Indian cinema spoke in a familiar baritone at the 66th Cannes International Film Festival on Wednesday, and surprisingly, in a language widely familiar back home.
“Deviyuon aur sajjano, namaskar,” said Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan in chaste Hindi at the opening ceremony of the prestigious film fest, which is celebrating 100 years of Indian cinema this year. It was the first time in 66 years that somebody had addressed the elite audience at Cannes in India’s national language.
Bachchan, who also declared the festival open with his co-star from The Great Gatsby Leonardo DiCaprio, said in his speech, “Bhartiya cinema 100 varsh pure kar chuki hai aur is awsar par main Cannes film festival ko apna aabhar prakat karta hoon aur dhanyavad deta hu ki unhone mujhe aaj aamantrit kia aur itne bhavya samaroh me humein sammanit kia. Dhanyavad.” With those words, he expressed gratitude for the invitation to the festival.
Although he also addressed the gathering in English, but speaking in Hindi, Big B felt, was a must.
“Acknowledging Cannes in recognising 100 years of Indian cinema, it was absolutely imperative for me to address it in my mother tongue! Director of Cannes delighted to hear the 'music of the Hindi language' spoken, it brought in the universality of the occasion!" Big B later tweeted.
Bachchan does a cameo in Baz Lurhmann's The Great Gatsby, which was screened on the opening day of the fest. And Audrey Tatou, the master of ceremonies at the 12-day film event, addressed Bachchan as the 'King of Bollywood' while introducing him to the audience.
The other Indian presence on the Cannes stage was national award-winning actor Vidya Balan as a part of the jury, which includes Steven Spielberg, Christoph Waltz, Ang Lee and Nicole Kidman.
Bollywood actors Sonam Kapoor, Mallika Sherawat and Hollywood actor of Indian origin Freida Pinto also attended the premiere of the film.