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Indian actresses beautiful: Sophia
- Screen legend speaks of her life and films, says she’s proud of her 80 years

Cannes, May 22: When Indians think of Italian women, they think of Sonia Gandhi, the erstwhile Sonia Maino from Turin, but the rest of the world conjures up visions of Sophia Loren, the screen legend who was considered the sexiest and most alluring actress of her day.

So, when Sophia Loren describes Indian women as beautiful, as she did yesterday at the Cannes Film Festival, one can take it that coming from her there can be no greater compliment.

Yesterday she gave a “masterclass” — a sort of meandering conversation about her life and her films with Daniele Heymann, a journalist who is an expert on Italian movies — and responded warmly to an Indian producer who wanted her to visit India and an Indian film festival planned for Paris.

“You invite me to India?” she asked, appearing to be taken by the idea. The man in question promised to speak to “my government”.

Sophia indicated she was reasonably familiar with Indian cinema. We see your films on (Italian) television,” she pointed out, adding “Indian actresses are very beautiful.”

In the context of what she had said before on women and beauty, hers was a considered remark.

Sophia makes no attempt to hide her age — “I will reach 80 next September.” She added: “I’m very proud of my 80 years.”

She was applauded loudly when she spoke of the transient nature of beauty and sounded a feminist message.

“Beauty is not important,” she remarked. “You have to be interesting, someone who is different to other people. Otherwise, you just turn up and look beautiful, and there’s nothing more to you.”

She first appeared on the Croisette in 1955, causing a stir and becoming the most photographed woman at the event. She was the winner of the 1961 best actress prize for Two Women. And she was president of the main jury in 1966.

Sophia was in tears remembering her co-star Marcello Mastroianni, the handsome Italian star who adorns the Cannes Film poster this year. It is an evocative scene from 8, a 1963 comedy-drama film directed by Federico Fellini.

Sophia starred with Mastroianni in 12 films.

“We have done so many things together. Marcello is giving me company during this masterclass Marcello Mastroianni,” said a tearful Sophia.

Her interviewer, Daniele Heymann, paused and held Sophia’s hand while she recovered her pause. Clips were shown from several films, with the audience watching a woman of 79, watching a girl of 19 on the silver screen.

During her long career, she worked with, among others, Frank Sinatra, Cary Grant, Gregory Peck, Marlon Brando, Charlton Heston, Clark Gable, and Paul Newman. She spoke of working for director Vittorio De Sica when his films ushered in the golden age of Indian cinema.

It seems her youthful producers did not consider her beautiful.

“I have never been beautiful,” she insisted. “I’ve never been a beautiful doll. In fact, when I started, people didn’t want to hire me because I wasn’t photogenic.”

“People thought my mouth was too big, they wanted me to make my nose shorter, to have straighter teeth,” she revealed.

“Then I suffered a lot because people said that I wasn’t photogenic at all,” she went on.

“In the film industry, if you’re not photogenic it means you can’t became an actress or actor. But things have got better and better thanks to photographers and others, who know how to portray my face better on the screen. I didn’t change my face at all, they just got better at it.”