One of the most overwhelming obsessions with Indians about the Cannes Film Festival is the Red Carpet. If an average Indian – and loads of his ilk go there today – eager to walk downthe steps plushly carpeted in a crimson hue, the biggest of our movie stars are no less enamoured of these.
In fact, for years, Bollywood diva Aishwarya Rai has been part of the Carpet – sometimes as an actress (her Devdas played at Cannes in 2002 and was ripped apart), sometimes as a member of the jury and most often as the face of Lóreal.
This summer at the much-touted 70th anniversary edition of the Festival – which ended on May 28 – Rai was of course there, all decked up in designer dress. But she had company – Deepika Padukone and Sonam Kapoor among others.
The ‘others’ were first timers to Cannes, to the Red Carpet – people like the Tamil cinema industry’s Jayam Ravi, Arya, Sundar C, Shruti Haasan and AR Rahman. The Oscar-winning music composer admitted during a press briefing that he had never been at Cannes.
While the Tamil film fraternity was at the fascinating French Riviera to promote Sangamithra – a movie that is yet to travel out of the drawing board, but already running into a storm with Haasan quitting the project soon after landing in Chennai (a la Rai, who did the same with Madhur Bhandarkar’s Heroine in 2011) – Padukone stepped on the carpet to push her international status in Hollywood.
Never mind, the film she starred in didnot win her any laurels from the Western critics who have already watched it
However, I really do not know why Kapoor and Rai landed in Cannes. As one British journalist, Derek Malcolm, quipped, “They are here to show off their evening gowns costing a vulgar lot of money.” He was bang on.
It is really unfortunate that Indian cinema and its stars are naive enough to believe that being on the Red Carpet is what Cannes is all about. Clicked by dozens of lensmen in the most alluring of poses, the likes of Rai and Kapoor bask in what I call superficial glory, momentary and shallow at best. Kapoor has never been able to get her movie into the Festival.
Rai’s Devdas has been a flash in the pan. But they seemingly do not care, because Cannes for them – wrongly in fact – is only about glamour and popping flashbulbs and heady beach parties and champagne in exquisite glasses!
But Cannes is not that. In fact, only a minuscule part of the Festival is for sheen and shine, and the red carpet galas are only incidental to the great cinema and the great film culture that Cannes has been propagating for seven decades.
And India is really nowhere in this grand scheme of things at Cannes. For years, Indian movies have not been in the Festival’s prestigious competition. This year, there was no Indian film at all. Last year, there was just one documentary.
But the Rais and Kapoors and Padukones of Bollywood would spend huge sums of money to walk on the Red Carpet – something that was picked up by Sundar and his team this year.
I can never understand why Indian producers, directors and actors make a beeline for Cannes to announce their projects.
After all, most Indian movies make very little dent in the international market – hardly ever in France.
Anyway, Sundar is not among the first to have driven by the Cannes craze. Years ago, Shekar Kapur promoted his Paani project (a film on water wars) in Cannes. It never got made.
Mani Ratnam promoted his bi-lingual Raavan/Raavanan at Cannes. The Festival never picked the movie – which then went to Venice, where it got a lukewarm response.
— The writer is a commentator and film critic