Excerpts from the interview:
Q. How was the experience of representing Indian cinema at Cannes?
A. The belief that I was representing Indian cinema is a misapprehension of huge proportions. I cannot dare to assume that that was what I was doing in Cannes. No. I was an insignificant part of The Great Gatsby, the film chosen by the Cannes International Film Festival for its opening. Warner Bros. invited me to join them at the French Riviera, so I went. I stayed just for the moment of the opening, which was magnificent, and left. The festival asked Leonardo DiCaprio and me to declare it open and which is what we did.
Q. How was the experience?
A. Being a part of the illustrious cast and crew of the film has been a most welcome experience for me. The respect and the dignity that they gave to me and indeed to the entire team was most endearing. Being in their company of course gave me opportunity to meet their own greats that were visiting Cannes, which was also something admirable. But by far the most important feel has been to be an Indian artist at an international event of such gigantic proportion, in the year when the (Indian film) industry celebrates its 100 years of existence.
Q. Did you meet any particularly interesting personalities from world cinema at Cannes?
A) Yes ... The premiere at New York had all the greats from Hollywood connected with the film there of course, but also some invited guests who have an astronomical presence in the world of cinema... Leonardo diCaprio, Toby Macguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher, whose husband is the very talented and very funny Sasha Baron Cohen, Jaz-Z and his wife Beyonce and the many that have made such valuable contribution.
Other than that Jennifer Lawrence. At Cannes, apart from so many luminaries present, there was Steven Spielberg, Ang Lee, Martin Scorsese and that wonderful actor from Django Unchained Christopher Waltz. The list shall never end, but what an honour and privilege to be breathing the same air as these icons.
Q. Apart from from your daughter-in-law Aishwarya, Vidya Balan too was at Cannes this time. How seriously does the world cinema treat Bollywood?
A. The Indian film industry has had a great presence almost every year at this prestigious event. But in its 66th avatar, Cannes has given it a special status and paid rich tribute to it, because of its completion of 100 years. This is a huge recognition of our worth and value. One can only look upon it with a sense of immense pride.
Q. You play a Jewish character in The Great Gatsby. Does that indicate a cultural glasnost in world cinema for Asian actors, in the sense that Indian actors don't have to play Indians?
A. I cannot be certain of a response to this question, but perhaps those that now make decisions in this regard, need to be spoken to, to get an adequate answer. Cinema, in my mind has always ridden much above caste, creed, colour and religion, and in that sense, can be looked upon, in this rapidly disintegrating world, to be a great integrator. There are not many institutions left in today's world that can boast of such occurrence.
Q. How was the red-carpet premiere on New York? Apparently, the roar that went up to greet you dimmed the response to the other actors on the red carpet with you?
A. The 'red carpet' in New York was actually black. But that apart, it was a most exhilarating evening. Yes there was a sizable Indian fan club at the venue, and their enthusiasm, as is the wont with most expatriates when they get a connect with their 'homeland', was passionate and loud! It would be wrong to say that our western counterparts received any less.
Q. Are you inclined to sign more films outside India?
A. I have no idea on this. If there are some that may be interested in me, I would certainly consider them.
Q. How much 'Bollywood' do you think the West is ready to accept?
A. All good cinema shall always find a respectable place anywhere in the world. I assume the Indian film industry would attract similar attention.