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My Premiere at Cannes

I swapped gadgets for glamour, gambling and gold- plated limos. What a week it’s been! I know what you’re thinking. “What the heck is Rajiv Makhni doing walking the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival?” Well, I’ve been asking myself the same question.

brunch Updated: Jun 02, 2012 17:48 IST
Rajiv Makhni
Rajiv Makhni
Hindustan Times

I know what you’re thinking. “What the heck is Rajiv Makhni doing walking the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival?” Well, I’ve been asking myself the same question.

Son of the Soil
My mother was born in Amritsar. Her parents arrived there from Pakistan at the time of the separation with pretty much nothing more than the clothes on their backs. My father was born in Burma, got thrown out at the time of the conflict and arrived in Assam with nothing (apparently, they survived by eating leaves).

On the Cannes red carpet

Both families are totally self-made and without pretences. Thus my upbringing was very basic and totally son-of-the-soil. When you take that guy and put him into a world of limousines, champagne breakfasts, yachts, photographers and a daily walk on the red carpet – you’ve pretty much got a classic case of a fish out of water!

Walk for whom?
All I knew about Cannes (by the way, it’s pronounced kaan, just like the Hindi word for ear) was the annual flurry of pictures I had seen of glamorous filmstars. To me, every man on the red carpet looked like a waiter (I think it’s something to do with the Indian mindset and the fact that most restaurants at one time had all the servers wearing tuxedos) and most of the women looked like fully adorned Christmas trees.

It was apparently very prestigious as it is by invitation only and many stars announced that they were “officially” asked to walk the red carpet (that is complete hogwash – unless you’re part of the movie being screened, you’ll walk the carpet for one of the brand sponsors of the festival). Thus when I was asked to walk the red carpet by two sponsors, not once but on two nights – I was very sure I had arrived. This was to be my debut, my virgin strut, my ‘Le Festival International du Film de Cannes’ walk into glory.

At the Pullman with fashion blogger Jay Strut

Mad Scramble

All of this was happening in the middle of my new show, Croma Tech Grandmasters 2 (it has a brutal schedule of almost 12 hours daily shoot time over 20 days). The mad scramble to get a visa, clothes (at Cannes you need a ‘event’ outfit every four hours) and juggle it all was just perfect to put me in a ‘finally a celebrity’ frenzy.

I was done (red carpet outfits – Ashish Soni for the first, Shantanu and Nikhil for the second), finished my shoot at 9 pm and flew out at 11.55 pm.

Finally here!

Cannes is located on the French Riviera and enjoys 12 hours of sunshine during summer. When I arrived, it was raining! Unseasonal, they called it. The limo driver was Algerian, chatty and gave me a running commentary as we sailed past million-dollar yachts and billion-dollar homes.

We turned into the Pullman Resort (almost every star comes here for a photo shoot; it has the most stunning overhang to the sea) and Casino (I lost 100 euros in three minutes and never went back).

MarilynA quick change and I was taken to town (comically textbook French – quaint luxury shops, streetside cafes and the over burdening sweetness of the French accent). Next stop, the 150-foot poster of Marilyn Monroe (the face of the Festival) that loomed over ‘Palais des Festivals’ – the building where the red carpet takes place.

Gold Class
The rest is pretty much a whirlwind. All meals have the word ‘course’ and ‘black tie’ attached to them (that includes breakfast), champagne is the water substitute, all events are taken very seriously, the whole thing runs like an incredibly well oiled machine, the PR people and minders are the real gods, everything is gold class (the limos are gold-plated) and it’s all about yachts, helicopters and the high life.

My New Life?
The red carpet lives up to the hype. It’s very well managed but has a hierarchy to it. Regular Red Carpeters go first, A-list stars go second and the Movie Director and Star Cast come in last.

You’re deposited on the sidewalk, a minder will explain when you have to walk and which photographers and channels you have to pose for. From there you’re whisked into the theatre (huge) and plonked down to watch the screening.

Once the movie ends, the Director and Star Cast stand up and the audience breaks into a standing ovation (the damn thing carries on for more than five minutes even for terrible movies!). Then you’re off to the after parties and after-after parties.

It’s heady, exhilarating, an absolute adrenaline rush. I may have been brought up grounded, very basic and totally son of the soil – but I could get used to this!

Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3. Follow Rajiv on Twitter at

From HT Brunch, June 3

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First Published: May 31, 2012 18:28 IST