Bollywood Through the Years at Cannes

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The Cannes Film Festival is an International festival which offers recognition to cinema around the globe, as well making progress in breaking down cultural barriers and creating a spirit of collaboration in countries through the magic of cinema. It began in 1932 in Venice, but was revived in Cannes after World War 2.

India’s journey into the Cannes really began in 2002, when Devdas was part of an out-of-competition screening. Sanjay Leela Bhansali (the director), Shah Rukh Khan, and Aishwarya Rai were in attendance. Every year since then, Aishwarya Rai has attended Cannes. She has become India’s flagship representative at the festival, although it wasn’t cinema she was representing all of those years. In 2002, Bhansali donned a traditional costume, while Khan wore a smart suit. Rai dazzled in a bright saree.

Then there was 2003, when Aishwarya Rai became the first Indian to be selected for the jury at the Cannes Film Festival. India was ecstatic. At the festival itself, Rai made some valued decisions – she was seen talking to Miramax chief and director Steven Sodenbergh, as well as actress and co-jury member Meg Ryan. Her mother proudly accompanied her daughter on this trip.

Even though there was no Indian entry that year, does it surprise anyone that Aishwarya returned again in 2004? She was seen with actresses Gong Li and Laetitia Casta. Li is the Julia Roberts of China, whereas Laetitia is touted as the most beautiful woman in France. Decked in Chopard jewelry (whom, as it happens, Preity is the ambassador for in 2007) and a daring Neeta Lulla gown, she looks ravishing.

Amongst the screened movies was Crossover Films and Singha Communications’ The Perfect Husband (although it was not competing). Prriya Singh Paul, the director, commented, “The Perfect Husband is going tomake film audiences worldwide welcome Indian cinema into the fold of mainstream, Whitedominated cinema. The narrative of this film depends mainly on the Indian woman evolving subtly but surely in spite of the social pressures of the system she has been born into.”

Once again, 2005 brought Aishwarya Rai to the forefront at Cannes. This time, she was seen opening the festival with a loud, Indian bang. Another first – she was the first Indian actor to deliver the inaugural speech for the event. However, this time she was not alone. Amongst the Indian screenings, there were Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali, Subhash Ghai’s Kisna, Sherawat’s The Myth and Urmila Matondkar’s Naina. Nandita Das also attended the event, both as an actress and a social activist. Unfortunately, her appearance was pushed to the side as others took center stage.

Furthermore, when one thinks 2005 Cannes, one does not think “Aishwarya” or “Nandita.” One goes directly to the bold and beautiful “Mallika.” She accompanied Jackie Chan since she is his love interest in the movie The Myth. (She plays an Indian princess who gets rescued by Chan and eventually he falls in love with her). Before the event, Sherawat was very mysterious about her clothes for the event, saying something along the lines of “You can’t beat a French chef with souffl

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