India believes in rituals, and one of them at the ongoing Cannes Film Festival is the ceremonial inauguration of the India Pavillion. The red ribbon is cut usually by a Government bureaucrat or a Minister or maybe a glamorous actor like Aishwarya Rai or her husband, Abhishek Bachchan. Last year, it was him who did the honours.
This year, since the Information and Broadcasting Minister, Ambika Soni, did not (or could not) come, the Pavillion on Cannes picturesque beachfront was opened this morning by the Information and Broadcasting Secretary, Raghu Menon.
Mallika Sherawat, the eminently forgettable Indian actress, made up the glamour quotient, with the Indian Ambassador to France, Ranjan Mathai, the Director of Film Festivals, S.M. Khan, the industrialist, Praksah Hinduja, the producer-director Subash Ghai, the Indian documentary movie-maker S. Krishnaswamy, and the Deputy General Delegate of the Cannes Film Festival, Christian Jeune, in attendance at an event marked by boringly long speeches.
Year after year, such speeches are made where the glory of India is sung by speaker after speaker. Once the curtain comes down on the Festival, the speeches are thrown into the bin and the speakers forgotten. A new set of speakers is called the next year, and so goes this little game.
As one senior film journalist who has been covering Cannes for many years said, it is time we stopped making speeches, get out of the pavillion and make a good movie that is worthy of being presented at the Festival.
But who cares about cinema? It seemed such a shame that the India Pavillion had not put up a single poster of the only Indian film in this year’s official sections of the Cannes Film Festival: Vikramaditya Motwane’s Udaan.
Instead, the Pavillion sported the posters of India’s wildlife, history and heritage. There was one that showed a woman in a field. To add to this, the compere of the morning event began by introducing India as the “land of snake charmers”, and kept describing Sherawat as the actress who loved snakes!
Udaan is to screen in A Certain Regard, and this is the first work at Cannes’ official lineup in seven years. Murali Nair Arimpara was shown in the same section in 2003. Since then, Cannes had not considered any Indian movie worthy of inclusion.
Yet, the morning speakers like Hinduja and others sang praises of Indian cinema’s global impact. One does not easily see that, certainly not at the Cannes Film Festival.