by an Indian director to be selected for competition at the gala, would win big, says actor Chhaya Kadam.


And it did. Payal Kapadia’s meditative film about two Mumbai nurses went on to bag the Grand Prix, the second-highest honour at Cannes after the top prize Palme d’Or (won by Sean Baker’s Anora).

“I am so happy I don’t have the words for it,” Kadam told PTI over the phone from Cannes.

The red carpet moment is etched in her memory, and in Indian cinema history. Kadam, who plays one of the three leads of the movie alongside Kani Kusruti and Divya Prabha, doesn’t remember who started dancing first.

“I’m not sure at this point, but it was probably me,” she said.


“Someone from Mumbai called and joked, ‘You were dancing as if you were in your own courtyard’. I was like, “Kyun nahin?” Just to be part of the main competition after 30 years is a huge achievement, not to count the award that we won. Why follow protocol? Hum apni khushi aise hi dikhaate hain, kood kood kar. (That’s how we show our joy, by breaking into a dance),” Kadam said.

According to the actor, who began her career in theatre, their red carpet dance was a celebratory moment with people around them joining in to celebrate their moment of happiness.

“When we stood still for photographs, even the photographers started requesting us to keep dancing. There was just so much happiness around,” she said, adding that she heard the Marathi song Gulabi Saree playing when she stepped down from her car for the premiere.

“The sign that the film would win big at the festival was apparent,” she said.

The film, an India-French co-production, was pegged a frontrunner after it received glowing reviews in international press post its gala screening.

The Malayalam-Hindi feature revolves around Prabha, a Mumbai nurse whose life is thrown in disarray when she receives a rice cooker from her estranged husband. Anu, her roommate and colleague, is struggling to find a private spot in the bustling city to be with her boyfriend. Prabha’s best friend Parvati (Kadam), a widow, is being forced out of her home by property developers.

Kadam, who has steadily become a recognisable name and face with her roles with films such as Laapataa Ladies and Madgaon Express, said working on All We Imagine… made her realise the importance of breaking rules.

“I think we should break rules and make our own rules. That’s what this film has taught me and what a wonderful film it is! I also watched it for the first time at the Cannes premiere. It is the story of our land, our soil. We should make more such stories. I don’t know why we don’t. We may not have much but there is so much value in what we have,” she said.

This Grand Prix win is one for the history books, she said.

Kapadia also became the first Indian female filmmaker to win the award at Cannes, known for discovering budding talents from across the world and giving them wider exposure.

When the film was announced as the winner at the festival’s award ceremony on Saturday, FTII graduate Kapadia took the stage with the three leading ladies and even thanked them in her acceptance speech, a viral moment on social media today.

“Payal is awesome. All these photos that are coming out, she made it possible by taking us along. I remember when the award was announced, we were waiting for Payal to walk up to the stage but she took us along.”

“That’s how she is. She kept saying the film belongs to all of us. That’s what she has shown in the film too, this friendship among three women of different ages,” Kadam said.

In an Instagram post, Kadam wrote that the saree she wore for her first appearance at Cannes was a tribute to her late mother.

The nose ring she wore in most of her appearances also belonged to her mother.

“It is her wedding ‘nath’. My mother passed away last August and one of the dreams that remained unfulfilled for me is that I could never take her on a plane journey.”

“I started earning quite late, everything got delayed. I had hoped to do that but she left me. So, when I was there, though I had bought a different outfit, I felt like I should wear my mother’s saree because she would have worn that at Cannes had she been alive.”


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