Variety is the spice of Cannes

CANNES MAY 22. Cannes is variety in all its exciting splendour. Much like the mind-boggling array of cinema which one sees at the ongoing International Film Festival here, this little city by the Mediterranean provides a fascinating collage of life and living, most of which, though, relates to this gripping medium.

Here are a few examples to sample and savour. In the same breath, so to say, while the special magazines here talk of festival movies and directors and actors, they also take note of other happenings.

Actress Nicole Kidman — who stars in Lars Von Trier's exceptionally good work, "Dogville'', is to helm a film on the Indian call centre phenomenon. It has seen British corporations operating customer services in New Delhi and elsewhere in India; the employees talk to callers on British weather, cricket and soaps.

The movie, titled for the moment "The Call Centre'' has been scripted by the U.K.-based Sanjeev Bhaskar. It will be a comic love story.

Not such a laugh has been the news from China, where censors, one reads, are reportedly threatening to punish two auteurs whose works have been screened in "A Certain Regard'', an important festival sidebar.

Yu Lik-Wai's "All Tomorrow's Parties'' and Wang Xiaoshuai's ``Drifters'' were "found'' to have violated China's Film Bureau regulations: both were shot in the country without the necessary permits. Also, "All Tomorrow's Parties'' contain references to China's cults. Beijing has been allergic to even a mere mention of the word cult ever since the authorities banned the Falun Gong movement in 1999.

Outside the main venue at Cannes, Palace, and three other major movie festivals — Venice, Montreal and Toronto — are splitting hairs over how to resolve the problem of dates. All three will be running just about the same time, end of August. This is understandably a question of major concern, because ideally no one really wants his Festival to clash with another on the calendar.

To talk about yet another film festival, Melbourne, which is nearly as old as Cannes, is determined to set right what is seen here as a blunder — imagining Indian cinema to be merely Bollywood cinema ! The 52nd (Cannes is on to its 56th year) Melbourne International Film Festival, which opens at the end of July, has a special section on Indian cinema that is called ``Beyond Bollywood''.

The Melbourne Festival's executive director, James Hewison, told The Hindu today that he planned to highlight what he considered the real Indian cinema. Hence the works of directors such as Buddhadeb Dasgupta ("A Tale of a Naughty Girl''), Mani Ratnam ("A Peck on the Cheek'') and Adoor Gopalakrishnan ("Shadowkill'') could be shown in this section. What about Rituparna Ghosh's ``Choker Bali'' in Bengali or a retro of early Kamal Hasan? Mr. Hewison was certainly open to these, and said that he would finalise the list of entries in "Beyond Bollywood'', soon.

With Cannes juror, Aishwarya Rai, playing the lead role in ``Choker Bali'', it might just well be another Aishwarya wave, this time in Melbourne. Ms. Rai has been the darling of the masses here, with the crowds loving every moment of her. At a lunch hosted here today by the Mayor of Cannes, many among the invitees were keen on saying hello to Ms. Rai, not quite to the other jurors, such as actress, Meg Ryan, or director, Steven Soderberg!

And with the rumour mills still keeping alive the tale of Ms. Rai being the next James Bond girl, there is understandable interest in the Indian star. But many people were wondering how actor, Vivek Oberoi, could be allowed to "woo Aishwarya'' at Cannes, when she had such an important responsibility on her shoulders: to judge some of the world's finest pictures. One German critic quipped: But actor, Tom Cruise, did not tag along with his current love interest, Spanish actress, Penelope Cruz, who was here to promote "Fanfan La Tulipe'', the opening shot. But then Penelope is not Aishwarya, and India not quite Spain!

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