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EXCLUSIVE: Mita Vashisht talks about being at Cannes for the screening of The Shameless; reveals why it was refreshing to work with Bulgarian filmmaker Konstantin Bojanov: “In India, several directors feel that ‘If I have cast you, I should be worshipped’; that kind of chamchagiri goes on in our industry” : Bollywood News FSalinks





The 77th Cannes Film Festival has been special for India for many reasons. Payal Kapadia’s All We Imagine As Light has made every countryman proud. And there’s also The Shameless, for which Anasuya Sengupta won the Best Actress award in the Un Certain Regard segment at Cannes, a first for any Indian actor. Talented, veteran actress Mita Vashisht, who also features in The Shameless, spoke exclusively with Bollywood Hungama about the Cannes honour and a lot more.

EXCLUSIVE: Mita Vashisht talks about being at Cannes for the screening of The Shameless; reveals why it was refreshing to work with Bulgarian filmmaker Konstantin Bojanov: “In India, several directors feel that ‘If I have cast you, I should be worshipped’; that kind of chamchagiri goes on in our industry”

How was your experience at Cannes?
It was overwhelming. We got a standing ovation for a very long time. Even after we were done hugging each other, the claps continued and moviegoers cheered for us. We were seeing the film for the first time. The film is quite powerful – it moves you. And the show was sold out at Théâtre Debussy, where the films of the Un Certain Regard section are screened. There was pin-drop silence throughout the duration of the film followed by standing ovation. Many viewers had tears in their eyes. I never thought I’d have my tears pouring down on two levels – one being that I was in Cannes and getting such kind of reception and secondly, the film itself is so powerfully moving.

Much later in the day, when I was walking down the street, there were people sitting around who shouted ‘We loved the film…you all are wonderful actors’!

The Shameless is directed by Bulgarian filmmaker Konstantin Bojanov. How easy or difficult was it for you to build a rapport with a director you didn’t know at all?
I am very intuitive about people. Konstantin Bojanov’s integrity is something you don’t discover over many meetings. You know immediately that he’s a man of deep integrity. His honest openness on why he wanted me to do the role appealed to me. Moreover, he has been trained in a Fine Arts college. How many directors, except for rare ones that I worked with like Mani Kaul, would be interested in other subjects which are quite connected to cinema? Hence, I connected to Konstantin almost immediately, within the first 5 minutes. I liked the man and his way of looking at the world. Like when I met Mani Kaul for the first time and when he cast me for Siddheshwari (1989), I hadn’t seen any of his films. But in 5 minutes, I understood that he knows his craft amazingly well.

Also with Konstantin, I could be straightforward. I told him that the script was not quite, what he said and gave some ideas. He replied that he wanted such inputs, which is why he was not happy with the casting (and hence approached me). There was also a lot of generosity in his approach. There was no ego. In India, several directors have this attitude that ‘If I have cast you, I should be worshipped’; they want actors to be eternally grateful; that kind of chamchagiri goes on in our industry! With my earlier directors like Mani Kaul, Kumar Shahani or Govind Nihalani, there was no such thing. Such filmmakers and also Konstantin look at you as a collaborator who’s going to bring something to the table.

How was Konstantin Bojanov able to connect with you?
What I understood was it was thanks to director Kanu Behl and Parul Sondh, a high-profile and talented production designer. Konstantin told them that he was not able to find a suitable actor and that he wanted someone who could bring in a lot, despite limited screen time. This is when Kanu and Parul suggested my name.

How important is the Cannes honour for The Shameless?
Cannes is wonderful. It’s the ultimate place for glamour and showbiz. Throughout the day, we saw people in the most exquisite gowns with their fancy sandals in their hands as you need to walk a lot there! They don’t allow cars after a certain point. While Cannes has the highest quotient of glamour, it is also very high on cinematic excellence. They don’t care if you made a film in Rs. 100 crores or Rs. 100. What they look for is the cinematic excellence in your film. And that’s not compromised at any level.

You looked wonderful in your saree. How did you choose the outfit?
I had to wear a saree because I feel that it’s one of the most beautiful drapes in the world. It’s also our national dress. And we can go international even with the saree, can’t we?

I wore this exquisite Banarasi saree. The lady who sold it to me some years ago remarked ‘You won’t find this Banarasi easily. You should just take it’! And that’s been in my wardrobe ever since. The patola, meanwhile, was brought from an exhibition of Indian handicrafts. It was one piece of a kind; you won’t find another one. Then one of my editor friends from FTII suggested, ‘Mita, if you are wearing a saree, you must wear a bindi as well’ (laughs)!

Some people did advise that I approach designers. One designer suggested that he could lend me a saree from his collection. But my point is ‘Everybody wears that. From a mile away, the designer’s label will scream from the saree. I am there for my film, not to showcase a designer’s wardrobe’!

Who all did you meet at Cannes?
I had a fan moment with Prabhu Dheva! I don’t have fan moments easily but he was so sweet. I met him at the Bharat Pavilion, which was a wonderful place. It was buzzing with activity and was filled with Indian and international film fraternity members. From far away, you see the Indian flag waving at the Bharat Pavilion and you know ‘That’s where I can get my masala chai’! In the evening, cocktails were served and I met so many amazing people like A R Rahman, Jabbar Patel, Bobby Bedi, editor Arghyakamal Mitra, Santosh Sivan, Mazahir Rahim etc. Mazahir told me how it’s an honour to be at Cannes for a film that is an official entry in a highly acclaimed section.

I also made friends internationally. They recognized me after watching The Shameless and some of them invited us to film festivals in their countries. Interviews also happened. A local French Bollywood newspaper spoke to me. They did so much research on me; they knew my work.

There was a big buzz about The Shameless already. And after the screening, there was an even bigger buzz.

Also Read: Belgian director Konstantin Bojanov on The Shameless, “The odds were stacked against me and the possibility of failure was immense”

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