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But who was listening?

entertainment Updated: May 16, 2009 15:55 IST
Gerson Da Cunha

Cannes, May 14 — throngs of expectant fans waited under the tricolour fluttering above the Indian pavilion at the Festival de Cannes this morning, waiting for Aishwarya, or perhaps, Sharmila, or perhaps Abhishek, or perhaps all of them.

They were scheduled to be there for the noon day opening of the pavilion. Amid squeals and the eternal cries of “Here, Abhishek!” “Look here, Abhishek!” from the photographers, the towering young man did turn up.

It was an unprecedented attendance for an Indian pavilion opening here. Most of it comprised Indian producers, directors and trade interests, a surprisingly large contingent in these allegedly thin times for the business.
The pavilion is supported by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and part sponsored /entirely managed by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry. This marks a change from the four-year partnership between the Ministry and the Confederation of Indian Industry.

The pavilion was opened by Ms Sushma Singh, Secretary of the Ministry. In a very direct little speech she made plain the Government’s interest in promoting Indian cinema at home and abroad and in the country’s participation in Cannes. “We have kept the industry entirely in the private sector,” she said, “and have given it many incentives, including leaving the business at home open to 100 per cent FDI (foreign direct investment). We have no regulatory controls on the industry,” she said, adding in slight contradiction, “except for a film censor board.”

It is to be hoped that the lady was heard at all above the hubbub from the bar and chatter from the guests. There was no microphone for anybody. The lady running the proceedings invited the lofty President of the Festival, Gilles Jacob, to speak when the personage present was Jerome Paillard, head of the Marche (Market). Embarrassment.

Chairman Amit Khanna and President Rajesh Sawhney of Reliance Big Entertainment are not here for the weather. In an announcement of their first development slate, in 12 months of its existence, their enterprise has introduced innovative development/production financing deals, called Creative Partnerships, with some of the biggies in Hollywood.

More than twenty projects have been approved. The initial seven deals were with the creative arms of such folks as Nicolas Cage, Jim Carrey, George Clooney, Tom Hanks and Brad Pitt. Khanna and Sawhney are here generally to mop up goodwill and actually ink the papers on some projects.

The deals provide for creation of a development fund silo for each of the production entities and the possibility that Reliance may also co-finance projects that emanate from these deals.