| STAR BOARD: Vikramaditya Motwales name on a billboard at Cannes
Vikramaditya rules, ok?
Walking past the Palais des Festival and the Debussy Theatre in Cannes, you see on giant billboards the names of the lucky directors whose films have been chosen for screening either in the main competition or in the section for freshers with original and different works known as Un Certain Regard.
And theres Vikramaditya Motwale, mixed up with Mike Leigh and Abbas Kiarostami and the other big names.
Where more illustrious Indian directors have failed, Motwale has sneaked in with his debut film, Udaan (Flight), which is being shown on Wednesday.
It is the first Indian film to feature in Un Certain Regard in the last seven years.
Motwale says he started his film career helping his producer mother on her television talk show Teen Talk, before he moved on to assisting Sanjay Leela Bhansali on Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. He also worked on Deepa Mehtas Water in India though that never got made (in India). He assisted Bhansali again on Devdas.
Udaan tells the tale of a youth who returns home to Jamshedpur after eight years in a boarding school but does not want to study engineering or work in the steel factory run by his authoritarian father — he wants to become a writer.
Not surprisingly, it echoes parts of my life, confesses Motwane.
Not surprisingly, his dad wont be reviewing the film.
Perhaps one day we will have a movie where the son tells his father: Dad, I know this will break your heart. But I dont want to be an artist. I want to be a dentist.
| FIRST AMONG EQUALS: Cover girls Freida and Cate
We are told Freida Pinto wont be in Cannes when the Woody Allen movie You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger is shown out of competition. We will have to wait and see, though personally, I think Freida is mad not to come.
However, I noticed that the Bombay belle has not been forgotten. In the inside page of the official Cannes brochure, Freida occupies a whole page advertising LOréal, which was previously the exclusive province of Aishwarya Rai.
In cover girl terms, Cate Blanchett, who is on the front of the Le Monde colour magazine, is in pole position.
She plays Maid Marion, opposite Russell Crowe, in Robin Hood. Their first intimacy takes place when he asks for her help in taking off his heavy chain mail.
At the press conference that followed the first screening of Robin Hood, she was asked if she had undergone strenuous exercise so she could remove the heavy armour.
Alas, Cate gave the game away.
It is plastic, she revealed.
Ask anyone worth his salt in Cannes where he (or she) lives and the answer will be: Between LA and Bombay.
Such a one is Krishna Shah, who tells me he is completely serious about making a film about Indira Gandhi.
In fact, Mother: The Indira Gandhi Story, will be in two parts — like Lord of the Rings.
Mother is the key, emphasises Shah.
When I express scepticism about the project, Shah assures me he is in Cannes to raise additional funds for the movie.
Part one, which he says is not controversial, takes Mrs Gandhi to 1971, while the sequel deals with all the difficult questions, including the Bangladesh war and the emergency.
He wants to film in India, the UK, Russia and the US where there are sequences involving Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon.
An earlier plan to cast Madhuri Dixit as Indira Gandhi has been ditched but three other candidates have been secretly lined up.
The same actress will portray Mrs Gandhi in both parts, says Shah. It is easier to make a young actress look older rather than the other way round.
Krishna wants to begin shooting by the end of the year.
Nothing involving the Nehru-Gandhis is going to be simple even though Krishna says he is sympathetic to Indira.
I have done 18 drafts, he reveals.
The subject is undoubtedly dramatic but Krishna will have to climb mountains to get the job done. Making the actual film will be the easy part.
Mr and Mrs
Since everyone in Cannes has either made a feature film or would like to make one, it is nice to meet a couple who arent.
Veteran documentary filmmaker Dr S. Krishnaswamy and his wife, Mohana, director and producer respectively, have been assessing how Hinduism spread across southeast Asia over centuries.
After travelling through Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, the couple has made two yet-to-be-released documentaries: A Different Pilgrimage, which is 109 minutes long, and Tracking Indian Footmarks, which is in four 25-minute parts.
Making documentaries is not Indias strong point but we have survived for 45 years, grins Dr K.
Love in Paris & Delhi
Ranjan Mathai, Indias ambassador in Paris — we know him well from London where he used to be deputy Indian High Commissioner — turned up for the opening of the India Pavilion in Cannes.
He tells me: We are working towards a visit by the French President to India by the end of the year.
The two sides will discuss civil nuclear energy, defence, film co-production treaties, trade....
But there is one topic even more pressing.
Early in 2008, Nicolas Sarkozy was keen to bring Carla Bruni with him but she was discouraged from coming by Indian protocol officials because at that time she was not married to the French President.
This time there will be no problem in her sharing the same bedroom with Sarkozy.
When Carla was in America, she apparently told Michelle Obama that she and Nicolas kept a head of state waiting while they were busy expressing their passion for each other in the traditional French manner in a locked bedroom.
Had Michelle done anything similar, asked Carla.
No, replied the US First Lady.
Perhaps Mathai should discreetly advise Carla that this sort of conversation wouldnt go down too well either with Sonia or Pratibha.
English writer David Farr has been recruited by Shekhar Kapur to add the final polish to his script of Paani, the film about imminent water wars.
I have invited him to come to Bombay, Shekhar informs me in between watching films as a member of the Cannes jury.
Farr wont be putting up at the Taj, though. Shekhar wants Farr to experience a different five star experience.
Farr may be learning this for the first time but he will be living in a Bombay slum without water or toilets.
Thinker Arindham Chaudhuri, self-styled renowned management guru and economist, eminent author, authoritative speaker and transformational leader and possessor of the best pony tail in Cannes saw fit to address a large crowd at the opening of the Indian pavilion on his first visit to the Croisette.
Why are the French people not here? Arindham also asked, unaware that several senior representatives of the festival were present.
Several days later, audience members are still struggling to assess the true significance of Arindhams profound utterances — or the punch line in his jokes.
Who invited him here? raged an agency hack, unused to the eccentric ways of the professor.