This Article is From May 10, 2016

Cannes 2016: A Short History of India's French Connection

Cannes 2016: A Short History of India's French Connection

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan photographed on the Cannes red carpet in 2015.


  • Anurag Kashyap's Raman Raghav 2.0 will be screened at Cannes
  • The festival will be held from May 11 to May 22
  • Actress Amy Jackson will make her Cannes debut this year
New Delhi: Of the 19 years that she's been working in the movie business, actress Aishwarya Rai Bachchan has dedicated part of 14 to her appearances at the Cannes Film Festival. 2016 will be her 15th year on the Croisette. Aishwarya has been representing cosmetics giant L'Oreal on the French Riviera since 2002. Since then, her fashion hits and the Indian presence at Cannes have both increased exponentially.

Aishwarya had some trouble in the initial few years on the Cannes red carpet. A series of garish Neeta Lulla saris in the first few years prompted her to eventually switch designers. She began racking up red carpet wins in couture dresses by Armani and Elie Saab, and changed from Neeta Lulla into Abu-Sandeep and Sabyasachi and finally to Roberto Cavalli. 2015 saw her set the red carpet on fire in a strapless Ralph & Russo couture gown and emerald green number by Elie Saab.

Over the years, actresses Sonam Kapoor, Katrina Kaif and Freida Pinto have joined Aishwarya as faces of L'Oreal. This is Sonam's sixth year at Cannes. Both have made a splash on the red carpet, photocalls and parties like the one hosted by Chopard in impossibly glamorous outfits by Anamika Khanna, Oscar de la Renta, Elie Saab and the like. Katrina, who made her Cannes debut last year, has had to bow out in favour of her work-in-progress film Jagga Jasoos this year. Conversely, Freida, who was absent in 2015, will reportedly attend the festival this year.

Sonam, usually so impressive on the red carpet, had a slight hiccup last year in a yellow feathered Elie Saab dress that was mercilessly mocked on Twitter. Hopefully, it will prove a temporary blip.

Katrina's spot will be filled by Amy Jackson, who will make her debut at Cannes this year and has revealed that she will taking "risks" on the red carpet.

Actress Mallika Sherawat, a non-L'Oreal attendee, manages to make it to Cannes regularly as well - a vaguely astonishing statistic given that nobody can remember the last major film she's been in. Mallika, who was invited at the festival to attend a panel discussion in 2015, pops up on the French Riviera every year now. This time, she's represents her film Time Raiders.

None of these actresses, however, are as beloved in Cannes as Aishwarya who is received every year by crowds of autograph-hunters shrieking her name as she sashays onto the red carpet. They have no trouble pronouncing her name. Aishwarya, who has chaired the amfAR gala with husband Abhishek till last year, will unable to make it to the charity event this year. The actress will return to India for promotions of her new movie Sarbjit, which releases on May 19.

The continued presence of these red carpet regulars has been punctuated by several other Indian actors. In 2013, a landmark year for India at Cannes, actresses Vidya Balan and Nandita Das served on the jury, and Amitabh Bachchan delivered the opening address at the film festival - in Hindi, no less. Deepika Padukone has been at Cannes, so has Kamal Haasan. In 2014, Uday Chopra was in the audience as Grace of Monaco, the Nicole Kidman film he produced, opened the festival. Jackky Bhagnani was an unexpected presence, representing his film Youngistaan. Filmmaker Anurag Kashyap's films Gangs of Wasseypur and Ugly have played to house full audiences; Dibakar Banerjee-produced film Titli, directed by Kanu Behl, was screened in the Un Certain Regard section in 2014. Richa Chadha, Vicky Kaushal, Shweta Tripathi and filmmaker Neeraj Ghaywan represented Masaan at the film festival last year. Apart from a standing ovation, Masaan scored two wins - International Federation of Film Critics and Most Promising Newcomer for the director. Miyan Kal Aana, produced by Nawazuddin Siddiqui and directed by his brother Shamas and Amy, a British docu-film about Amy Winehouse, directed by Asif Kapadia were screened last year.

The Lunchbox, Miss Lovely, Udaan, Vasan Bala's Peddlers and Gurvnder Singh's Chauthi Koot have all made it to the Cannes line-up in recent years. Bollywood made a grand debut in 2002 with Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Devdas being screened at the festival. The film's star Aishwarya was a jury member the same year.

Historically, Indian films have been well-received at Cannes although the prizes have dropped off since the Nineties. In 1946, Chetan Anand's acclaimed Neecha Nagar shared the top prize (now known as the Palme d'Or) with David Lean's Brief Encounters. In 1952, V Shantaram's Amar Bhoopali won the award for Best Sound Recording. Bimal Roy's socio-economic tour de force Do Bigha Zameen won the Prix Internationale in 1954. The next year, his Biraj Bahu and the Raj Kapoor-produced Boot Polish were both screened in competition. Baby Naaz won a special award for her performance in Boot Polish. In 1956, Satyajit Ray's Pather Panchali put India on the world cinema map for good with the prize for Best Human Document. In 1957, Rajbans Khanna's documentary on Buddha scored a jury prize. In 1983's Mrinal Sen's Kharij won a jury prize and in 1988, Mira Nair's Salaam Bombay! took home both the Camera d'Or and the Audience Prize. Shaji N Karun's Piravi received a special mention the next year. Murali Nair's Marana Simhasanam's Camera d'Or in 1999 was the last Indian film to bring home an award from Cannes.

This year, Indian films like Anurag Kashyap's Raman Raghav 2.0, starring Nawazuddin and Vicky Kaushal, and the Kabir Bedi-narrated documentary Mount of Excellence will be screened. Six Bengali short films including Anirban Guha's Elixir and Abhiroop Basu's Afternoon with Julia will also be screened at Cannes.