Mercifully, the sun came out blazing on May 19 — the official India Day at Cannes and my last day at the festival. The sea sparkled a brilliant blue and the yachts were out in full force.
The sight was made more dazzling by Aishwarya Rai Bachchan who gave interviews on the L’Oreal Paris terrace at the Martinez Hotel. She’s lost oodles of weight and looked stunning in a Zac Posen skirt. We chatted about how the festival has shaped her as an actor and the film that will induce her to come out of her self-imposed maternity leave. All she was willing to say was: I’m reading scripts!
That morning Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox premiered to rave reviews. I interviewed Ritesh and his actors — Irrfan Khan and Nimrit Kaur — on a yacht parked in the dock next to the Palais. Ritesh told me that he was nervously counting the exits while the screening was on — six people left the theatre. He was later informed that all were buyers who ran out to buy the film — a bidding war instantly erupted.
Right after, we were back at the Martinez to shoot the Bombay Talkies gang — Karan Johar, Anurag Kashyap, Dibakar Banerjee and Zoya Akhtar. The four were getting ready for the red carpet for the gala screening of their film. Karan played stylist — Dibakar first wore a tuxedo but decided that he was more comfortable in a bandhgala, Zoya was perfecting the pallu of her Manish Malhotra sari while Anurag debated on the choice of sunglasses — one pair, he said, made him look straight out of Gangs of Wasseypur! Karan dished out last-minute sartorial advice, straightened bow-ties and blow-dried Anurag’s daughter’s hair. At the end of a frenzied hour, they all looked perfect.
The Bombay Talkies screening was followed by a sit-down dinner for 300 people. French women at the door greeted us with ‘namaste’ and garlands. Chicken tikka and paneer were on the menu. The guests included Telugu superstar Ram Charan Teja, Aishwarya, Vidya Balan, Irrfan Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Mallika Sherawat, who has an uncanny knack for showing up where the action is!
It’s wonderful to be feted and celebrated at Cannes but finally, parties and red carpets are only the icing on the cake. Our films have to speak louder than our fashions. In the last two years, we’ve started to make an impression, and this year, The Lunchbox and Monsoon Shootout have furthered the cause. My hope is that next year, we will see an Indian film in the main competition section. That would be a real India Day!