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    Default I am always taken in by the beauty of India: Rakeysh OmPrakash Mehra

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    Filmmaker Rakeysh OmPrakash Mehra talks about his favourite backdrop for movies and how the capital can become an international studio hub

    He's thinking of 10 things at a time. He's looking for a writer to write CK - Casual Kamasutra, an idea he wants to translate into a movie. He's been working every day for seven years on his other project, Raja And the Legend Of The Flute, which deals with India from 1898-1920, and also looks back 5,000 years. "It's about Krishna in the current day - I want to see if I can adapt it to today's times," he says. Then there's Mirza Sahiba - most probably his next project, Gulzar is writing it, and he's currently doing the shooting draft. Then he puts on the producer's hat for an Oscar-winning Belgian movie's adaptation. And he's been working 12 hours a day the biopic Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, based on the life of the Flying Sikh, Milkha Singh. But making this movie, says the dreamy and always-looking-for-poetic-similes Rakeysh, made him fall in love with Delhi all over again...

    Delhi great to shoot modern India as well as period flicks
    We shot for two-and-a-half months in Delhi. It is still, in simple words, a very beautiful place. The beauty about Delhi is that it's, like you know, you throw a stone and you're in Rajasthan, or the Himalayas or in the forests of MP, and it is very well located - now there is the NCR region too - so there are many pockets of quaintness. If you look hard, you'll find places that're still untouched by time. For example, in Rewari, we recreated the refugee colony in the Shahadra Pushta of old. Milkha grew up there, stayed there when he was 11 and came to Delhi for the first time. In Tughlaqabad Fort, we created a refugee camp that had actually been in Purana Qila way back then. Now, Purana Qila is all modernised, but Tughlaqabad is exactly the way it was - in ruins. Then we found a wonderful location in the Cantonment area, in the Rajasthan Rifles regiment. Milkha was in the

    Army, and we recreated those days there.
    And the authorities really helped us. The Army was very helpful - they had this due diligence, and once the permission was given, everything was in place for us. Actually, you can apply online for permission to shoot in the cantonment! The Indian Railways was very helpful too - they helped us out with old steam engines dating back to the early part of the century. We found a beautiful station from British times near the Sultanpur Bird sanctuary - the old British colonial structure was still intact, because the railway line ends there, so no one goes there - and shot for three days there.

    We hunted for locations for almost 16 months for this film, and all these places we've found are really in and around Delhi. This is what hits you when you land in Delhi - there is much more to this place than flyovers and buildings. If you want to bring realism into the movies, you have to find real locations, real cast, wardrobe. When Gandhi was made, they found all those 'authentic' locations here. I was a kid then, but I remember peeking into a shoot when they were shooting on Tees January Marg at Gandhi Smriti, which used to be Birla House earlier. They were picturizing the shooting of Gandhi, I remember, and because I stayed very close by, at Aurangzeb Road - I grew up in Claridges Hotel, and would go study in Gandhi Smriti. Delhi's a lovely location to shoot modern India as well as period flicks. You can go as long back as you want - not Delhi Delhi in the architectural sense, but this thinking, this culture, this air...

    Delhi ideal for state-of-the-art studios, like in Hollywood
    Delhi can actually develop as an alternative filmmaking hub. I did meet the (now former) I&B minister, and I shared the same sentiment with her. But for me to take it forward, it would mean a lot - I left Delhi 20 years ago. For me to start something, it would mean having to come back, which I am absolutely willing to do, but there needs to be an environment that is conducive. There needs to be local support from Delhiites, the business community, from the government...

    I think we should have studio lots here. There is land in Delhi for that; vast, huge spaces in Delhi and the NCR. You could do world-class studio lots like they have in Hollywood. Delhi is connected to the whole of India, to the rest of the world. It has an international level airport... The minister was very receptive to the idea. I didn't follow it up, I'm a lazy guy, but yes, it can be done. There is a thought process, and I've been called by the ministry to share whatever little wisdom I have on this with them, from a filmmaker's perspective, many times. But the need of the hour is to open a single window format. When a filmmaker comes from anywhere in the world, he goes there and gets everything he wants. We get a lot of rebates all over the world - Fiji, Austria, Switzerland, Canada, but I don't know when I will get a story to go abroad and shoot. I am always taken in by the beauty of India and for the next couple of scripts too, India is sufficient.

    Our movie business is all rhetoric; there's no systematic approach
    Our focus in moviemaking - and it's like anything else we do, not just the movies - is very local. It's the kind of people we are, we don't think globally or about the global market. You live in a... I won't even say a pond, but in a well. And a tadpole in a well thinks he is a shark. We still haven't even taken those first steps to - I won't say conquering the world market, that would be a huge statement to make - but even from a 2% share to take it to 5 and in 10 years to take it to 10 - there is no systematic approach there, we're happy with the rhetoric. We're happy serving to our own local audience and at best satisfying the palate of the South Asian diaspora, that too the first and the second generation. We've done enough emotional blackmail of karwa chauth and Holi with them, the third generation is completely blank about these things and you can't blackmail them. So for them, the quality of your work, your vision has to really rise. For that, there needs to be a recognition of the writers, young writers. We need to tell our children it is okay to write, that it is not necessary to get 99.5% and get into a competitive race. That it's okay to play music, to dance. Had Shakespeare's parents told him not to write, what would have happened?

    My endeavour is not to see Delhi-UP se kitna share aaya
    Movies are a modern form of art and cultural exchange. In that, true globalization happens by the blurring of international boundaries and through economics, essentially. So first, we need to decide whether we want to globalize or we're happy this way. The artiste in me is not happy with the second idea. I want my work to go all over the world. My endeavour is not to see Delhi-UP se kitna share aaya. People should see my cinema - not the American idea or European idea made in India - but Indian cinema, made the Indian way, and then build a bridge and show it to people all over the world.

    What commercial success are we talking about? I'm the director of this film and direction is always... you know, tedhi ghodi pe chadhne wala sawaal hota hai, woh tumhe gira bhi sakti hai. And if you're talking true commerce, that comes with something like the success of the Pirates Of The Carribean franchise or Avatar - a billion-dollar business. So why aren't Indians making it? You know English; is there a problem with making an English flick out of India? Okay, make a Hindi film with good subtitling and dubbing, for the world. Any commercial viability question starts there for me. It's not just the domestic market.

    I am trying, I learn, and maybe I am not able to deliver it in my lifetime, but standing on my body someone will go aage and do something. Everyone said lip-synching nahi hoga toh it's hara-kiri. But with the music album figures of Delhi-6... we recovered two-and-a-half times the budget of the movie just through the music. The download of just one song, Masakalli, was `16.5 crore. Again, there is no hard and fast rule - lip-sync or no lip-sync. But otherwise, I don't see a school teacher or a streetwalker, a gangster or a police officer start to sing at the drop of a hat. Seriously, I have a daughter who's 13 and if a boy chases her singing songs, she'll turn around and slap him! There is tremendous change happening in society, and youngsters are growing smarter by the minute. For me, any movie that does not take this into consideration, is a period movie.

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    Thanks for sharing
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