Do you know which Indian star caught Steven Spielberg’s eye on the red carpet? Aishwarya Rai? Sonam Kapoor? Nawazuddin Siddiqui? Wrong answers. Let me enlighten you. Keeping Spielberg in mind though, let me build up the suspense.
Every year, come Cannes, we are greeted by news of how our Indian stars have been the cynosure of eyes on the red carpet. From Aishwarya Rai to Mallika Sherawat (who was strangely missing in action this year) to other lesser-known stars, we are told of their outfits, lip colours, designer wardrobe, arm candy (if you could call Viveik Oberoi that when he accompanied Rai to Cannes in the pre-Bachchan era). Usually we are informed of everything, other than their movies. But then Cannes isn’t as much about cinema as it is about the fashionable people of cinema. And India is always represented well—but not as stunningly as this time around.
On Friday, I discovered that in all the hoopla around Aishwarya Rai’s lip colour, we seemed to have missed out on the one Indian celebrity who caught the eye of no less than Stephen Spielberg on the red carpet. No, this is not one of our Indie stars, or Nawazuddin Siddiqui, or Sonam Kapoor or Bhabhiji Ghar Par Hai actress Saumya Tandon (who wore “ethnics", we were told) or Balika Vadhu’s Avika Gor who “turned heads" on the red carpet (which sounds scarily Exorcist-esque).
Thanks to a press release which was mailed out on Friday, from Pigeon Media–The PR Company, no less, it seems, “Sandeep Soparrkar swayed in wearing a Deepak Shah designed black and grey tuxedo matched with a red bow tie to see Steven Spielberg film ‘The BFG’ which was being premiered at the Grand Theatre Lumiere. We overheard the Oscar winning director Spielberg look at Sandip post his red carpet walk and say ‘Indian Dancer’. Sandip graciously wished the director and looked completely thrilled by being recognised by the world-renowned filmmaker."
The clincher of this very-creatively written paragraph is that Spielberg, in the middle of fobbing off questions on Roald Dahl’s anti-Semitism and revived claims of sex abuse by Woody Allen’s daughter, not only spotted and identified Soparrkar, but audibly said “Indian dancer". The way one would say “ballet dancer" when you spot Mikhail Baryshnikov, I suppose.
The press release also shared images of Soparrkar while he “swayed" in. The unedited copy of the email is given below (yes, I know, Pigeon Media – The PR Company will not be sending press releases my way ever again, but this is a sacrifice I am willing to make for the greater public good).
“Steven Spielberg calls Sandip Soparrkar “Indian Dancer" on the red carpet of Cannes film festival.
The most talked about Cannes film festival began with an aplomb on 11th May in the French Riviera. Many popular films are being premiered at the ongoing 69th Cannes film festival and a lot of world famous faces are making their presence felt on the red carpet.
Celebrated Indian dancer-choreographer Sandip Soparrkar who is at Cannes representing the Indian dance and Bollywood industry too made his red carpet appearance on Saturday 14th May.
Soparrkar swayed in wearing a Deepak Shah designed black and grey tuxedo matched with a red bow tie to see Steven Spielberg film “The BFG" which was being premiered at the Grand Theatre Lumiere. We overheard the oscar winning director Spielberg look at Sandip post his red carpet walk and say “Indian Dancer". Sandip graciously wished the director and looked completely thrilled by being recognised by the world-renowned filmmaker.
Being spotted on the red carpet and being recognised for one’s work are two different things, it is sure a moment of pride for the graceful dancer as well as for the Indian dance scene for being acknowledged by world renowned person like Steven Spielberg."
The press release was accompanied by three pictures in which Spielberg seems to have been so moved by spotting Soparrkar and inspired by Soparrkar’s designer outfit, that he went and changed his outfit three times. As is expected from a director promoting his film at Cannes.
No one has of course checked with Spielberg whether he did say this, but I don’t want to rain on Soparrkar’s red carpet parade.
Of course Soparrkar is not the first person to enlist a PR company to highlight his successes—such as catching Spielberg’s eye. Last year, I received a press release from Shamrock PR which handles no ordinary star, but Shakti Kapoor himself. The subject line of the press release was: Shakti Kapoor mobbed by girls in a mall in Delhi. There were pictures of Kapoor in the process of being mobbed—he standing with his arms around a bevy of smiling women who are posing with him.
This kind of announcement is par for the course when you’re not handling mega-celebrities like Aishwarya Rai or Sonam Kapoor and so on.
My only humble suggestion to these PR agencies is that while spinning a story, let’s at least try and err on the side of plausibility. It’s as difficult to believe that Shakti Kapoor was mobbed, as it is that Spielberg walking into the launch of his latest film, was distracted by Soparrkar enough to identify him as “Indian dancer". What is sad though, in all seriousness, is that Soparrkar who is quite a known name in Bollywood has had to resort to this rather sad attempt at publicity.
Not that I’m complaining, because it did liven up a particularly boring set of reports on Rai’s choice of lip colour among other news from Cannes. And, of course, if it wasn’t for this press release, we would have never heard the names Steven Spielberg and Sandeep Sopparkar in the same sentence. A definite win-win. Next year, I’m expecting a press release from Cannes on how Alejandro González Iñárritu spotted Tusshar Kapoor and said “thespian" sotto voce. After all, anything is possible in the world of Bollywood and celebrity PR.