It has been a huge disappointment for Indian cinema at the upcoming Cannes Film Festival. There has been no Indian movie in the 12-day event’s official selections. At least not yet, for there is an outside possibility of an Indian title creeping into the French Riviera.
But, if a media report is to be believed, India appears to be all set to counter this dismay by making a high-level government presence on the famous Cannes Red Carpet -- that men and women from all parts of the world die to step on.
A recent report in Mail Online, the British newspaper, says: “India is aiming to unleash a reel-world charm offensive to turn its superpower dreams into reality and the first act will be set in the resort town of Cannes on the French Riviera.”
The online edition quotes sources -- unnamed -- to say “the Narendra Modi government would unveil its strategy on the Red Carpet”.
It is not known as yet whether Prime Minister Modi himself will fly down to Cannes, but it is quite likely that the Union Information and Broadcasting Minister, Venkaiah Naidu, will attend the festival. But nothing has been finalised.
It is nothing new for a government to spread its culture and political message through the medium of cinema, which is really very effective. We have seen this in Tamil Nadu, where the Dravidian parties used films to come to power. They had Annadurai, Karunanidhi and MG Ramachandran acting as messengers of the parties’ ideology - something which Jayalalithaa too resorted to later.
However, outside Tamil Nadu, the appeal of cinema and stars produced only limited results.
Long years ago, Hitler and Mussolini used movies to propagate their ideology. And they were highly successful.
In recent years, the Chinese used a soft power like Kung Fu to market their culture, and Hollywood has also done this.
It now seems to be India’s turn to use Cannes -- undoubtedly the world’s most important festival -- as a platform to promote the nation of 1.3 billion people.
Mail Online quotes a senior Indian government official, who avers: “We have in the recent past been in talks with several foreign governments for selling our prowess as international consultants on archiving and digitisation of movies, documentaries...We want to sell our entertainment expertise across the world for getting a global presence in film production and international collaboration for making movies.”
In line with this, Naidu had said in early April that India’s entertainment sector had enormous attraction. We saw some time ago, how Hollywood star Van Diesel did a ‘lungi’ dance with Deepika Padukone.
Given the humungous number of films India makes in a mind-boggling number of languages, the country’s cinema and television can well work wonders across the globe.
Although Modi has used yoga as a soft power during his visits to Mongolia, China and South, he is yet to step into cinema - a medium which may have a far great power and punch than anything else Indian.
However, it appears disheartening that with India reportedly planning to use Cannes to promote the country, no film from Bollywood or any other ‘Wood’ was considered worthy of a screening at the French Riviera. And particularly this year - which is the 70th anniversary of the festival and also of India’s Independence.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran has written for the book commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Cannes Film Festival, and will be covering the event from May 17 to 28.)
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