Payal Kapadia And Anasuya Sengupta, Two Women Who Won At Cannes And Made History

Filmmaker Payal Kapadia’s ‘All We Imagine As Light’ and actor Anasuya Sengupta’s ‘The Shameless’ weren't made to purely entertain. They were made to evoke thought, which made both of them winners from the start.

Published On May 29, 2024 | Updated On May 29, 2024


The Cannes Film Festival might see a lot of women on its red carpet, but it barely gets to see enough winners. In fact, since its inception, the number of women vs men directors at this coveted festival is so skewed that it really hasn’t gone unnoticed. 

And while only three out the 21 films nominated for The Cannes 2024-edition were directed by women, it was a pretty good moment for India. 

Let’s talk about Payal Kapadia and Anasuya Sengupta – two women you’ve probably never heard of before. Do we blame you? Not really. In the vast ocean of Indian cinema that prefers its curves over skills, it is easy to miss the important stuff. 

Payal Kapadia, who directed the film ‘All We Imagine As Light’ won the Grand Prix Award at the 77th annual Cannes Film festival. The award, which is considered to be the second most important prize after the Palme d’Or, opened the window to south Asia for many. 

Written and directed by Kapadia, the film delves into the lives of Prabha and Anu, two Malayali nurses living in Mumbai and both of whom are conflicted over their current relationships. The two decide to take a trip to a beach where they find the space to allow their dreams to take shape. 

Kapadia, known in the community mostly as a writer and a short film director, already has 11 wins and 18 nominations in various international film festivals for her previous short films. But this changes things not only for her but for south Asian women filmmakers across the world. 

Next comes Anasuya Sengupta. Born in Kolkata, Sengupta may have wanted a career in journalism but was on screen instead, debuting as an actor in Bengali film director Anjan Dutt’s 2009-film ‘Madly Bangali”. But soon after, she switched to production art design and moved to Mumbai. But Mumbai wasn’t her place either. Sengupta moved again, this time to Goa where she began to make a life of her own when in 2020, the Bulgarian artist and filmmaker, Konstantin Bojanov, who was her Facebook friend asked her to audition for his upcoming film. ‘The Shameless’, a film that won Anasuya the Best Actress Award under the Un Certain Regard category at Cannes. 

‘The Shameless’ tells the story of a woman who kills a policeman in a brothel and escapes to north India to hide among a community of sex workers. There, she also gets romantically involved with another woman. Sengupta dedicated her award to the queer and marginalised communities of the world “for so bravely fighting a fight that they really should not have to fight. You don't have to be queer to fight for equality, you don't have to be colonised to know that colonising is pathetic — we just need to be very, very decent human beings”. 

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