Back to Cannes

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Lucid blue sunshine, balmy Mediterranean seas and air as fresh as a new-born babe, who can resist the startling allure of the Cannes International Film Festival, the World’s premiere film festival – certainly not Bollywood, that’s for sure.

Who could forget the scene-stealing entry of Mallika Sherawat, sidelining her co-star Jackie Chan at the premiere of The Myth in 2005, wearing 4.5 crores of jewellery and the costume she wore in the movie, determined not to be outdone by Aishwarya Rai and Nandita Das at the same festival. “Cannes is all about glamour, costumes, hairstyle and ornaments,” she said, “So I am going to be very careful about what I wear. In fact I’m going to be extremely careful.”

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan meanwhile has been a regular visitor to the festival first walking the red carpet in 2003 for the movie Devdas. The beauty also comes to be seen as a representative for the cosmetic company L’Oreal Paris. The year 2007 was particularly special for her as it was the first time she attended with her new husband Abhishek who was there promoting Guru. It was a busy year for Bollywood with Preity Zinta also present as brand ambassador for Chopard and Bipasha Basu and John Abraham promoting their movie Goal. Amitabh also turned up for Cheeni Kum.

Aishwarya was back the following year again as brand ambassador for L’Oreal and attended the premiere of Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona. It’s probably fair to say she looked simply dazzling in her long black designer gown and was joined at the festival once again by her husband Abhishek. The Dev Anand film Guide was also featured at the festival in the classics section.

Perhaps India’s best-known actress in the international market, Aishwarya, who has also sat on the jury for the festival, is keen that Bollywood should get more involved in international festivals. “Indian cinema has begun to be recognized globally,” she says, “And it`s very important for us to make our presence felt at important events such as Cannes. I feel there should be more Indian representation at festivals.”

It’s not just the women, however, who glam up for Cannes. 2006 saw the two likely lads of Vivek Oberoi and Ajay Devgan strut their stuff along the promenade in designer shades in an effort to promote Omkara, the Hindi adaptation of Othello. Irrfan Khan has also made an appearance at the Festival to view the premiere of Angelina Jolie’s A Mighty Heart in which he played Pakistani captain.

The Cannes Film Festival is the oldest and most prestigious of all the world’s film festivals. Since it was started in 1946, it has grown inexorably to become not just the top festival in the world for celebrity, style and glamour, but also the annual point at which all the film industries of the world come together in all their different forms of producers, distributors, actors, directors and screenwriters to barter ideas and product. It’s a major trading post which sees movies often made in non-traditional markets (Kazakhstan anyone, Mongolia?) suddenly find their way onto the major distribution networks of the cinema-going nations.

The Festival has grown to include many different competitions, including the prestigious Palme d’Or and the Prix Un Certain Regard for young innovative talent. A vast number of fringe events also take place during the festival including workshops, masterclasses, press conferences and so on.

The 62nd Festival in 2009 from May 13th-24th has an audacious list of movies in competition – the Grand Jury this year being headed by veteran French actress Isabelle Huppert. India will be represented by Sharmila Tagore who is one of the members of the prestigious Competition Jury. First out of the bag is Quentin Tarantino’s long-awaited war movie Inglorious Bastards with Brad Pitt, which is likely to get the thousands of press reporters buzzing with excitement. Ang Lee will be making an appearance with Taking Woodstock, a comedy about the famous 1968 concert.

Pedro Almodovar’s entry Broken Embraces starring the ever-faithful Penelope Cruz sounds very promising and rich in Almodovar territory, being the story of a star-crossed actress.

Britain is represented by Jane Campion’s period piece Bright Star about the brilliant and tragic poet John Keats. The movie is said to look very beautiful in its creation of its era and as Keats once said, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” In addition to Jane’s work, the UK is also represented by Ken Loach’s latest Looking for Eric about a postman and his quest to find his football idol, the legendary Eric Cantona. With Loach’s sure touch when it comes to working-class struggles, this one’s sure to be a treat.

The competition from East Asia is looking strong with Park Chan-Wook’s vampire thriller Thirst and Johnny To’s Vengeance from Hong Kong stars France’s own aging superstar Johnny Hallyday on the rampage in Hong Kong.

Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is a fantasy epic starring Heath Ledger in his last role as well as Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law. Keep an eye open too for Rachael Weicz in Agora about the real-life classical astrologer Hypatia of Alexandria.

Bollywood is also present at the Festival, most probably in the shape of Kambakht Ishq, the international multi-starrer headed by Akshay Kumar and Kareena Kapoor. The movie, made largely in the US, also has appearances by Denise Richards in a prominent role, Sylvester Stallone and Brandon Routh. Rumour has it that a specially-dubbed English version will be available for the festival. Producer Sajid Nadiadwala says, “We are trying to do something big given that we have people from Hollywood and Bollywood together in this film. We want to play on that and take advantage of this and make it work in favour of our film. We are talking about Cannes but nothing is confirmed on that front as yet. But one thing is for sure, that the kind of release plan we are making for Kambakkht Ishq, none of it has ever been witnessed in the Indian market before.”

Also reportedly Hrithik Roshan, along with co-star Spanish beauty Barbara Mori will be there to promote their new film Kites, which also stars Kangana Ranaut.

The film would not be in competition but in a lean year, it will at least provide the glamour quotient at the head of the usual phalanx of marketing and business traders from Bollywood who will be at the festival ready to talk projects and distribution deals. It will also act as a magnet for other Bollywood stars to attend the festival in attention-seeking mode – which is after all, part of the fun that makes Cannes the festival that it is.

For the Cannes Film Festival is unique – part mainstream, part arthouse, part business, part holiday and part celebrity showcase – there’s nowhere else quite like it in the World of Cinema!

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