The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cannes calls Ash on its jury

Mumbai, April 9: Last year was the trailer. This year will be the real thing.

Aishwarya Rai, who was in the French Riviera last year to promote her film Devdas, will sit on the jury at the Cannes Film Festival this year, judging some of the world’s best cinema. She will be the first Indian to do so.

The actress, who returned home last night after a broken ankle and a series of headlines for other reasons last week, is elated with the latest development, says her secretary Hari Singh. “It is a rare honour,” he adds.

Cannes was keen on Aishwarya since last year. “A gentleman associated with the festival came to Delhi to make her the offer. The formal invitation came 35 days ago, and she accepted the invitation four days ago,” he says.

“Cannes will make the announcement on April 23. Aishwarya will be in Cannes from May 12 to 26. Her prod-ucers have been very supp- ortive and said they will make the necessary adjustments with her dates.

“They are the ones who are more enthusiastic. It means a lot for the Indian film industry,” Singh adds.

It just might. It means an emphatic acknowledgement of Bollywood’s business poten- tial by the most prestigious film festival of the world, which has made it very clear in the past few years that it respects box office as much as — if not more than — aesthetics.

Aishwarya is following in the footsteps of screen goddesses from Hollywood or other parts of the world who are being included in the Cannes jury of late as a nod to the markets they represent.

Last year, there were three actresses in the jury who shared the glamour among them — Basic Instinct star Sharon Stone, Malaysian- born Hong Kong-Hollywood actress Michelle Yeoh and Indonesian Christine Hakim.

The serious critics were six directors — all men: David Lynch of the US, Bill August of Denmark, Claude Miller and Regis Wargnier of France, Chilean-born French director Raoul Ruiz and Walter Salles of Brazil.

In 2001, there were reports that Hollywood actress Jodie Foster was named the head of the jury as a political exercise.

It was to appease Hollywood that was apparently miffed at having its products at the festival to a minimum the previous year.

If that is Hollywoodisation of Cannes, with Aishwarya on the jury, critics may as well gear up for a Bollywoodisation of the festival that may be imminent.

If it has not started already. Last year, information and broadcasting minister Sushma Swaraj was also there with a huge contingent to sell Bollywood at Cannes.

“This is part of a trend that has been happening for so long. If we can have Bombay Dreams at West End, it’s only logical to have Aishwarya at Cannes,” says Amrit Gangar, film critic.

“It is another acknowledgement of the many uses of Brand Bollywood. The First World is using it to make money in the Third World, but the Third World is also using it to make money in the First World,” adds Gangar.

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