The Cannes Film Festival has, for several years now, been used by Indian moviemakers as a platform for promoting their projects.
This time around, Chennai’s Thenandal Pictures is pushing its ambitious still-on-the-drawing-board Sangamithra at Cannes. Shruti Haasan will play the title role along with Arya and Jayam Ravi.
The work will be shot in two languages, Tamil and Telugu. And as the director, Sundar C, told this writer during an interview here on Friday, “Sangamithra would be as fantastic as Baahubali”. This, just released film, appears to have become a yardstick for others to set their standards.
And Thenandal Pictures is thinking really big -- even spending a reported 60,000 Euros to co-host the opening night Market Party at Cannes on May 18 -- where Sundar, Haasan, Ravi, Arya, AR Rahman and others were presented to an international gathering.
Sundar said at Friday’s interview that their aim was to take Tamil cinema to a global audience. “Tamil cinema does not even have a pan-Indian reach now, and it is important that we think big.”
Sangamithra will not be a historical work, but one of pure fantasy, and Haasan - who along with the others was also present at the interview -- said that her role “looked challenging, and it called for preparation, both of the mind and the physique”. Her part could be physically demanding.
Listening to both Arya and Ravi, it seemed that their characters were still being written, although the shoot is scheduled to start this October - with Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan (Jodhpur, Bikaner, etc) as the principal locations. “But a lot of the shoot would happen indoors, and we are erecting huge sets in Hyderabad’s Ramojirao Studio,” Sundar added.
Sangamithra is one among the many that has chosen Cannes to begin its PR exercise.
Many summers ago, Shekhar Kapur came to Cannes and announced to the media that he was embarking on an ambitious movie called Paani. “The future wars in this world would be fought for water, a precious commodity that was fast vanishing.” But much like water that is disappearing, Kapur’s Paani too appears have to faded into oblivion. Nothing much has happened since that morning at Cannes when Kapur was all set to start his battle royale.
And then we saw Madhur Bhandarkar fly into Cannes with his heroine, Aishwarya Rai, for Heroine. He announced his film with all the fanfare of a typical Bollywoodian. However, a few weeks later, Miss Rai declared that she was pregnant - a revelation that almost killed Bhandarkar. He is supposed to have gone into a shell, depressed and devastated. But then, Heroine happened with Kareena Kapoor jumping into the fray and looking every bit the heroine that Bhandarkar had visualised.
Mani Ratnam too used Cannes to talk about his ambitious Tamil/Hindi bilingual Raavan/Raavanan -- which though, did not get picked by the festival, but got a slot at Venice, then under Marco Mueller. The movie suffered in another way -- it failed both critically and commercially.
However, the never-say-die Indian film fraternity has kept returning to Cannes to announce its upcoming dreams. This year, Nandita Das is here with her under-production Manto, (which is 70% complete), a biopic of sorts of the Pakistani rebel writer.
Brillstein Entertainment Partners will screen on Saturday the trailer of The Black Prince (the poignant story of Punjab’s last king, Duleep Singh, and his relationship with Queen Victoria). Indian actor Satinder Sartaaj, and British star Jason Flemyng will be around during the show -- planned at the India Pavilion.
Finally, Aparna Sen will talk about her just-opened Sonata -- starring herself, Shabana Azmi and Lilette Dubey.
Interestingly, the singularly glaring absence of Indian cinema in the festival’s official selections is being made up by a host of Indian movie promotions. We will not let Cannes forget us, seems to be the overwhelming message that Sundar, Das, Sen and others are pushing.
The festival runs till May 28.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is covering the landmark 70th edition of the Cannes Film Festival.)
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