Honoured to do my bit

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    Papon, who walked the Cannes red carpet, opens up on taking Assamese cinema to the global scale, wearing an Assamese shawl at the festival and more.

    Singer Papon was among the luminaries from India to have graced the prestigious Cannes Film Festival as the cultural ambassador of Assam. He also attended the film gala in the capacity of a producer for two of his films, The Land Of The Beats and The Mystical Brahmaputra - A Musical Journey, whose teasers were unveiled at the festival. Papon, who has belted out a slew of chartbusters like 'Kyon' (Barfi; 2012) and 'Moh Moh Ke Dhaage' (Dum Laga Ke Haisha; 2015), was also a panellist for a discussion titled The Gateway To The Northeast, which touched upon film policies, locales, cultural heritage and hospitality of Assam.

    We caught up with the musician who spoke to us about being one of the few singers to attend Cannes, taking Assamese cinema to the global scale, wearing an Assamese shawl on the red carpet and more.

    Excerpts from the interview:

    You were a part of the 75th edition of the Cannes Film Festival to celebrate your home state. What do you think this global exposure means to Assam and its art and culture?

    This is a concerted first-of-its-kind effort by my state and my country to ensure global exposure and inclusivity. It's a wonderful step in the direction of promoting national tourism and exchanging our views of cinema and culture. Making an effort at the cultural level is truly commendable. Assamese cinema in recent times has made interesting leaps and its history is one of the oldest. There are new filmmakers, who are making a mark with films such as Village Rockstars (2107) to Boomba Ride (2021). The Government of India is sparing no effort to encourage filmmakers to shoot in Assam and I am extremely happy to be part of the process.

    You also attended the festival in a capacity of a producer. Tell us a bit about your films.

    I have been producing two films for a few years now. I haven't made it public until now. I thought Cannes was the apt time to talk about them and have their teasers screened at the India Pavilion panel discussion. For Land Of Sacred Beats, I am working on presenting one of the oldest classical music forms of India, which is yet to be celebrated in a bigger way by the world. It's a 550-year-old music system of talas and ragas by Vaisnav Saint Mahapurush Srimanta Sankardev.

    The other film, The Mystical Brahmaputra - A Musical Story represents the multicultural fabric of the ethnic groups, different tribes and different communities living along the beautiful river Brahmaputra. It is a musical film showcasing the multicultural co-existence of the communities that live by the banks of the Brahmaputra. I'm grateful that I got the opportunity to showcase the beautiful backdrop of the river valley.

    What kind of response did the teasers of the films receive from the global audience and experts there?

    I am getting good responses so far. The audience encouraged me and found the visuals very inspiring and found it very inviting to shoot in Assam.

    I met a couple of producers who missed the screening, but they talked to someone who heaped praises on the glimpses of the film and its visuals.

    You were a part of the forum, The Gateway To The Northeast. Could you please elaborate a little about the discussions and exchanges that happened there?

    Assam – The Gateway to the North East, is part of the initiative (of the Indian Government and Assam State Government) for encouraging international filmmakers to visit India to shoot their films and promote Indian cinema. I have been talking to a lot of producers to understand what they require to make it more inviting for them to come and shoot in Assam. I have been sharing my inputs with the Ministry of Culture and the office of our Honourable Chief Minister and it feels good to see their quick response to improvise the film policies and invite people from outside to come to shoot in Assam. The government has also been looking into the requirements of the people for shooting apart from subsidies and incentives. The government in Assam allows you to hire filmmaking equipment, that is four times cheaper than the rest of the states. The connectivity in Assam has also improved. If this continues in the long run, we are on a speedy road to an inclusive and impactful cinema.

    You posted a picture with music maestro AR Rahman from Cannes on your social media...

    We both met after a very long time. When I entered the Indian Pavilion, there was a session going on and Shadow Of The Night, a single-shot film was being discussed. A.R. Rahman had composed its music. The session was very enriching and it touched upon how he keeps pushing his boundaries in terms of style, zone and genres. He was talking about how it was important for him to make a film like this to understand the different aspects that are at play.

    How was it meeting him?

    Rahman and I smiled and greeted each other between interviews. We met after a long time, but that quick moment felt like home. It was positive.

    It's not every day that musicians get to walk the red carpet at Cannes. How did it feel to do that? Were you nervous?

    Walking the red carpet was a very exciting feeling. I was nervous and excited at the same time. There was a responsibility as I was representing India. There are so many exciting things that were happening. I was thrilled and honoured that I got the chance to be part of the annual festival.

    You wore the special Assamese shawl at the event. Was this your way of taking Assam to Cannes and paying a tribute to your home state?

    Well, I wear a little bit of Assamese wherever I go. I bring Assam to whatever I do. Its textile is so vibrant and diverse. I haven't seen any place where there is so much diversity. I'm very happy that I have such diversity in my collection of weaves and designs to pick from each time wherever I go.


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