Cannes Film Festival, 2013.
Whether you loved or hated Vidya Balan’s sartorial choices or simply laughed at Mallika Sherawat’s rant, the truth is, this year, the Indian female contingent at the Cannes Film Festival was hard to miss. Nope, not even Bollywood’s biggest star’s presence to promote ‘The Great Gatsby’ could eclipse our ladies. Isn’t it just doubly special when Bollywood’s 100 crore club, a rather male dominated precinct, is given so much footage in India and then the lovely Ms. Balan glides her way to make it to the jury of this heavy trading ground of international filmdom?
Yes, that’s right, we must give Vidya Balan a pat on the back take back all the brickbats from the last fortnight. We must give ourselves a little pat on the back too, it’s okay, we can be harsh sometimes. While we fretted here about how Indian womanhood was being misrepresented in her ‘nath’ and ‘dupatta’, she just soldiered on, took a seat next to the likes of Christoph Waltz and Nicole Kidman and reported for jury duty. We must understand what Ms. Balan already knows, that the identity of an entire nation’s women doesn’t lie in the choice of her clothes for the red carpet. She’s an actor, she’s one of us and she did us proud.
We must put in a word for Aishwarya Rai too, who has borne criticism for the clothes she’s picked for the festival over the years, but has seen her international star rise relentlessly. My friend, Avtar Panesar who heads International Operations at Yash Raj Films and has been a regular at Cannes over the years, told me,“We tend to take red carpet appearances far too seriously in India, it’s not a career making platform but a chance to dress up and celebrate cinema. This (Cannes) is a place to do business and red carpets allow you to take a breather and enjoy the process but has absolutely no impact on the business of cinema.” You see, it was business as usual.