Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Interview with Sudhir Mishra

The Dark dazzler

Sudhir Mishra talks to Sandhya Iyer on his shelved film Ek Aur Devdas, and why our top heroes prefer roles that are either black or white

After Shyam Benegal last month, it will be Sudhir Mishra on UTV Movies this time, adding to the channels list of 50 movies to see before you die. The four movie he has chosen, namely Three Color White, The Man Without Past, The General and 3 Brothers will be aired every Saturday all of February. The filmmaker spoke to us about his choice of films, his up coming projects and what the future holds for Indian cinema

So when you choose films - do you select films that have influenced you personally or ones that you view as ‘important’? And this aspect extends to your role as a jury member at several award functions also…

Well, the awards are a different ball game. You’re not the only one taking a decision. For example, when I was the chairman for the National Awards, I wanted Shah Rukh Khan to get the award for Swades that year. But the others said ‘no’ and I went with that. So this is really a collective thing. But yes, when I choose my favourites, I tend to select films that have ‘affected’ me as a human being and has changed my life in some way. Of course, one has to acknowledge merits even in films that one doesn’t personally like.

If you were to name a few Indian films that one has to see before one dies, which ones would they be?
Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron, Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam, Apu trilogy, Jalsa Ghar, Mughal-e-Azam, Pushpak. Among the recent filmmakers, I’m very impressed with Anurag Kashyap. I also saw Luck By Chance the other day and thought it was wonderful.

You haven’t worked with any top star in a while

I have nothing against stars but they shouldn’t be used as a gimmick. They’re films can easily turn into ‘events’ and unfortunately, that’s what our audiences want. No one wants to invest anything in the film as a viewer.
Having said that, if stars are rightly cast, they can help widen the appeal of a film and its boxoffice potential. Then, why not? I think somewhere the problem lies with my subjects. Most of my themes lack precedence, so the stars can’t find reference to it. Moreover, my lead characters make mistakes, carry regrets and don’t necessarily end up as the ‘hero’ of the film. Our top stars like to play ‘direct’ people – either it has to be an uncomplicated hero or then an out and out negative role like Iago (Othello). They don’t like complications.

I know you decide your actors after you write your script. But have you ever thought of writing a script particularly for any star?

Aamir is very inspiring for me. His personal methodology, versatility… is something I admire. Let’s see if something comes my way and he fits in. In fact my next film, which will be a political thriller needs a charismatic actor, someone who can create mass hysteria. But at this stage, I don’t know if big stars can be feasible for the film.

One thought you were doing Ek Aur Devdas with Shiney Ahuja and Chitrangada?
Anurag Kashyap has already made a very good film with Dev D, so what’s the point of making one more. The political thriller that I’m making now has some shades of Devdas in terms of a man trying to conquer his own demons. Alcoholism is just an external metaphor after all. I’m rewriting Ek Aur Devdas for this.

Will Shiney be in the film?
I can only say after the script is complete. But I am doing another film with Chitrangada called Who’s Speaking.

You’ve been a mentor to Shiney. Does it concern you that his career is in the doldrums?
I will be working with Shiney when there is a part for him. See, your children choose their own paths once they grow up. I’ve offered Shiney advise but then he has other advisors too to tell him about commercial aspects and so on, which I may not understand that well.

You were among the first to stand up in support of Slumdog Millionaire. What do you make of the criticism it is facing from different quarters?

I personally loved the film. The way it is shot, the values it shows. It takes the structure of a Hindi film and does something else with it. The film has lots of qualities. When they show the boy emerging from a pile of shit, the allusion really is to a boy from the slums ‘going through shit’ in life to find nirvan. At the same time, I don’t mind people criticising it. But I should say that an Indian filmmaker would have been treated far more harshly if they had of theatres in the second week of its release and not one person from the industry stood up for me. They watched me getting demolished and terrorised.

Some of the anger is also directed at the Oscars and other such international awards, who haven’t acknowledged Indian cinema enough…

This happens because we tend to be overly obsessed about their honors, while they are never looking at us for any kind of endorsement. But more seriously, we need to understand that Indian cinema is not about Bombay alone. Many of our good regional films don’t even get sent to the Oscars. If we had sent Satyajit Ray’s films then, we’d have at least three Oscars by now.
There’s another point to this. We are not one industry, but four film industries – Mumbai, Kerala, Bengal and South – all make a large number of films and we must fight for more representation at the Oscars. Through international film bodies and forums, we must emphasise how we’re like Europe. It’s up to our youngsters to start a campaign on this.

So what’s next?
There’s Tera Kya Hoga Johnney, about a coffee-wala and his aspirations in a big city. And then there another film I’m producing called Sikandar.