Sundeep Kumar, 49, director of corporate affairs at SABMiller India, was in Cannes in May for the 60th year of the film festival. Alongside the frenzy of movies, stars and promotions, he managed to tuck in a medieval village, Cagnes-sur-Mer.
Are you a movie buff? What was the highlight of the festival?
While I do enjoy films, I would not call myself a buff. This was my first visit to Cannes and it was work-related, but I did get time to take in the sights. This being the 60th year of the Cannes Film Festival and also the 60th year of India’s independence, India was a focus country at Cannes. Under the aegis of the ministry of information & broadcasting and CII, India had its biggest-ever participation at Cannes, with six Indian movies screened in the international showcase. One of the key events was an India Beach Party, which our company supported. Our contingent was also given a red-carpet welcome at the premiere of Michael Moore’s Sicko, which we saw from the presidential box. Quite an experience.
What were your impressions of Cannes in its festival regalia?
The whole city was having one big party. People were camped out on La Croisette, the promenade along the beach, hoping to catch a glimpse of their favourite stars, while locals went about their usual chore of sunbathing topless. Security was tight and while stars did keep erupting at regular intervals, getting close to them was a challenge. I was not into star-gazing, but we spotted Sophie Marceau, Jude Law and Michael Moore. The biggest cheer was reserved for Abhi-Ash, whom the crowd seemed to recognize and acknowledge. Preity Zinta and Manisha Koirala were there too. The festival venue was laid out along the beach, with the marina on one side, where spectacular yachts sponsored by various production houses and distributors were berthed.
Was Cannes very expensive, considering it was peak season?
Expensive is an understatement. Rooms in Cannes itself were prohibitive, around €300 (about Rs16,000) a night or available only as a 15-day package. So we stayed at Cagnes-sur-Mer, about 20km away on the road towards Nice. We thought it would not be a hardship since it’s well connected by trains. But the week we were there, the train employees decided to go on strike. As a result, they operated a skeletal service, which was infrequent and unpredictable.
As a medieval village, Cagnes-sur-Mer would have been a world apart from Cannes.
It really was a world apart. No hustle and bustle. An old medieval city (Haute de Cagnes) perched on a hillock, a quaint fishing village (Cros-de-Cagnes) next to a pebbly beach, a village square, fruit markets and seafood restaurants. Its major claim to modern fame is a race track, Hippodrome de la Côte d’Azur.
We stayed at a little inn called Brasilia, tucked away in a residential lane behind the railway station. I did some early morning walks exploring the labyrinth of lanes in the old city, with its cluster of stone houses, flower boxes and ivy-covered walls. One afternoon, we also visited the house where Renoir lived during his final years because of his arthritis. Surrounded by olive trees, which also found their way into many of his later paintings, it is now a museum dedicated to him.
You also visited Grasse. Its status as the perfume capital of the world is almost mythical.
Grasse was a day trip on a friend’s recommendation. Since no cars were available for hire, I went by bus. It was an active trading village in the Middle Ages and, at an altitude of about 500m, it overlooks Cannes on the horizon 20km away. It is the gateway to the region known as Beyond, and reminded one of hill towns in India, only much neater and less crowded. Its old, colourful buildings were well preserved. While there, we visited its oldest and most famous perfume factory, Molinard. They make exclusive perfumes, which are retailed through select stores all over the world. Not only did we see what goes into making a perfume, but at a cost of €40, we also got to blend our own signature perfume, which turned out quite well and made the perfect gift for my wife. The formula is now stored with them and more can be ordered on the Internet.
Any memorable experiences on the food front?
I had two good meals and one really bad one. A grilled salmon at an open-air restaurant near the Chateau Grimaldi in Cagnes-sur-Mer and a delightful preparation of jumbo prawns at the Neptune restaurant on the beach at Cagnes were very enjoyable. The worst food was actually at our India party. The Majestic Hotel, whose beach we were using as the venue for our party, decided to try their hand at Indian cooking. CII had offered to fly down a Taj chef for the event but they would not allow it. I really don’t know what food it was, but it was not Indian.
Air France flies from New Delhi and Mumbai to Nice round-trip fares , excluding taxes, start from around Rs30,000
As told to Sumana Mukerjee. Share your last holiday with us at email@example.com