Paoli Cannes do it

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By Amit Roy on the Cannes audience being robbed of an eyeful of Paoli Dam
  • Published 17.09.11

Mother Superior, is it really you?

There’s no need to play the innocent with me.

You, here, right by Eros in Piccadilly Circus, I can’t believe it — it’s such an unpleasant... I mean pleasant surprise!

You jolly well know why I’m here.

Half term?

As it happens, yes. But that’s not why I am here.

I know you love the arts, so I assume you have come to see a musical? We Will Rock You, perhaps. Or a play? War Horse? Or something more melodramatic — like Blood Brothers?

There could be blood on the carpet, yes.

That’s not nice, Mother Superior, especially after the way I looked after you in Cannes.

Ah, I’m glad you’ve brought up Cannes. Remember the packet you gave me?

Yes, with the finest Montecristo cigars and half bottle of Crème de menthe.

Make it a full bottle next time. No, not that one. The other packet. What does the Trades Description Act mean to you?

It’s an Act to punish someone selling something that turns out to be fake.


Paoli at the premiere of Chatrakin Cannes

But Mother Superior I wouldn’t enter into a commercial transaction with you — you’re Mother Superior, your mind is on higher things.

Right now my mind is on that DVD you slipped me just as I was leaving. I thought, ‘Maybe I have misjudged this man.’ But I have been cruelly deceived.

It’s all coming back. You couldn’t come to the premiere of that Bengali film at the Croisette Theatre in the Marriott Hotel.

Well, I was a little tired and emotional....

....because you were called to the bar — at the Martinez. You missed quite a premiere.

You told me Paoli Dam was there.

Yes, Princess Paoli came with her producer Vinod Lahoti and that nice director from Sri Lanka, Sanath Jayasuriya, I think his name was. It wasn’t easy procuring that DVD but I convinced everyone, ‘Mother Superior is a serious student of cinema’.

I want my money back. That DVD you gifted me is a fake — it’s got certain crucial scenes missing.

What scenes? Hand on heart, it’s not a Pakistani pirate copy. It is exactly what we saw in Cannes when everyone stood up and gave Paoli and the others a standing ovation. We could scarcely hold back the tears when that Frenchman introduced Chatrak before a packed audience as “a tribute to Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen — and to Calcutta”.

I can promise you more tears. Unless you get me the DVD with all the censored scenes restored.

Don’t tell me you have come all the way to London just for this DVD?

Well, as you said, Mother Superior does take her cinema seriously. And now Paoli has given an interview saying she has been bold and taken Bengali cinema where it hasn’t gone before. More to the point, she has gone where no Bengali girl has gone before.

Well, yes, that’s very true. We’ve not had a Bengali film officially selected for Cannes since Satyajit Ray’s Ghare Baire in 1984 and Mrinal Sen’s Genesis in 1986, though Chatrak was picked only for Directors’ Fortnight while they were selected for official competition which is a lot harder.

I am not interested in the history of Bengali cinema in Cannes. What I want are those scenes — or more accurately the Fathers from next door got wind I had a DVD and have invited themselves to supper and a special screening of Chatrak early next week after Matins.

Mother Superior, you intrigue me, what are these scenes?

Paoli does things.

Oh, what things?

You know things, chhi chhi chhi things that I didn’t think a Bengali girl would do, especially a convent-educated Bengali girl who walked the red carpet in Cannes wearing a cream sari with a red border.

Mother Superior, was she wearing the sari when she did this thing? What was she wearing at the time?

Not a lot, this Bengali belle has boasted, but I can’t go into that. Well, don’t just stand there. I need to calm my nerves. Get me a large whisky and soda — on second thoughts, forget the soda. When I turned to Sharmila, who is our blessed patron, did I get any sympathy? She laughed. Honestly, I fear for the future of Bengali women. Mamata excepted, of course.


Sharmila Tagore, you idiot. And she, having been on the Cannes jury and all, urged me to see Antichrist. She said, “Chatrak will seem like a Disney film after Antichrist.”

Mother Superior, do you trust me?

No, not even as far as a donkey can throw a cricket ball.

Trust me, on no account see this film. It is made by the Danish director Lars Von Trier which should tell you everything you need to know. Grown men covered their faces in revulsion when Charlotte Gainsbourg did things with a pair of rusty shears — and got Best Actress for her pains.

What things?

Unmentionable things. It drove home that the difference between sex and death is that with death you can do it alone and no one is going to make fun of you. That sounds like Woody Allen.

Well done, Mother Superior. Just testing.

I always knew you are a 420. Anyway, apart from Antichrist, what else would you recommend me not to see?

I leave to one side the long list of Cannes films with gratuitous sex..., don’t put leave them to one side, put them into my shopping trolley.

I also feel it my duty to steer you away from a whole spate of violent Japanese, Korean and Chinese films in which men do things to each other.

There is only one thing for it. Lead me to the nearest video store.

But Mother Superior, this is Soho, centre of sin and sex and stores selling dodgy DVDs in plain brown envelopes.

So much the better. I have to stock up for our cinema studies module which is proving very popular, especially with the senior girls at school. They all want to copy Paoli.