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Making Hisssstory

It’s my last day in Cannes so I figured I have to do it all – I managed to record the links of one show, do five interviews (yes, five back to back), catch the new Takeshi Kitano film, Outrage, and meet with Roger Ebert, the legendary American film critic.

india Updated: May 18, 2010 13:38 IST
Anupama Chopra

Day 6


It’s my last day in Cannes so I figured I have to do it all – I managed to record the links of one show, do five interviews (yes, five back to back), catch the new Takeshi Kitano film,

Outrage

, and meet with Roger Ebert, the legendary American film critic. By the end of the day, I was totally mindless but even more satisfied. I felt that I couldn’t have squeezed more out of the festival.



The magic of Cannes is that it can include both: Mallika Sherawat and Mike Leigh. The former unveiled her upcoming film

Hissss

, which looks like a remix of Bollywood’s favorite snake story: the

Icchadhari Nagin

, who kills men to avenge the death of her lover.



Mallika set the Croisette buzzing with a photo-op with live snakes. Through our interview, she kept one around her neck. She said it was her favorite accessory and tried to convince me to pet it. I gave in, but refused to wear it as a necklace.



From this superbly surreal and overblown Bollywood scenario, I sprinted to an interview with Oscar-nominated British director Mike Leigh, whose new film,

Another Year

, is showing in competition at the festival. Another Year is about a happily married couple who help their family and friends through various crisis, including death, loneliness and ageing.



The film is slow – the man next to me fell asleep – but quietly insightful and brimming with wisdom and humanity. Leigh has a unique way of making movies – he develops and improvises the script with his actors – which usually results in astounding performances.



Lesley Manville as Mary in

Another Year

is a revelation. Leigh famously said: If I had to choose between Hollywood and steel pins in my eyes, I’d choose steel pins. But despite Hollywood’s almost-complete dominance around the globe, the director is optimistic about the future of his type of personal filmmaking. He believes that as Hollywood films get more gargantuan, there will be even more room for smaller, independent films.



But the highlight of the day was meeting Roger Ebert, arguably the greatest working film critic today. Ebert cannot talk. He has been fighting cancer for seven years now and in 2006, doctors removed a part of his lower jaw. But such terrible and prolonged sickness has not managed to diminish the man, his spirit or his love for the movies.



Like every year, Ebert is in Cannes with his wife Chaz, soaking up cinema. Ebert communicated through hand-written notes. We chatted about

Another Year

(Ebert called it a masterpiece--Leigh told me that Ebert was one of his earliest champions in America), Im Sang-Soo’s

The Housemaid

and

Lagaan

. I consider Ebert to be the biggest star I met on this trip, and I behaved suitably star-struck. I even took a picture with him.



I’m getting off the Cannes merry-go-round. Like always, it’s been exciting, exhausting and educating. Truly, there’s no other


festival like it.



The writer hosts Picture This on NDTV 24X7