Who is Payal Kapadia? ‘All We Imagine As Light’ director wins India’s first Cannes Grand Prix Award

Director Payal Kapadia, who helmed Malayalam-Hindi language film ‘All We Imagine As Light’, won India’s first Grand Prix Award at the 2024 Cannes Film Festival.

For the unversed, Grand Prix is the second highest honour at Cannes after the coveted Palme d’Or. This year, ‘Anora’ director Sean Baker bagged the Palme d’Or.

During her acceptance speech, Kapadia thanked the three leading women in the film — Kani Kusruti, Divya Prabha and Chhaya Kadam — saying the film would not have been possible without them.

“I’m very nervous, so I wrote something down. Thank you to the Cannes Film Festival for having our film here. Please don’t wait 30 years to have another Indian film. This film is about friendship, about three very different women. Oftentimes, women are pitted against each other. This is the way our society is designed and it is really unfortunate. But for me, friendship is a very important relationship because it can lead to greater solidarity, inclusivity and empathy,” said Kapadia.

Who is Payal Kapadia?

Kapadia, 38, is an alumna of the Film & Television Institute of India (FTII). She faced disciplinary action and her FTII grant was cut after she boycotted classes during a four-month protest against former FTII Chairman Gajendra Chauhan in 2015.

With the latest win, she became the first Indian female director to compete in the main competition of Cannes. Her film, ‘All We Imagine As Light’, is also the first Indian film in three decades to participate in the main competition. The film, which was Kapadia’s feature directorial debut, garnered an eight-minute standing ovation at the premiere.

The previous time an Indian movie made it to the main competition was Malayalam director Shaji N. Karun’s ‘Swaham’ in 1994.

In 2021, Kapadia’s documentary, ‘A Night of Knowing Nothing’ premiered at the Cannes’s Director’s Fortnight and she took home the Oeil d’Or award. Her short film, Afternoon Clouds, was screened in Cinefondation, a not-for-profit organisation established by Cannes to promote new filmmakers.

Indians shine at 77th Cannes

On Friday, Anasuya Sengupta, who played a lead role in Bulgarian director Konstantin Bojanov’s Un Certain Regard title ‘The Shameless’, became the first Indian to win the best actress prize in Cannes. On Thursday, FTII student Chidananda S. Naik’s ‘Sunflowers Were the First Ones to Know…’ bagged the La Cinef first prize.