Aishwarya as the “Heroine” in Cannes …
Madhur Bhandarkar directs. UTV’s Ronnie Screwvala presents.
Uma da Cunha, direct from Cannes
Friday morning under light grey skies and a mild breeze, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan drew the international press in numbers as she posed against the Cannes shoreline. Wearing a classically simple beige dress, she looked like a million dollars. Accompanying her were Ronnie Screwvala of UTV, and film director Madhur Bhandarkar. The top-flight trio was in Cannes to announce the making of their new film, Heroine, which starts shooting next month. UTV has earlier produced Madhur Bhandakar’s Fashion. Aishwarya Rai acknowledged her closeness with UTV, having worked in two of their films, Jodhaa Akbar and Guzaarish. Heroine is the first time the three join hands to work together.
(L) Madhur Bhandarkar, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Ronnie Screwvala
Ronnie Srewvala said that with Indian cinema making its mark in the world, it seemed appropriate to launch a film that reflects the nuances of the Indian film industry as it functions today, emphasizing its essential factors such as song and dance, and in this case, the key place that the heroine has in it. “This will be a woman-centric film and is written for Aishwarya”. The ebullient Madhur Bhandarkar could barely contain his excitement when he said that he has been obsessed with the central character that Aishwarya will play, adding that it will be the most challenging and accomplished role she has essayed.
Heroine is about the emotional and professional career of a superstar. “No way is this film autobiographical”, said Aishwarya emphatically. Madhur stepped in to elaborate that the film is a fictional depiction of the highs and lows and the stormy heights that a heroine in India’s film world has to traverse.
Kudos to UTV for giving sole billing to the star heroine. This is good news indeed in an industry known to be male-dominated. Well, Aishawarya took the lead in transcending that rule. Now appropriately enough, she will emote that achievement on screen, letting worldwide audiences know the personal, visceral side of that ascendance.
The spotlight is on Shekhar Kapoor the same afternoon, on the documentary he has brought to Cannes, Bollywood: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told, which incidentally is also produced by UTV. Ronnie Screwvala said that the 81-minute documentary, directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and Jeff Zimbalist, is on Bollywood and its irresistible attractions that today have won over the world scene. Shekhar Kapoor, when on the Cannes jury last year, mooted the idea of making such a film exclusively for Cannes. So, here it is, screening out of competition in the official programme.
Indian stars attending Cannes as brand ambassadors are playing an increasing role in Cannes over recent years. Aishwarya Rai wears this crown for the longest period. This is her tenth year in Cannes. She has the additional distinction of being on the 2003 Cannes international jury. She is present again in Cannes as the brand ambassador for L’Oreal. L’Oreal has this year added Sonam Kapoor as brand ambassador. She will walk the red carpet on May 15. Freida Pinto will represent L'Oreal at the amfAR (The American Foundation for AIDS Research) dinner/after-party on 19th May. The event, co-sponsored by the brand, aims at raising money for the fight against AIDS. Minissha Lamba will be present on behalf of Seagram for the opening day.
Saif Ali Khan jetted in for opening night at the invitation of Cannes film festival partner Chivas Regal, of which he is the brand ambassador, which also hosted a dinner in his honour. Finally, Mallika Sherawat will be at the red carpet as well, making her third appearance in Cannes. She is here to promote her latest film, Politics of Love.
For the thronging number of Indian delegates at the festival, the India Pavilion is a haven where they can meet, greet and seek what they are looking for. Managed by the National Film Development Corporation of India (NFDC, led by Nina Lath Gupta, the MD, and her team, the India Pavilion this year wears a new look and a warm air of hospitality that is ideal for conducting business. Present for its first open house for Indians were the Joint Secretary Mr Reddy of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and his wife. Shekhar Kapoor found himself a quiet corner. An unexpected visitor was Ashutosh Gowarikar, present in Cannes for the pure joy of watching films.