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FTII Alumnus Chidananda S. Naik Triumphs with Top Honor at Cannes

The cinematic world turned its gaze toward India as Mysuru filmmaker Chidananda S. Naik, a student of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), clinched the prestigious first prize of La Cinef at the Cannes Film Festival. In a gripping moment at the Bunuel Theatre in Cannes, Naik’s short film, *Sunflowers Were the First Ones to Know*, was lauded and awarded, marking a significant achievement in his budding career.

Naik’s film, a 15-minute visual masterpiece inspired by a timeless Kannada folktale, was selected from a staggering 2,263 entries submitted by 555 film schools globally. This recognition is not only a personal triumph for Naik but also a proud moment for Kannada cinema. “Selection at Cannes is a chance for exposure and interaction with other international filmmakers. I hope to see more Kannada films reaching Cannes in the future,” Naik shared in an interview with *The Hindu* prior to the festival.

The accolade came with a prize stipend of 15,000 euros, a substantial amount that acknowledges the efforts and challenges faced by Naik and his team. Reflecting on the rigorous process, Naik recounted, “We got just four days to shoot. Shooting entirely at night with limited resources was tough.” Despite these constraints, the team’s dedication and creative endeavors paid off, bringing this Kannada folktale to life on an international stage.

The narrative of *Sunflowers Were the First Ones to Know* centers around an elderly woman whose actions disrupt the harmony of her village. By stealing their prized rooster, she plunges the community into a state of perpetual darkness, setting off a series of dramatic events. The film’s visual and auditory elements were meticulously crafted, with Suraj Thakur serving as the cinematographer and Abhishek Kadam handling the sound engineering. Editing was deftly managed by Manoj V., ensuring a seamless and captivating storytelling experience.

The victory was celebrated widely, garnering congratulations from various dignitaries and celebrities. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah expressed his pride and admiration for Naik’s achievement.

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. In a post on X, he wrote, “As a proud Kannadiga, it’s inspiring to see you bring Kannada folklore to the global stage. I am sure it will inspire many more to pursue their passion and achieve great heights.” Kannada actor Yash, renowned actor R. Madhavan, the FTII, and Union Minister Anurag Thakur also took to social media to extend their congratulations, reflecting the national pride and support for Naik’s accomplishment.

This achievement is underscored by the fact that Naik is only the second Indian to ever win the La Cinef award. The first Indian to receive this honor was Ashmita Guha Neogi in 2020, for her short film *CatDog*. This establishes Naik’s win as a significant milestone in the history of Indian cinema, specifically in the domain of short films.

Naik’s journey from being a doctor to a filmmaker epitomizes the diverse paths that can lead to success in the creative industries. His transition is a testament to the power of passion and dedication in pursuing one’s dreams, irrespective of initial professional choices. Naik’s success at Cannes is expected to inspire an array of aspiring filmmakers, particularly from Karnataka, to present their unique narratives to global audiences.

Moreover, this victory is seen as a boost for Indian cinema on the world stage. Indian films have long struggled to find consistent representation at prestigious international festivals like Cannes. However, with talents like Naik emerging and receiving recognition, there is renewed hope and enthusiasm for the future. This win is not an isolated incident but rather a beacon for the possibilities that lie ahead for Indian storytellers.

In conclusion, Chidananda S. Naik’s remarkable win at the Cannes Film Festival serves as a powerful reminder of the global potential of regional stories. His short film, *Sunflowers Were the First Ones to Know*, does more than just win an award; it bridges cultural gaps and places Kannada folklore on an international pedestal. As Naik continues his filmmaking journey, his Cannes victory promises to be the first of many accolades, heralding a new era for Indian cinema both at home and abroad.