| FRENCH CONNECTION: Prakash Hinduja (right) with Indias ambassador to France, Ranjan Mathai (left)
Indian Man of the Match
In terms of furthering Indias relationship with France in general and with the Cannes Film Festival in particular, it falls to me to award a man of the match.
This rare honour has been awarded only once before to Bhuvan Lall, former journalist-turned-producer, who could get you into any party.
This year, this greatest of honours has been bestowed on the man who has worked tirelessly behind and in front of the scenes: Prakash Hinduja.
In the absence of his elder brothers from London, Srichand and Gopi, neither of whom made it to Cannes, PP who is normally based in Geneva, has held court with aplomb.
He has seen movie after movie I do believe he loves cinema; met French officials (for instance, Antoine de Clermont-Tonnerre, president of the French export body, Unifrance); spoken to them in fluent French (which most Indians cannot do); offered vegetarian hospitality to numerous non-Indians and Indians at the Hinduja villa in Cannes; and harangued all and sundry to do more to promote the interests of Indian movies.
PP has waxed eloquent on a wide range of issues, including notably the recently signed film co-production treaty between France and India.
There are two bits to Cannes, it is worth emphasising. One is the festival where films are shown in competition. The other is the market where the serious business of buying and selling movies goes on.
We are all pretty unhappy that there hasnt been an Indian film in competition since Shaji Karuns Swaham in 1994. The festival authorities do not want to compromise their standards simply to oblige India, which is as it should be, but the problem, as always, is differing Indian and French notions of what constitutes good cinema.
But thanks to PP and his interactions with key folk such as Gilles Jacob, the festival president who has been called Citizen Cannes the authorities are aware of Indias disenchantment. India would benefit from having one or even two films in competition at Cannes every year and the Cannes Film Festival, too, would gain immeasurably by having proper representation of the global force that is Indian cinema.
The French are currently missing a trick.
Anyway, for his services to India and to France, my man this year is PP.
| KHAN RULES: The new Shah Rukh Khan poster in Cannes market
SRK still king
You and I might think the SRK-starrer My Name is Khan could have done with a more focused storyline but apparently not audiences in Russia and South Korea.
Foreign sales of the film have been handled by Rohit Sharma, formerly with IDream but now with Fox Star Studios.
Rohit, who has been coming to Cannes for years, tells me: My Name is Khan has become the biggest ever box office seller abroad. It has been dubbed into Russian. It did amazing business in South Korea. The songs were removed to make it two hours long.
In all, it has taken over $24 million.
In Muslim nations, it had obvious appeal but that is not the case in South Korea, Rohit points out.
Which brings me back to the question what constitutes good cinema?
The Kings Speech, we can all agree, is superb. It was picked up for distribution in India by WEG India Pictures Private Ltd.
This is run by Ranchor Jumani, Srichand Hindujas nephew, and his son, Amit Jumani, who bought The Kings Speech in a package containing a number of films.
Ranchor tells me: I did not release The Kings Speech immediately but decided to wait for the Oscars.
After its four Oscars, we released 130 prints within two days, reveals Ranchor.
It did best in the city which appreciates good cinema but cannot manage PR for its own films what else but Calcutta?
Indian viewers will enjoy the new Woody Allen movie, Midnight in Paris, which Amit Jumani bought unseen a year ago but what else can you do with a Woody Allen movie?
Generally speaking, I am known for the sweetness of my nature. But it is best if people dont speak to me about Bengali PR. The one failure Prakash Hinduja had was being unable to see the Bengali film Chhatrak (Mushrooms), which did brilliantly to get into Directors Fortnight.
Chhatrak was described as a tribute to Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen and to Calcutta.
Can you get me two tickets for me and my wife? he appealed to me because he wanted to do his bit to promote Bengali cinema.
All tickets have gone, there is a queue waiting for cancellations, etc. etc., I was told.
The Chhatrak crowd is agreeable from the producer, Vinod Lahoti (I had extra tickets in my pocket) to the actress Paoli Dam (my phone wasnt working) and the talented Sri Lankan director Vimukthi Jayasundara.
Ultimately empty places went begging not too many to be sure inside the 500-seat Croisette Theatre in the Marriott Hotel where Chhatraks world premiere was warmly received.
Which is why I say the subject of Bengali PR is a touchy subject with me at the moment.
Since Bengali cinema is in a superior class of its own, I would love to see a sizeable Bengal brigade (with Raima) at Cannes next year headed by Mamata (she inaugurated the Goa festival last year). A flourishing Bengali film industry would create thousands of jobs.
Almost as important as the stars at Cannes are the PR girls who manage their clients.
For the 23 LOreal ambassadors there was not only a team of press officers from Paris, led by the calm Courtney MacNeil, but individual stars brought their own back-up.
While Sonam Kapoor gave interviews on the 7th terrace of the Martinez Hotel, Snehhal Chitneni, manager, corporate communications for LOreal India, and Shanti Sivaram, director, Bling! Entertainment Solutions, were on hand in case they were needed.
At the India Pavilion, G.G. Kameil was doing a good job looking after the place. She is now a general manager for the NFDC, having been shifted from the Inland Revenue Service. Before the 65th Cannes, she needs to immerse herself in cinema culture.
There is always a debate about the function of the India Pavilion. I dont mind so long as there is one a beachside meeting point for Indians and anyone interested in India.
Fagun Thakrar, a bright medical student-turned-actress from London, took scissors to her blouse to make it look sexy, when Shekhar Kapoor asked her to dance on the red carpet when his film, Bollywood: The Greatest Love Story Ever told, was premiered in Cannes.
Though there was not much blouse left, Shekhar was keen to push the limits of art.
Cut it even more, he urged Fagun, who later murmured approvingly, I suppose that shows the real genius of Shekhar Kapoor.
Veteran film critic Derek Malcolm has regaled me with euphemisms he deploys when asked by Indian filmmakers what he honestly thinks about their new movie.
Instead of rubbish, Derek relies on tried and trusted solutions: I place a hand on their shoulder and say, Youve done it, again! Or if all else fails, I say, And where on earth did you get the cat?