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Friday, Sep 20, 2019

Post Cannes, Shruti Haasan does an Aishwarya Rai with Sangamithra!

Shruti Haasan went to Cannes to promote Sanghamithra. That was on May 18. But by May 29, she had walked out of it.

world-cinema Updated: May 30, 2017 15:10 IST
Gautaman Bhaskaran
Gautaman Bhaskaran
Hindustan Times, Cannes
Shruti Haasan went to Cannes to promote Sundar’s film Sanghamithra.
Shruti Haasan went to Cannes to promote Sundar’s film Sanghamithra.

South Indian star and daughter of Kamal Haasan, Shruti Haasan, has done an Aishwarya Rai.

Six years ago, on May 13, 2011, UTV’s Ronnie Screwvala, director Madhur Bhandarkar and Aishwarya Rai threw a breakfast party at a plush Cannes hotel during the film festival there. Never mind it was poorly attended with almost nil presence of international journalists, who understandably, felt that the 8.30 am competition movie was of greater consequence than this early morning breakfast bash. But being an Indian and suffering from that sense of Indianness, this writer trooped into the meeting not as much for the food as it was for the curiosity about what Miss Rai and Mr Bhandarkar would announce.

“I am doing a film with Aishwarya. It will be called Heroine, and my heroine will be Aishwarya,” Bhandarkar beamed, happy at the thought of having signed up one of the best known faces in Indian cinema, also one of the most endearing faces at Cannes. For, Rai has been a permanent fixture at Cannes - part of Devdas (which sadly turned out to be a black mark for the festival chief, Thierry Fremaux, who till today gets his share of brickbats for having included this Sanjay Leela Bhansali work in the 2002 official selections), a member of the big jury and forever the L’oreal icon.

Bhandarkar said that his Heroine would start shooting in June, barely a month away, and Rai quipped that she was delighted to part of this wonderful project.

But, then, little did the poor man know that morning at Cannes that just days after this grand campaign he would be left with no heroine. A week later after Cannes, Rai said she was pregnant and could not possibly do Bhandarkar’s movie. Her father-in-law, Amitabh Bachchan, came out with what seemed like lame excuses about why Aishwarya had not declared before Cannes that she was carrying a child.

Bhandarkar was devastated, and is said to have gone into a depression. Imagine the kind of sorry figure you cut in India and abroad when your heroine ditches you after this great PR exercise in a venue as important as the Cannes Film Festival. The question everybody asked then was, really Aishwarya did not know that she was pregnant when she went to Cannes? The answer was, of course, she did. But probably felt that such publicity at Cannes would do her good! One foreign journalist told this writer that the whole thing smacked of selfishness.

A post shared by @shrutzhaasan on

Unfortunately Shruti has gone and done the same thing. On May 18, it was for the first time in this writer’s memory, that a South Indian movie company, Thenandal, had co-sponsored the much celebrated Market party - where the film Sangamithra team, Haasan, Jayam Ravi, Arya, AR Rahman and director Sundar C, was presented amid clinking Champagne glasses and noisy music.

Sundar and the rest spoke about how Sangamithra would like to equal if not better the recent success of Baahubali. There was also the Indian Ambassador to France pushing Sangamithra in most effusive of terms.

But one had this strange feeling that evening that Haasan was a little uncomfortable - which seemed even more apparent the next morning when the Sangamithra team held a press conference.

While the movie was still on the drawing board and with not even a script ready as yet, Sundar clarified that his film would have nothing to do with history or mythology. “It would be pure fantasy,” he added.

Shruti remained mostly silent during the press meet, but did say that her role was not yet clear. She was still awaiting the script. One felt that she was uneasy -- as uncomfortable as she was walking from her hotel room to the conference venue across the Croisette. “You should have told me that we have to walk,” she complained to her PR executive. “I would have then worn flats,”

And then about 10 days later on May 29, Haasan announced that she was no longer part of Sangamithra, because of the kind of time (two years) it would take to complete the project. And she was also busy with Sabhash Naidu, etc.

Really! One finds it difficult to understand - much like in the case of Rai - that Shruti would have taken the decision to quit Sangamithra post Cannes. Or, was it that the production company and Sundar thought that they needed glamour when they presented themselves at Cannes?

@shrutzhaasan 😍😍😘 #luvushruti #jinglizee #cannesfilmfestival #shrutihassan

A post shared by Shruti Haasan (@shrutihaasan.official) on

Whatever it be, such things leave a bad impression in international media circles, which, in any case, do not have a high regard for mainstream Indian cinema.

Also, there have been other incidents of a film - apart from Heroine - being announced and subsequently disappearing. Shekar Kapur had many years ago announced the launch of Paani - a movie about water wars. It is yet to take off.

Fortunately, Bhandarkar pulled himself together, found a new heroine and got his Heroine made. One only hopes that Sangamithra would get made - and does not go the Paani way, further blotting India’s image at Cannes.

(Gautaman Bhaskaran covered the Cannes Film Festival for the 28th year.)

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First Published: May 30, 2017 15:04 IST