India and France are seeing an increased interaction in the field of cinema. Pondicherry too has witnessed this with the filming of French TV series “Rani” and the movie “Alexandra David-Néel” in the coastal city.
Movies are a major part of Indian entertainment and leisure system. Not just for Indians, Bollywood movies provide masala fun to videshis (foreigners) also. Bollywood’s influence isn’t hard to find in Europe. One place where Bollywood has certainly made an impact is France.
France has always been known for its taste in fine arts, especially in theatre and music. Since the days of the French intellectual revolution, music has become an integral part of the culture of France. Movies of that period were quite musical and that great tradition has been carried on till today.
Following the first cooperation agreement dating back to 1986 between the French and Indian film industries, a new agreement for facilitating co-productions was signed in December 2010 in New Delhi between the Indian Minister of Information and Broadcasting and the French Minister of Culture and Communications. Since then, several Indo-French co-produced films have been made. Every year the Audiovisual Section of the Embassy supports the participation of French producers in the Goa Film Bazaar, a premium co-productions market aimed at promoting Indian cinema internationally, organized by the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC).
India and France are having increased interaction cinematically. In 2012 only four cinemas in France were screening Bollywood movies, but in 2014, the film “Happy New Year” was screened in 42 cinemas. Indian cinema is hugely popular in France, with Shah Rukh Khan among Bollywood stars with a vast French fan base. The actor was recently conferred the distinction of Knight of the Legion of Honour, presented to him by Laurent Fabius, minister of foreign affairs and international development. In the official news release, Mr. Fabius said, “The French people hail Shah Rukh Khan’s talent and generosity, which transcend cultural and historical differences”.
Independent Indian films have impressed recently. Films like “Chennai Express” and “Gangs of Wasseypur” have wowed the moviegoers in France. In France, where the presence of Cricket is almost negligible, the film ‘Lagaan’ did its bit to spread the awareness of the existence of the game and its importance for Indians.
Two Indian films co-produced with France, “Chauthi Koot” and “Masaan”, and two French films shot in India made it to the selections of the 68th Cannes Film Festival. “Masaan” which was showcased at the Film Festival in “Un Certain Regard” section received a long standing ovation at the end.
In recent years, six French movies were shot in India, including the latest movie of famous French director Claude Lelouch, starring French Oscar winner Jean Dujardin, which will be released on 9th December 2015 in the French theaters.
Pondicherry too has an interesting film connection with France. The French TV-series “Rani” was partially shot in Pondy and many of the French nationals settled here were taken on as extras in this series. A few years back, French director Joel Farges came to Pondicherry to shoot parts of his movie based on the story of Alexandra David Neel. Mr. Farges mentions that; “I have a special bond with Puducherry and I spend one or two months here every year”, “I enjoy shooting in India because of the profusion of colours, and this creates rich visuals. When people in France see these images, they are struck by the colours. And, in fact, on screen or in photographs things look more beautiful than in reality”.
Kalki Koechlin who is ethnically French but culturally Indian was born to French parents in Pondicherry and she is a much bigger star in India than in France.
Blessed with picturesque locales, unique blends of the quaint and the contemporary seen in villages, cities and towns, and the distinct French art de vivre (or way of life), France makes for an ideal destination for film shoots. The hub of French landscape, Paris, still remains a favorite with contemporary Bollywood production houses with successful movies capturing the essence of Paris effortlessly on cinema screens.
Paris is now dancing to the tune of Bollywood music and songs. A place where people don’t understand the language, yet the symphony and melody of Bollywood music gives them a thrill which they find most attractive. In a retail shop, known as Fnac, where various types of cultural and consumer electronics items, book, CDs and DVDs are available in entertainment segment, Bollywood products are a great hit. There are 78 Fnac outlets in Paris where music CDs and DVDs from India’s tinsel town are the most sought after items. There are a few other specific stores where Bollywood songs are sold. Besides Indians, the French are a major segment of customers of these products.
Bollywood is not the only flag bearer of Indian culture. There are a lot of second generation Tamil immigrants, especially from Pondicherry, who are as French as can be, but at the same time attached to their roots through their firm upbringing. In fact, there are more stores dedicated to Tamil movies than are to the regular Bollywood films.
Text: Amit Peter
Source: The Times of India, ambafrance-in.