Anasuya Sengupta Creates History as First Indian to Win Best Actress at Cannes

The Shameless
The Shameless

The 77th Cannes Film Festival has proven to be a landmark event for India. Alongside the special screening of Shyam Benegal’s "Manthan," nearly five decades after its release, and the presence of numerous Indian celebrities on the red carpet, Indian cinema achieved remarkable recognition at the festival.

In a historic moment, Anasuya Sengupta has become the first Indian to win the Best Actress award in the Un Certain Regard segment at Cannes. Sengupta was honoured for her role in "The Shameless," directed by Bulgarian filmmaker Konstantin Bojanov. The film tells the compelling story of Renuka, a sex worker who escapes a Delhi brothel after stabbing a policeman.

Bulgarian filmmaker Konstantin Bojanov with Anasyua Sengupta (left)

Anasuya Sengupta, hailing from Kolkata, dedicated her award "to the queer community and other marginalized communities around the world for bravely fighting a battle they shouldn't have to fight." In her poignant acceptance speech, Sengupta emphasized, "You don’t have to be queer to fight for equality, you don’t have to be colonized to understand that colonizing is pathetic — we just need to be very, very decent human beings."

"The Shameless" presents a radical vision of Indian womanhood, juxtaposed with a complex narrative. The film explores the intertwined lives of Renuka, played by Sengupta, and Devika, portrayed by Omara Shetty. Renuka's journey takes a dramatic turn as she hides in a brothel in Northern India, meeting Devika, a young aspiring rapper. Their romance blossoms amidst political and familial turmoil, with Renuka confronting threats from a powerful Hindu nationalist politician and Devika facing the oppressive traditions of devadasi sex work.

The Shameless

Sengupta’s performance has been lauded for its depth and authenticity, capturing the resilience and vulnerability of her character. Her victory at Cannes has been celebrated by peers and fans alike. Fellow actor Tillotama Shome expressed her joy on Instagram, exclaiming, "Just beautiful!!!!!!!!! Making history. Putting us on the map!!!"

Anasuya Sengupta is well-known for her work as a production designer in Mumbai, contributing to projects such as the Netflix series "Masaba Masaba." Originally from Kolkata, she studied at Jadavpur University and began her acting career with Anjan Dutt's "Madly Bangalee" in 2009. After moving to Mumbai, she transitioned to the art department due to the lack of acting opportunities.

Anasuya Sengupta’s journey in the film industry is marked by perseverance and versatility. Initially struggling to find acting roles in Mumbai, she shifted her focus to production design, where she made significant contributions. Her work on "Masaba Masaba" and other projects has been well-received, showcasing her artistic vision and creativity.

Her breakthrough as an actress came with her debut in Anjan Dutt's "Madly Bangalee," a rock musical that opened doors for her in the Bengali film industry. Despite the initial challenges, Sengupta's determination led her to explore various facets of filmmaking, ultimately paving the way for her success on the international stage.

Anasuya Sengupta's historic win at Cannes is expected to inspire a new generation of Indian actors and filmmakers. It underscores the importance of diverse narratives and authentic representations in cinema. As Sengupta continues to break barriers and push boundaries, her contribution to the film industry will undoubtedly leave a lasting impact.

A Still from The Shameless

The 77th Cannes Film Festival will be remembered not only for its celebration of cinematic excellence but also for marking a new chapter in Indian cinema’s journey on the global stage. Anasuya Sengupta’s achievement is a shining example of the talent and potential that India brings to the world of film.



Over 45K subscribers