Gautaman Bhaskaran
an indian journalist
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© Copyright 2004



Cinema In General


Pans & Tilts…Hepburn’s schools, Provoked, The Namesake…

Sometimes, I feel that Bollywood (a term Indian cinema on the whole is identified with) and Hollywood are quite akin to Siamese twins conjoined by emotional ties. One of the world’s most renowned filmmakers, Satyajit Ray, used to fondly narrate how he not only grew up watching Hollywood masterpieces, but also learnt the craft from them. There have been any number of other Indian directors whose first lessons in the art of this moving medium came from the great Hollywood studios.

Audrey Hepburn
It is, therefore, not surprising that one of Hollywood’s legendary stars, Audrey Hepburn, should get connected with a poor little village just outside Kolkata. The black Givenchy dress the actress wore in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” was sold for a mind-boggling $ 1.3 million in December, and the entire money is earmarked for opening schools in rural West Bengal. Fifteen schools will be established, and the first one has just opened in Bishnupur.

Look at the contrast: New York, where Hepburn spent most of her screen life is so far removed from the poverty-hit, dust engulfed Bishnupur. But Hepburn, who is now long dead, would have chosen precisely such a project to help poor children. The star – once described as proof of God’s power to create perfection – gave up her glamorous lifestyle in her later years to serve destitute children. Till her end, she was a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador.

The proceeds from the sale of her dress have gone to the Kolkata-based City of Joy Foundation, a charity set up by French author Dominique Lapierre to help India's poor. "There are tears in my eyes," Lapierre said when the dress was sold for more than seven times its original estimate. "I am absolutely dumbfounded to believe that a piece of cloth which belonged to such a magical actress will now enable me to buy bricks and cement to put the most impoverished children in the world into schools."

I am sure Hepburn would be very happy, and I do hope that this great gesture, made possible by Lapierre and Parisian fashion house Givenchy (who in fact bought its own dress back), will be emulated by Bollywood stars.


Now that the Elizabeth Hurley-Arun Nair wedding tamasha is playing out its final reels, our attention will shift to another star marriage. When are Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan going to finally take the vows? Bollywood is dishing out rumours dime a dozen. One says that Ash will wait for the release of “Provoked” and “Jodhaa Akbar” before settling down. And astrologers are going to town with their unsolicited predictions. One of them, Marjorie Orr, writes in the latest issue of Filmfare that:”Aishwarya and Abhishek’s relationship has much affection and a strongly spiritual element to it, but it will not be an easy furrow for either to plough…Aishwarya’s (significant love) will come when she is in her forties…Abhishek’s earlier engagement to Karishma Kapoor five years ago occurred when his progressed Venus was conjunct with the Sun, which usually indicates the significant love of a lifetime…” Everything about this affair is steeped in suspense.


And it thickens with add-ons. I am told that the new Ash-Abhi love nest on Bandra’s Carter Road in Mumbai is just nodding distance from Salman Khan’s new bungalow. For those coming into this picture late, Aishwaraya was once in love with Salman, before the run ended in a crash.


Deepa Mehta’s controversy-creating “Water” opens in India today (March 9) after the movie’s red-carpet sojourn in Los Angeles, where it failed to pick an Oscar for the Best Foreign Language Picture. Now being promoted as “the one with an Oscar nod”, “Water”, one hopes, will not sink again into a marsh of mad frenzy. There have already been reports of Congressmen objecting to some eunuch in the film using a derogatory term against Mahatma Gandhi. I sometimes wish that Mehta would not use so much of promotional publicity, which, in her case, has been attracting the wrong kind of attention.


I am looking forward to two more movies up for early releases. Jag Mundhra’s “Provoked” has Ash in the role of a battered Punjabi wife in London. Physically abused and pushed to the corner, she kills her husband. The murder case gets into a sensational slot, leading to a landmark judgment in a British court. “Provoked” is based on a true story.

Mira Nair’s adaptation of Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel, “The Namesake” addresses the rootless lives of expatriates. Starring Tabu in the lead role, the film probably holds the deepest of emotions felt by people like Mira and Jhumpa, both of whom have spent a good part of their lives outside their homes. Jhumpa, who saw “The Namesake” at a special screening in a Kolkata theatre, was in tears. It must have been very moving.


Tailpiece: Indian stars are turning into experts in ad campaigns. Many of them push a product every time a director calls ‘pack up’. Shahrukh Khan drove the Santro into tailspin. Salman Khan sweated under thick suits. Now, the latest to jump on to the bandwagon is Hrithik Roshan. After his Superman spectacle in “Krrish” and his kiss-and-dance dalliance in “Dhoom 2”, the hunk of an actor, known more for his bulging biceps rather than his performances, will endorse Acer products. The company, which also sells personal computers, feels that Hrithik will help the youth identify with its brand. “With many of its technological innovations and breakthrough moves, Acer products can really bring a lot of attitude and style into the lives of consumers today”, quipped Roshan junior. I call it star-style, which can be as elusive as a dream. When you wake up in the morning, it is gone. For, how many Indians can really think of the goodies that our actors hawk?

(Webposted March 9 2007)