For me the yearly Cannes festival is not much more than an industry's self-celebration which is probably best left unwatched, but these days, it’s difficult to miss Cannes photos and interviews even if you’re only slightly interested in Bollywood. Aish comes every year to France, and being a Frenchman, I feel pleased that she does. But I wouldn’t have said anything about it if there hadn’t been two or three rather injurious remarks levelled at her, which I heard and made me feel rather embarrassed, and I wouldn’t like people to think that all French people, whom Aish always thank so warmly for their welcome, should be categorised in the same bunch as some of them.
First interview, at Canal+ (a French private channel), Aish is welcomed by a panel of personalities, one of whom declares that if she’s here, it’s because she “really deserves it”, a transparent allusion to her endorsement of Loréal (their silly slogan being “parce que je le vaux bien”). Not much to say there, because it’s Aish’s decision if she wants to earn money that way. Then a woman asks if she would like to perform a few classic movements such as can be seen in Indian films, and Aishwarya, sensing that perhaps she is turned into not much more than a clever performer, retorts “you'll have to watch my movies, babe!”, which even if a little flippant (she could have left out the “babe”), did point to that silly habit of self-satisfied Europeans who look down on people from other parts of the world and reduce them to their pleasant idiosyncrasies.
Seconds later, the French humourist Frank Dubosc, who was sitting next to her, tried a good one, and said that he was pleased, because he’d thought the organising staff had told him he would be sitting next to Rika Zarai, not Aishwaya Rai. Now Rika Zarai is a 71 year old franco-jewish singer who recently suffered from a stroke, and using her, even if it was to set off Aishwarya in contrast wasn’t exactly in good taste. And of course, there was no way Aishwarya could understand the joke; she just sat there, trying to compose herself, feeling out of place, and in fact told Frank Dubosc that “we could not understand”…
At another interview Aish was asked whether she would contemplate nudity on screen… Rather flustered she started to explain she had never contemplated that, and would never do so, but then realised she had been trapped into actually talking about it, so she stopped in her tracks, and verballyslapped the journalist : “you’re a journalist brother, let’s leave it at that!” If you're like some bloggers I've read in relation to these things, you might be tempted to say that Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is a high and mighty star who cannot take a joke. She snubs everybody, I've read, she can take a bit of snubbing herself. For me, at any rate, a journalist who can ask an actress why she doesn't perform nude has a degenerated conception of what it is to be an actress (or a woman even), and not much sense of dignity. Am I that old-fashioned?
All of this points to the sad fact that the show-business is nothing than a business, and that those who join it with a certain amount of principles (Aishwarya belongs to that number, even if she compromises with the star-system) must be ready to fight for them.