Cannes 2007: Bollywood calls on Cannes
Indian beauty Aishwarya Rai will be at Cannes this year in a different avatar. As the new bride of Bollywood’s first family, Bachchans, Rai had donned several roles at the French Riviera, as juror, as the face of L’Oreal and as the glamorous heroine of “Devdas”, in a Special Screening in 2002.
Rai will be part of a large mostly Bollywood brigade that will include her own husband, Abhishek, her mighty father-in-law, Amitabh Bachchan, actor Hrithik Roshan (known as India’s Superman for his part in “Krrish”), models John Abraham (seen in Deepa Mehta’s “Water”) and Bipasha Basu, and director Ashutosh Gowariker (whose “Laagan” – Tax -- was short listed for the 2002 Oscars in the foreign picture category).
But India’s presence is confined to glamour, and Cannes’ plan to celebrate its 60th edition along with India’s six decades of Independence did not succeed when the Festival found nothing suitable for Competition, and had to be content with seven movies in an unimportant sidebar, “Cinema of the World”.
Despite the 1000-odd films India makes every year with Bollywood contributing a fourth, the country’s cinema is still not universal enough with nuances and mannerisms frighteningly foreign to the global audience that gathers every May at what is the biggest date in cinema. In 1994, when Kerala director Shaji Karun’s “Swaham” (Self) competed at Cannes, most people walked out. Not because the movie was bad, but its idiom and language were too alien. Since then there has not been another Indian film in Competition, though Cannes included in its other sections a few pictures from Bollywood and elsewhere, but with little success. While “Devdas” exasperated viewers with its length, and was ripped apart by Cannes critics, Rai, proved to be the darling of the Riviera crowds and parties.
Her latest work, “Jodhaa Akbar”, where she plays the 16th century Hindu Queen of India’s Mughal King Akbar, will be screened in its rough version at the Festival market, and so will her “Guru” (in the Cinema of the World), where she is the wife of a wealthy industrialist. However, Cannes is not Rai alone: for the first time, a Tamil movie, “Veyil” (Sunlight), will show how a young man’s passion for cinema creates turmoil in his life. And Bengal’s “Dosar” (Companion) on extramarital affair will hopefully add sizzle to surf and sand.
(Webposted May 16 2007)