Reel Talk

Oscar nominee, NRI filmmaker, screen legend and foreign talent discuss Bollywood and more

1/2/2018 7:26:01 PM
written By : Nithya Subramanian Print

The recently concluded 28th Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) celebrated and inspired independent cinema. With more than 14,000 festival goers from Singapore and across the region  drawn to its film screenings, panel discussions, talks and masterclasses, this event was a treat to cine lovers. 

India Se Media had the opportunity to meet and interview not just stalwarts of the business like Oscar-nominated director Shekhar Kapur and veteran actress Waheeda Rehma as well as new directors like Anup Singh and Japan’s Atsuko Hirayanagi. These interviewees gave us a ringside view of the industry while also taking up issues such as nepotism and Harvey Weinstein.

Shekhar Kapur – The rebel who knew Harvey Weinstein

India Se: How was your experience at the SGIFF?

Shekhar Kapur: I thought it was amazing, given the fact that Singapore is not a big market, but the SGIFF is getting bigger and attracting a lot of attention. Every festival is competing with each other, but being the chairman of the jury, I watched all, I was surprised by the quality of the films – two things surprised me, A) Though there were so many Asian films – Thai, Korean, Israeli and Iranian – they were culturally so different and so good. B) The films were by first-time directors, so I felt that Asian cinema is in a really good place.

India Se: What do you think of Asia as a film market?

Shekhar Kapur: The Asian film market is bigger than the West – if you take India and China into account. Given the size, I assume that Hollywood too will start making films for this market. The international market is 70 per cent of the total market, so Hollywood is just 30 per cent.

India Se: But big studios did not do well in India?

Shekhar Kapur: That’s because they do not understand the market. They need to understand the culture there. Asia is different, it is in flux,  we are growing economies, all the structures are changing, therefore the stories that are coming out are very real. They are about change, whereas the western civilisation is plateauing, so they do not have as many stories to tell as we have in Asia.

The Indian movie industry is changing. Dangal has made $300 million worldwide, it has made more money outside India than it did in India. And as filmmakers respond to the fact that their films are accepted internationally, the films will change and new filmmakers will come up. But it is true that every studio that has come to India has tried to capture the Indian market not realising that the Indian market wants to go global. There is a conflict that they don’t quite understand.

India Se: You were technically an outsider to Bollywood, though Chetan Anand and Dev Anand were your uncles, your father wanted no association with it. What is your view on nepotism?

Shekhar Kapur: I have technically rebelled against everything in life. I am a natural born rebel. I was never an insider in Hollywood, European cinema or Bollywood… but that’s just me. But if you see Hollywood, it’s as nepotistic as any other industry.

India Se: What do you have to say about this whole Weinstein issue?

Shekhar Kapur: It’s a serious issue, it has to be addressed. I have worked with Harvey Weinstein, I know what happens, it’s no secret. People who surround him, his company, all of Hollywood would snigger and laugh “Ah oh Harvey’s up to it again.” But that’s in the West. In India it’s a little different because women are seen as property and that has to change… actresses are objectified. As long as women are objectified in films, the only reason for them to be there is to look sexy. The women themselves in films have to say ‘NO, that’s not what we are here for.  We are not here to show our bodies, we are here to do serious work.’ Harvey Weinstein would never have hit on Cate Blanchett because he knows that she cannot be objectified. So in Hollywood too, being a bad boy is like a badge of honour. It has to stop.

India Se: Coming to your own work, you’ve had some very strong women characters. Were you influenced by strong women in your life?

Shekhar Kapur: I think so. I find strong women more interesting than strong men. Strong men (as a genre) can fist their way out, but not strong women. They have to do much more than men, to come out on the top and win. Therefore, you get to examine a lot more about human nature.

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