Gautaman Bhaskaran
an indian journalist
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INDIAN CINEMA

Cinema In General

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Pans & Tilts…India in Cannes Market, Guide, Jag Mundhra, Juvenile blogging…


This summer seemed like the Cannes of Hope for Indian cinema. Though the nation of a billion plus people and a 1000-odd films a year turned blank in the Festival’s main official sections, one great business deal was made by the gentle waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Reliance Big Entertainment, the integrated media and showbiz wing of the $ 75-billion Anil Dhirubhai group, signed an agreement to invest $ 1 billion in the production of 100 movies in nine Indian languages, including English, over the next two years. Thirty of these films will be co-produced with Hollywood and would have stars, such as Tom Hanks, Brad Pitt, Nicholas Cage, George Clooney and Chris Columbus. Also, several Hollywood actresses would be in.

Some of the Indian directors who would be part of this mega venture are Shyam Benegal, Buddhadeb Dasgupta, Rituparno Ghosh, Sandip Ray, Girish Kasaravalli, Shaji Karun and a few others. I do not find Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s name on the list.

The idea behind this deal is apparently to give Indian cinema an international flavour, get it into the world arena and the global festival circuit that might give it greater visibility, acceptability and audience. Excellent, provided the arrangement would allow Indian cinema to retain at least some degree of Indianness.

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Vijay Anand’s “Guide”, starring Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman, was screened at the Classics Section of the Cannes Film Festival. Released in 1965, its restored version was shown there. The 1961, “Hum Dono”, has also been restored and rendered into colour and is all set to open in India. “Guide” was India’s saving grace at the French Riviera this year. And with Dev Anand regaling Cannes, it seemed like a consolation prize for India!

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Jagmohan Mundhra once made seedy cinema, but later changed track to churn out socially relevant and provocative documents. At Cannes, he said that he had finally got the nod from India’s Congress President, Sonia Gandhi, to do a movie on her that would include her romance with the country’s late Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, during their student days in England. But the okay comes with a rider: the film cannot open before the General Elections early next year. Last year, Mundhra had to shelve his plan, because the Congress protested. Probably, they did not want Sonia to be seen cavorting with Rajiv in picturesque English countryside.

Mundhra’s latest work, “Shoot On Sight”, is ready for theatrical release. And, it is about Islamic terrorism. But what else? This seems to be the current cinematic obsession.

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Tailpiece: Stars are turning juvenile. Amitabh Bachchan, despite his three score-plus years, got into a blogging slang with Shah Rukh Khan, 20 years his junior. Now, B is apology personified, with the silliest of excuses that a grade five kid would not buy. This is not the end. Aamir Khan says he has a dog named Shah Rukh Khan! He cannot help it, he says. But now, he wants to say sorry too. What is Bollywood coming to? Money should be able to buy at least dignity. My hats off to SRK, who has maintained a respectable silence. This is what I call class.

(Webposted May 21 2008)