Gautaman Bhaskaran
an indian journalist
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© Copyright 2004

 

INDIAN CINEMA

Cinema In General

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Pans & Tilts…Bollywood invasion of Cannes, Big B’s impropriety, Dilip Kumar, Shilpa again…

I am tempted to believe that Bollywood is all set to invade the fascinating French Riviera this summer. The undoubted Queen of Movie Festivals, Cannes, unrolls on May 16 in celebration of cinema, and six decades of the event’s glorious existence.

Cannes 2007 poster
I remember my early days at Cannes, 15 years ago, when India’s presence was confined to just the National Film Development Corporation and its senior executive, S. Narayan. The Corporation’s lone stall in the market looked weather beaten, and Narayan looked forlorn, waiting for callers, hoping that they would turn buyers of Indian exotica.

But the picture today is markedly different: the past five years have seen a flood of Indian movies and stalls taking over the swanky Cannes Market. This year, which also marks India’s 60th anniversary of Independence, will perhaps see an even greater Indian presence. Two days have been set aside during the Festival, which runs from May 16 to 27, to showcase Indian cinema. Seven films will be screened, and, in addition to this, a number of market showings have been planned.

UTV Motion Pictures will unveil two of its upcoming projects – “Jodhaa Akbar” and “Goal”. Ashutosh Gowariker’s “Jodhaa Akbar” tells the story of Akbar’s romantic, not bloody, battle to win the love of the Rajput, Hindu princess he married, Jodhaa Bhai. Often considered a greater romance than their son, Salim, and court dancer, Anarkali’s passionate affair, the Akbar-Jodhaa relationship was an enriching example of understanding and tolerance. Akbar never tried to impose his beliefs on his wife, who was allowed to worship her favourite Hindu god, Krishna. The film’s lead pair, Aishwarya Rai and Hrithik Roshan, will be at Cannes along with their director.

“Goal” focuses on an Asian soccer league team, and is shot entirely in Britain. Its main cast, John Abraham and Bipasha Basu, will also attend the screening gala.

I am sure with Ash at Cannes, Bachchan junior and senior would also be marking time on the Mediterranean beaches. The French Riviera is probably going to explode with Indian curry and culture, hotly peppered with Bollywood belles. In their saucy, seductive best.

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While I am on the subject of Bachchan, here is a little aside. Amitabh’s rivalry with Shah Rukh Khan that began with the younger actor walking away the older man’s prize trophy, “Kaun Banega Crorepati” appears to have worsened after the Ash-Abhi marriage. Shah Rukh was not invited. In fact, none of the Khans was. While both Shah Rukh and Amitabh dismiss this story as the figment of media imagination, this cannot be plausible. Exaggerated, maybe, but not entirely untrue. For, both stars have often been heard taking potshots at each other. My punch line here would be, a senior and respected actor like Amitabh must free himself from rancour, and try and make amends for not inviting the Khans among others for his son’s wedding.

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Here is another take on the Big B. Trade pundits tell me that Amitabh has been unabashedly pushing both his son and daughter-in-law’s career. Amitabh recommends Abishek and Aishwarya for every movie that Bachchan Senior is asked to work for. For example, he has been signed on for “Akhri Mughal” (in the role of the ageing Bahadur Shah Zafar, the poet-Mughul emperor, extradited and jailed in Burma by the British), but Amitabh now says that he will be part of this film only if Abhishek is taken on board as Crown Prince Mirza. Is it rank greed or an overwhelming sense of insecurity for Abhishek’s future, fuelled by a feeling that his talent is passé, that pushes Big B into this scandalous situation ?

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Dilip Kumar recently received Indian movie industry’s highest award, the Dadasaheb Phalke, and at 85, the actor, once called the Tragedy King, must be beyond caring for such trophies. However, there is something that he still cherishes, his wife, Saira Banu, half his age. In some ways resembling Hollywood’s Marlon Brando, who mumbled his way to stardom, Dilip was often inaudible and carried a deadpan expression. Yet, some of his movies – “Madhumati”, “Ganga Jamuna”, “Ram Aur Shyam” and “Sagina Mahato” – became classics. And, Dilip Sahib remains an enigmatic hero.

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Tailpiece: Shilpa Shetty must be a happy woman. She remains in the limelight by weaving in and out of controversies. Hardly had the Big Brother Celebrity affair ended with Shilpa being the butt of racism, along came Mr Buddhist and his tango. When Richard Gere took Shetty in his arms and planted kisses on her cheeks, India’s Moral Men went red with rage, and slapped cases against the couple. Miss, we are now waiting for the next drama!

(Webposted May 4 2007)