By the time you read this, the Bollywood brigade will likely be back from Cannes where they have spent a week or so walking the red carpet, making questionable sartorial choices, and going on and on about the centenary of the birth of Indian cinema without ever having watched a Ray or a Ghatak. But let’s not play the wet blanket. It was oddly comforting to watch Vidya Balan (the pallu on her head and the enormous nath in her nose notwithstanding) share the jurors’ dais with the likes of Steven Spielberg, Ang Lee and Nicole Kidman. You couldn’t help but cheer when Amitabh Bachchan spoke in chaste Hindi to declare the festival open alongside Leonardo DiCaprio.
But it was the camaraderie, in the unlikeliest of places, that was positively heartening. At the L’Oreal suite on the rooftop of Martinez Hotel, to be specific. For years, there’s been a tacit understanding that the three Indian brand ambassadors would be kept at a safe distance from each other. The year that Aishwarya Rai Bachchan attended the opening of the festival, Sonam Kapoor was scheduled to show up only after Ash’s departure, and Freida Pinto not until the closing ceremony. The brand worked hard to ensure the three actresses didn’t run into each other on their premises.
This year, Sonam and Freida’s schedules overlapped. (Queen Bee Aishwarya wasn’t slated to arrive until the other two had left.) The two ran into each other on the roof deck during media promotions, and when I asked if they would take a picture together, they gladly obliged. They even made some polite conversation about what they were going to wear to the opening ceremony.
Don’t expect the same pleasantness next year, though. Freida’s intended Bollywood debut, a thriller titled NH10, has been in trouble ever since financiers Eros pulled out. And while director Navdeep Singh and producers Phantom Films have given the Slumdog Millionaire star the impression that they are still trying to shop the project around, I have learnt the film will no longer star Freida.
The producers have reportedly decided to make it a more ‘commercial’ project, including songs (Freida had explicitly insisted she won’t dance or lip-sync to songs), and they might already have roped in another actress to play the lead. That actress, from what I hear, is none other than Sonam Kapoor. Ouch!
The Feud Continues
Irrfan Khan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui were both at Cannes, their film Lunchbox having screened in the Critics Week section of the festival. The two actors, who barely acknowledge each other, had the difficult job of posing for pictures and participating in media interactions together. While interviewing them on a yacht docked just off the Croisette, I noticed that both gentlemen kept their shades fixed stubbornly on their noses during talkathons, and didn’t so much as mention the other while talking about their film. Depending on who you choose to believe, the tension between two of the finest actors of our times stems either from the fact that Nawaz got too big for his boots after his recent successes or from the fact that Irrfan is insecure about the new kid on the block.
The one who deserved to be lauded for keeping a straight face throughout, and for steering clear of taking sides, was Nimrat Kaur, the leading lady in Lunchbox, who looked lovely in her Sabyasachi sari and who, thankfully, deflected some of the attention from her sparring co-stars.
Under the Radar
She has been a Cannes regular for some years now, but what exactly brings this actress to the Croisette each year is a well-kept secret. The head of a rival international film festival, who was dining with the elite set from Bollywood last week, claimed she had finally gotten to the bottom of the story. The festival boss said that she had learnt from reliable sources that the B-lister has long been in a ‘discreet relationship’ with the owner of one of the finest hotels on the Croisette, where she has a permanent suite.
Her ‘contact’, according to this source, lands her invitations to all the big-ticket festival premieres, makes sure she has a fancy car at her disposal and has given her access to an unlimited shopping allowance.