| Camille Nata in New Delhi. Picture by Prem Singh
New Delhi, Nov. 25 (AFP): Perhaps unsurprisingly, key players in Indo-French roadshow movie Hari Om, which traverses Rajasthan to explore the Indian concept of destiny, believe they were destined to be part of the project.
The six-week shoot of the $2-million movie wrapped at the weekend and is due for completion in time for next year’s Cannes film festival.
“I believe this film came to me,” said French actress Camille Nata, who plays the female lead. “It found me.”
A chance meeting in Paris with director Bharat Bala, she said in New Delhi, saw her being instantly awarded the role. Four days later, she was on a plane to India. “It was my time to come to India.”
Bala himself believes it was his “destiny” to work with Nata, who stars in Ni Pour Ni Contre and plays the lead in upcoming Jean Reno/Luc Besson film Les Rivieres Pourpres (Crimson Rivers).
“After three months of casting in Paris, I was ready to sign someone else when I met Camille,” Bala said. “I knew at once she was the one for the movie.”
The film tracks the adventures of a French couple as they travel through India on what becomes a separate journey of self-discovery.
Originally intending to travel on the Palace on Wheels, Rajasthan’s opulent train preferred by wealthy tourists, Isa (Nata) is accidentally left behind and instead makes the journey on a three-wheeler.
The autorickshaw driver, played by Vijaay Raaz, the offbeat marigold eater and wedding arranger in Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding, gives Isa a tour of rural Rajasthan that affects her profoundly.
At the same time, her partner, Benoit — played by Jean Marie Lamour who starred in the French hit film Swimming Pool — separately undergoes a transformation as he goes in search of her.
“Benoit arrives in India with blinkers,” Lamour said. “India forces him to open his mind and to discover true love.”
Lamour, too, believes in destiny and that he was fated to land a role in Hari Om.
“I am extremely fortunate. How many French people have ever acted in an Indian movie' I believe it was my destiny,” he said.
Executive producer Sushil Tyagi, of Los Angeles-based Tricolor Films, said the story would not have worked with any country other than France.
“The French and the Indians share an affinity. They have the same ideas about romance and love,” he said.
Unlike Indian “cross-over films”, which are made for local audiences and then hawked internationally, Hari Om is aimed directly at the European market first and foremost, Tyagi said.
Despite the presence of the French stars, the cash and creative control will remain in Indian hands, he added.
“I could have raised the cash in the US, but I wanted this to be an Indian movie made by Indians for an international audience. We are making a prototype. We want it to be the first of many movies that will present positive images of India and its history and culture, the way Iranian movies do.”
Bala, who is making his first feature, has teamed for the project with Kumar Taurani of Tips Films, who has had vast experience in making Indian movies for local audiences, including last year’s hits, Raaz and The Legend of Bhagat Singh.