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Celebrating Indian Cinema in Paris

Since morning, there has been a humdrum around. India is the guest of honour at the 3rd Edition of Salon du Cinema at the Grande Halle de la Villette, Paris from Jan 16th- 18th, 2009. Amitabh Bachchan is the special guest whose films will be screened in a special night long back to back screening on Friday night. Aishwarya Rai starrer 'Provoked' will also be screened.

Salon du Cinema

This is not the the first time Bollywood or Indian cinema has come to Paris. Indian films have quite a few takers with the French public in addition to the local diaspora of desis. It is thus often that we find the French premiers of movies, official DVD releases, Indian Film Festival and the like. The rising popularity of Indian culture through popular cinema can be gauzed from the success of shows like Bharati- the Bollywood musical that will tour France for the second time in a row to newcomers like the Bollywood Show. As a French friend put it, it is a cheaper way to get the taste of Indian culture without actually having to visit India. With notions of Bollywood being the representative of the urban middle class, shows and festivals keep coming to cater to an increasing French demand.

Salon du Cinema

On the occasion of La Nuit Blanche 2008 (The 'white night' is a Parisian concept where once a year, several restaurants and cinemas are open till wee hours of morning. There are free concerts around the town as well), the visit of Bollywood director Shaad Ali was highly publicized by the French media. Supported by the Indian and French embassies, a good media support, there were several thousand spectators that turned up to watch him can a song braving the October chill.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali had been invited by the prestigious Theatre du Chatelet in March 2008 to direct the Opera-Ballet Padmavati. Popular Indian Cinema finds regular outlets in the French milieu. Musée Guimet- the National Museum dedicated to Asian Arts organized 'The Indian Summer'- film festival dedicated to the theme of popular stars of Hindi Cinema in Sept- Oct 2008. Around the same time, an exhibition celebrating the Golden Age of Indian Cinema dedicated to Guru Dutt was organized.

I was invited by a French friend to the free screening of the Satyajit Ray film 'Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne' organized by the Association 'Les Filles du Loir', sometime in October '08. Most of the French movie buffs are aware of Satyajit Ray, if not of his illustrious works. Other eminent film makers like Buddhadeb Dasgupta have been invited to preside over the jury for FICA- the Festival International de Cinema d'Asie of Vesoul. Film personalities like Aruna Vasudev- founder of NETPAC & OSIAN- Festival of Asian & Arab Cinema have been at the film festival circuits including Cannes & Vesoul. Earlier she had been honoured by the French cultural award Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres.

Salon du Cinema

Cinematographer Dilip Verma is a regular at Paris, having made Paris his home for 8 years. He came to Vesoul with director Jahar Kanungo for the film Nisshabd (2005) for which he is the Director of Photography. Films of directors Mira Nair and Manu Rewal were screened at FICA 2008. At the same event in 2007, director Bappaditya Bandhopadhyay received the special Jury award for his film 'Kantatar'. The Festival commemorated the 60th anniversary of Indian Independence by holding a retrospective of Indian films- Mehboob Khan's 'Mother India', Guru Dutt's 'Kagaz ke Phool', Shyam Benegal's 'Bhumika', Satyajit Ray's 'Sadgati', Ismail Merchant's 'The remains of the day' and Rituparno Ghosh's 'Choker Bali'. This year, Indian entries for the festival are Girish Kasaravalli's 'Gulabi Talkies' (2008), Adoor GopalaKrishnan's 'Four Women' & Ashutosh Gowarikar's 'Jodha Akbar'.

Salon du Cinema
This also brings us to the glamour world of Cannes Film Festival where India has been making small ripples since many years now. Manu Rewal's 'Hollywood ki Pukar' (2001) was screened in Director's fortnight section. Aishwarya Rai has been a constant presence since she became a brand ambassador for the French cosmetic giant L'Oréal. Her movies have been premiered at the festival. Her French appearances are as much covered by the enthusiastic and enamoured French media as it is done back home.

There has been a buzz around Danny Boyle's 'Slumdog Millionnaire' based loosely on Vikas Swarup's novel Q&A. The film is releasing in cinemas on Jan 14th, 2009 in Paris.

With so much going for Bollywood, it has become a brand ambassador of Indian culture in its own special, albeit, melodramatic way for those who travel to India through a cinematic dream !


Photo courtesy: Press release of Salon du Cinema. Photos by Christophe Gaye

Get program details of 3rd Edition of Salon du Cinema


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