| The stall of Eros, which sells Mehra’s Rang De Basanti, proudly flaunts the Bollywood connection in Cannes
Cannes, May 20: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, director of Rang De Basanti, today more than slightly snapped at the hand that has been feeding him by stating that Bollywood “is a demeaning term”, even as more than a dozen foreign journalists, drawn by the growing global appeal of Brand Bollywood, interviewed him in the Indian Pavilion on the beach in Cannes.
What made his dislike of the term Bollywood even more contradictory and ironical is that Rang De Basanti is being sold to markets across the world by the London-based distribution company, Eros, which has the word, Bollywood, emblazoned on the front of its stall in the Cannes market.
Again and again, the director of Rang De Basanti was asked by journalists about the phenomenon of Bollywood.
Unlike the more PR-savvy Aishwarya Rai yesterday, Mehra rubbished the expression Bollywood ' like Amitabh Bachchan, he prefers the term, “Indian film industry”.
“Bollywood is a term I don’t agree with. I remind that to everybody,” declared Mehra. “I don’t like it. A place called Bollywood does not exist. I know of a Hollywood ' I have seen it. There is a hill there. I have never seen something called Bollywood. It’s a notional thing. They do use that term but I don’t recognise it.”
Doing what is known as a “one on one” with Mehra today was an impressive array of foreign journalists, who all wanted to know about the Bollywood phenomenon.
They came from the International Herald Tribune, the Hollywood Reporter, Associated Press, Al Jazeera television, Bloomberg, CNN, Ciak (a magazine from Italy), Europa Europa television from Poland, and a number of German journals, including Stern, De Tagesspiegel and Die Velt.
“We discussed what the film wanted to say, what was my journey, how it started, what I went through,” he explained.
Rang De Basanti, made with a budget of Rs 30 crore, had so far grossed “Rs 80-85 crore” in India in theatrical releases. According to the production company UTV, it has taken $2.3 million in the US and $1.45 million in the UK. Out of the 10,000 screens in India, it has been shown on 500, including 200 digital ones, disclosed the director.
“The response has been quite overwhelming,” said Mehra, who is now developing two scripts, ' “a thriller and a caper” set in 1930s India and the other a “black comedy”. “It has also touched a chord of the nation and that is spreading. I am understanding the range and power and latitude of cinema.”
As far as overseas markets were concerned, “one-third (of the takings) come from the US, one-third from the UK and a third from the rest of the world”.
But judging by the interviews today, the rest of the world is becoming increasingly important.
Mehra stated: “The UK is very important. Rang De Basanti (is) selling very well at Cannes. There is a huge amount of interest shown in the film from non-conventional countries like Spain, even France ' the offers are very good ' and it is going to smaller pockets like Portugal.”
He would focus on his next film “once I am out of Rang De Basanti. I am trying to claw my way out of it. It’s kind of difficult, the kind of involvement it has demanded even after the release, not to deny I have enjoyed every moment of it. Seeing films from others countries at Cannes gives you inspiration.”
Sitting alongside Mehra through all his interviews was Jonathan Peake, a press officer from Premier PR, the British firm which has been handling the publicity for a number of mainstream western films ' plus Rang De Basanti and Provoked.
Peake, who will be traveling to India later in the year to improve his Bollywood contacts, said his firm has made a conscious decision to keep itself informed of new releases from India.
“Journalists are interested in good stories and new talent,” he pointed out.
It is likely more Bollywood movies will be handled by western PR companies with access to western journalists, something that has not happened much before.
“We are developing ties with the Indian film fraternity,” Peake said.