Everybody loves Dubai. Indians of course! And then can Indian stars be far behind. One of the seven Emirates in the United Arab Emirates, and the most popular of the lot, Dubai was -- as this writer’s cabbie, an old man from Mumbai, says, been built by Indians. Hence, “Indians love Dubai”. That the Indian workforce is now gradually being replaced by other nationalities is something he does not know or perhaps refuses to accept. Whatever that be, he is determined to bring his family of wife, daughter and son over to Dubai.
The fascination for Dubai is not just confined to the driver and his ilk, but also to the rich and the famous in India -- actors included. One is told that some of Bollywood stars have plush apartments even in the Burj Khalifa, reportedly the world’s tallest building.
If Indian stars are in love with Dubai, those here -- including non-Indian expats -- are quite crazy about Bollywood (though Malayalam and Tamil movies also do roaring business here). Alison Wilcox, the head of PR at the ongoing Dubai International Film Festival, was smitten by Befikre -- which premiered here. “I just love the way Bollywood cinema is shot and shown,” she gushed, unable to hide her excitement.
True enough, when this writer was interviewing the renowned British auteur, John Madden, at a bar in one of those Arabian Nights hotel, Mina Al Salam, in walked Ranveer Singh in an eye-blinding bright, bright blue suit with a strange pair of goggles. And then the whole place went berserk, even Madden’s attention wavered. For a minute, he forgot what he was saying. Clearly, if Singh’s intention was to grab eyeballs and mesmerise minds, he had succeeded in doing just that. Forget, that Befikre was trash, and one was disappointed with him and his movie after having watched him in films like Lootera.
Believe it or not, Singh gave just one interview -- and it was a roundtable of 30 minutes with about 14 people shooting questions that often seemed directionless. But, who cares. For, most people were there to see Singh, not for any serious question-answer session. The interview resulted in precious little.
Probably, Rekha knew what would happen if she gave interviews. So, she refused to meet the media. That was such a pity, for she can be insightful in her answers, and this writer remembers talking to her a long time ago. She was engaging, honest and witty.
There were two more celebrity men of Indian cinema at the festival. Om Puri came to launch the teaser for Solar Eclipse: Depth of Darkness. Here is what the publicity material for it reads: “Solar Eclipse-Depth of Darkness is an upcoming Hollywood feature based on world politics immediately after Indian independence and partition. It is set in a violent India, divided on religious grounds. The feature takes an alternative view of the events that led to the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi on 30th January, 1948. Directed by Karim Traidia and Pankaj Sehgal, the movie features Puri, Rajit Kapur, Anant Mahadevan. Stephen Lang and others.
At the promotion, Puri -- who is 66 -- said that Bollywood is notoriously age-conscious. It hardly writes roles for older actors. “Such parts are very few and they all go to Amitabh Bachchan. But I do not envy him. He is a hardworking man... The makers want to play safe. It is pure economics,” he told the media. Puri plays a police officer in Solar Eclipse... Now would that remind us of Ardh Satya made in 1983 by Govind Nihalani.
Another star of Indian origin who came to the festival was Asif Kapadia, flush with the success of Amy that screened at Cannes in May. About the singer, Amy Winehouse, the documentary was critically acclaimed. The work has rare footage on the late singer -- including the cruel way her friends let her down, contributing to her debacle and downfall. The film captures brilliantly the most intimate joys and sorrows of Amy. Kapadia is now all set to make another documentary -- this time on the famous football player, Maradona.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is covering the Dubai International Film Festival.)