BY ARTI DAS | NT BUZZ
- Your film has been recently nominated for the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Awards 2015 in Film Not in the English Language category. How does it feel?
For me, my film getting this nomination is itself a big honour. I am in the illustrious group of well acclaimed filmmakers and ‘Lunchbox’ is my first feature film. When I go for this event, meeting all these filmmakers will be a ceremony for me.
- In the year 2013, ‘Lunchbox’ failed to get nominated in India’s official entry in the Oscars in the Foreign Film category. At that time, you also expressed your disappointment about it. And now you have BAFTA nomination. According to you, what is the importance of such nominations?
For me, it is necessary that we tell our Indian stories to the world. How do you think without global platforms like Oscars and BAFTA it is possible to showcase our movies to the world? The film and government bodies should support us. Our movies should tell our stories. I was 19 when I first went to America, but I didn’t feel out of place and I could relate to the lifestyle because I was aware about it through American movies. Even though ‘Lunchbox’ didn’t get an Oscar nomination, it went on to become the number one foreign language film in countries like US, UK, France. When we are speaking about cultural diplomacy, films do play a part. I wish we had more help at home.
- Your initial idea before making the film ‘Lunchbox’ was to make a film on Mumbai’s dabbawallahas. But then, the actual movie is a love story where dabbawallahas also play a major part. So, tell us more about your creative process.
Yes, the initial idea was to make a film on dabbawallhas and I did work on that. But when I was writing the story, the whole process became very personal for me. The main character of Saajan (played by Irrfan Khan) is like my grandfather. When I was writing my first draft, it became a feature film. That’s the surprising thing about fiction, that it becomes real at one point. Also the movie is about Bombay, and about the place I come from.
- ‘Lunchbox,’ which is short budget film with no mainstream actors, is considered as a parallel cinema. Thus, there were no takers for it. But with the help of a filmmaker Karan Johar, it reached the masses and was screened in various parts of the country. So, do you think such associations are required especially to promote such films?
For me, Karan (Johar) coming on board was a blessing. He is extremely generous. The problem in our country is that we don’t have much exhibition space. We have 7000 screens compared to 45,000 in USA and 19,000 in China. So, there is no room for small films. Bu, with Karan and UTV Movies coming in, we could exhibit in small towns also. After a week of its release, I met a friend who told me that the movie screening was houseful in Ajmer. It was very interesting to know that. Also in our country there are no curators for films. So, it becomes difficult to know about the films.
- You received much appreciation and accolades for your first film. So, do you feel pressurised while working on your next project?
This job of filmmaking is so hard that you have to do it yourself. You can’t do it for others. If ‘Lunchbox’ wouldn’t had been so successful, there would have been same pressures.
- What is filmmaking for you?
Filmmaking is too personal for me. It is the only thing I know to do. I studied Economics at under grad level. I always wanted to make films, but when you come from middle-class family, you may not get to do what you want to do. But when you believe strongly in something, it does work out. It is important to say something about the world you live in. Of course, it is also about the technique.
- Do you think there is dearth in original stories as mainstream cinemas nowadays consists of remakes and sequels?
Personally, I would not like to do biopic, sequel or remakes. But if someone is doing that, but in an interesting fashion, then there is no harm in that. For me, I like writing my own stories as while writing you tend to discover new things.
- Lastly, what do you have to say about Goa?
I have been to Goa before and it is such a lovely place. But most importantly, I love the fish-curry here as I travel only for food.