India beyond cynicism

Telly talk:

India beyond cynicism

Spectacular: The opening ceremony of the Games showcased the other side of India, which needs to be acknowledged.

The India that burst into spontaneous applause at the sight of the Pakistani contingent. An India of unsung folk dancers, of disparate yet united thrums of different percussion instruments, of classical dance forms that are struggling to survive today, of spirituality that is about being one with humanity and not divisive and being your best self, not your worst. The India of Indian railways, of street crafts, mithai shops.

Yes, the irony is that roadside vendors and the not so shining beggars were made to disappear for Delhi to shine in the gaze of the international media but the fact remains that despite, our fault lines, the common Indian creates an India beyond corruption, beyond political persecution and economic disparity. And it is this Indian who triumphed at the opening ceremony.

The nameless drum beaters. Young children, their faces lit up with the joy of the moment, Manipuri dancers fragile like poems, a Rajasthani dancer lost in a swirl of motion, resplendent costumes rooted in tradition, tireless Bhangra teams, Mary Kom, Sushil Kumar, the Indians in the stands dancing with flags to the beats of a a few hundred dhols.

This is the India that deserves to be acknowledged once in a while and celebrated and it was. Soon, we will all go back to cynicism but for once, it felt good to be an Indian. A little credit for that could be attributed to Shyam Benegal, the man who gave us the stirring Bharat Ek Khoj in the brightest days of Doordarshan. His creative influence and that of Bharat Bala Productions whose signature anthems like Mile Sur Mera gave India goose flesh collectively, undoubtedly weeded out the fluff of Bollywood and wove in the stuff of everyday India into the proceedings. The Rs 5 crore anthem by AR Rehman however was no patch on the sweet and heartfelt Sawagatam composed for the 1982 ASIAD by Pandit Ravishankar,  but we are nitpicking.

Moving on to other things, in an age where TV channels have sold the viewers to advertisers, it is indeed gratifying when something unpopular but great pops up on TV like the unsung little film called Festival in Cannes, directed by Henry Jaglom. It is always painful to tell and hear the truth and even more difficult to call a big bluff with unsparing insight but without losing your sense of humour.

Jaglom masters this art as he almost gate crashes surreptitiously into the Cannes film festival where upstarts and fading stars, ambitious deal makers and insecure legends congregate at sea side hotels to sell pieces of their souls to the highest bidder. We hate their machinations. We pity their desperation. We laugh at their lies and watch in embarrassment as illusions about beauty and talent and love are busted one after another.

A respected French actress Millie (Anouk Aimee) who needs another shot at fame and money, her megalomanic ex-husband and director Viktor (Maximilian Schell), a young naive overnight star Blue (Jenny Gabrielle) in awe and fear of her sudden fame, a moderately successful actress Alice Palmer (Greta Scacchi) trying to get Millie to star in her directorial debut, a big time producer (Ron Silver) desperate to snatch Millie away from Alice, wheels within wheels, despair, manipulation, the vulnerability and the ugliness of what appears to be success but is not.

The film when released in 2001, did not find a big audience but that does not take way its merit because it is destined to be a happy discovery for many viewers who did not see it the first time. It is a film on a slow simmer that grows warm slowly and it does not necessarily go anywhere because it is not meant to. It is a bit like fame. Something that happens to you and though, you are caught in it, you don’t get to play it. It plays you and you don't even know it till its too late.

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