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Meeting a self-confessed Indophile

I had chanced upon the site pertaining to their Paris exhibition on Guru Dutt by accident. Little did I know that it would take me to discover the Indophile Picard Couple- Sally & François- who are, in their own words, bitten by the Indian Culture bug! Here is my peek-a-boo into their world over a cup of coffee with Sally.

 

As an Indian, movies are so much a part of our lives, that it might often times be difficult to say where the real life ends and the escapist fantasy begins. Perhaps, that's where the refined French sensibilities of art appreciation, be it the 7th Art, as the cinematic medium is popularly called by the French, or any other creative expression, draws a boundary in being an addict or an amateur of the cinema.

 

Being regular visitors to India for the past 20 years, the Picards' love for Indian Cinema is rather nascent. As recounted by Sally, it was their visit to Chennai five years back that propelled them to this unexpected passion. A whimsical demand to the rickshaw driver to see a local movie, and they found themselves at the Cinema Casino where a Telugu film 'Varsham' was being screened. In Sally's words, "We were sitting quietly in the hall, watching the film when all of a sudden, the atmosphere around us became highly charged as the hero of the film made his screen entrance. We were consumed by the energy of the music, the dance ballets and by the camera work.' This is the unmistakable allusion to the adrenaline charged front-benchers who identify themselves with their screen idols and approve of the hero's actions by whistling and loud punctuational gestures! Fascinated and captivated by such energy, on screen and off it, there has been no looking back for the Picards ever since.

GuruDutt Exhibition in Paris

The initiation into the Indian Cinema having already begun, Sally & François immersed themselves in their new found love by watching one Indian movie a day, reading an Indian book a week, watching an Indian spectacle a month and of course, visiting the country of their adopted culture every year! Add to it their Bollywood encounters on their India trips- meeting the main cast- Emraan Hashmi and Kangana Ranaut- of Raaz 2, directed by Mohit Suri, meeting the film critic Rashid Irani, scouring through the bylanes of Chor Bazar in Bombay for old movie posters and memorabilia, 'discovering' Hiranandani Gardens after seeing ShahRukh Khan on a magazine cover against the backdrop of this nouveau architecture (Sally actually showed the magazine cover to their autorickshaw driver to take them to 'the' place!). Back home, the Picards have featured in a France 2 TV show Envoyé Speciale- Planète Bollywood!

 

Arif's Shop at Chor Bazar
They have translated their passion to showcasing Guru Dutt in Paris last year. An enormous task that took months of preparation- getting approval from the family of the late Cinéaste, inputs from his biographer Nasreen Munni Kabir, original posters of his films, books on Dutt, DVDs of his films, printing catalogues, brochures, renting an exhibition place etc. Hearing Sally talk passionately about the exhibition, I could not help admire her zeal and enterprise. This translated to a good cause of raising the funds from the exhibition to helping their cab driver from Bombay with whom they have stayed in touch for the past 4 years. Having done that, they are not resting on their laurels, a retrospective of the milestone films of Raj Kapoor is in the offing this autumn through original posters, programs and photos.


With an abode bumbling with Bollywood posters, DVDs of Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam and other Cinemas, books from Indian cinema specialists, it is difficult to come in touch with their infectious enthusiasm without being bitten by it oneself!

 

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Interviewing the people behind the Guru Dutt Exhibition

 

Website of the Guru Dutt Exhibition

 

Photo Courtesy: Sally & François Picard