The India pavilion at this 63rd world festival of cinema opened doors today to a chock-a-block mob, made worse by the presence of Mallika Sherawat, even without serpents (she stars in Hisss, her latest). Indian Ambassador to France Ranjan Matthai did not fail to notice. "This is my fourth arrival in Cannes at this time," he said, "and one thing never seems to change. India's pavilion. Getting into it requires expertise in an ancient Indian sport called kusti."
In fact, the people who run the place seem unable to profit from experience, 2010 being the third instance of too little space for the weight of invitations and publicity. The Festival's all powerful Director Films, Christian Jeune and the head of the Market, Jerome Paillard, came briefly and left. The numerous speeches were lost on fully half of those who had fought their way in but preferred the beer outside.
The Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Mr Raghu Menon, announced plans to celebrate 100 years of Indian cinema in 2013. It will be no empty festivity, he said, because it will be marked by a programme to restore the country's unique heritage of prints and negatives, currently in sad condition. Work will be funded by government and centre on the National Film Archives institution in Pune. There is need, he said, to celebrate the success of India's media and entertainment industry. "It should hit Rs 1,100 billion in value very soon," he said.
Mr Menon talked of government plans to battle piracy. Changes are to be made in the Copyright Act and HRD Minister Sibal is keen on a coordinated drive to tackle this cancer affecting the growth and profitability of the film industry.
The Festival de Cannes opened last evening with Ridley Scott's Robin Hood, clouded over as much by threatening storms (should the famous red carpet be covered with protective plastic?) as by talk of walk-outs in New York previews. The film boasts a cast headed by Russell Crowe, gladiator in green tights, and Cate Blanchett, a strange 11th century character voicing feminist and conservationist ideas. RH may be another casualty of the spreading pandemic of Bollywood. The plot and characters are born in the mainstream culture of India's filmdom but rescued by brilliant camerawork and a glittering cast manfully coping with banality.