|Vidhu Vinod Chopra: Behind Mission Kashmir
|Mission Kashmir, a blockbuster film, with a great cast and whose all responsible for it? Read on...
Not many Indian directors can claim to have been nominated for an Oscar. Vidhu Vinod Chopra is one of very few. 'It all started when I was ten years old. My elder brother Ramanand Sagar used to make films in Kashmir. I was fascinated by him and the atmosphere at his shootings. I knew that this was what I wanted to do - make films.'
When he decided directing was going to be the way ahead, he needed all the help and encouragement he could get. His family's opposition to the idea created a hurdle and so Vidhu turned to his elder brother, Vir. The two brothers had always shared a mutually strong bond. They had played, studied and fought together all through school and college life. Looking up to Vir, emulating him and of course, demanding help and advice from him, came as a matter of right for younger brother Vinod. In times when the entire world seemed bent on dissuading Vinod, Vir gave the vital support. Luckily for Vinod, Vir got selected to the coveted Tata Administrative Service and secured a very good job. This took care of the basic financial needs of both the brothers.
After completing a Diploma in Film Direction at the Film & Television Institute of India, Vinod discovered his brilliance and how to make constructive use of it.
He began to make a film, entitled, 'An Encounter with Faces' it was flooded with awards and recognition. It had been awarded for the Academy Awards, and also won the Gold Medal at Leipzig and the Grand Prix in Finland.
Then came Khamosh, an early film of Vidhu Vinod Chopra who described it as the purest film he had ever made.
Following that, Parinda, a box office hit starring Anil Kapoor and Jackie Shroff, a film about relationships and the strain they are put under.
1942 A Love Story was next, set in the turbulent times of the Quit India Movement and starring Anil Kapoor and Manisha Koirila; this film became even bigger than Parinda, walking away with several Film fare and Screen Panasonic Awards.
Kareeb was his last film, a natural love story, of love lost and found, played out in the backdrop of the enchanting mountains of Himachal Pradesh.
Rarely has a director caused such a stir for the release of his new project, a controversially political film set in Kashmir.
Omar Ahmed met Vinod Chopra who was in London promoting his new film; Mission Kashmir.
Do you have any plans to make films for Hollywood, similar to what Shekhar Kapoor has done?
I have plans that will surprise Shekhar Kapoor!
You were nominated for an Oscar for a film you made once, were you a student when you made it?
That was my first professional film, and the fact that I was nominated for an Oscar has really bothered my friend who's making films there now. (Shekhar Kapoor)
It was a documentary I made purely for money, I was broke, and I had no money. A few weeks after I had made the film, I had a call and someone said, 'Hey you've been nominated for an Oscar' I laughed at him and said there must have been a misprint. Then I got a couple of more calls, and I saw the paper myself.
What could be the greatest award you could have today?
The love of my family and friends. I have been so busy for the past year, I dedicate this film to my children. To me, my family and my relationships come first, and if they're happy, I'm happy.
What do you think of the term Bollywood?
I feel it is a very demeaning word, the moment you say Bollywood, you mean Hollywood is number one and Bollywood is a cheap imitation. I react to it very strongly, it's very derogatory, and I don't like it all.
Did you experience any problems shooting in Kashmir?
Yes, We almost stopped the filming, when Kargil happened, Mission Kashmir was for three weeks postponed, we decided not to make the film. Also we wrote a lot of e-mails, some of the writers were out of the country, and the scenes went out in e-mail.
The film, Mission Kashmir, is it a film for the future, a film of hope?
It is the hope for the future, and a hope for the Kashmir people; it's a hell of a hope.
What made you choose Hrithik and Sanjay Dutt as the two main characters for Mission Kashmir?
Well when you write a script when you have an idea, faces keep coming to you when you write, but I'll tell you a story, which will convince you why Hrithik was cast.
I was shooting in Kashmir and Hrithik was dressed as his character and before I knew it some police came in and pushed him away with the rest of the crowd, and Hrithik was screaming, 'Sir Sir' and I said to him, 'What you doing there?' and he said 'These people don't believe I'm the actor' People didn't believe Hrithik was the actor, locals thought he looked like a typical Kashmiri.
You don't make many films, usually one every four to five years, what is your criteria for making a film?
For me, the most crucial thing is that the film I am making is the film I am going to live for three to four years. I am going to sleep with it, wake up with it, it's a matter of deciding to spend three to four years of my life with a particular topic, subject, people and characters. It's not just a movie, it's a chunk of my life, I would only make a film that would involve me emotionally, where I would look back at it and say yes I spent four years of my life doing this film.
How much of a true representation is Mission Kashmir?
Well, I think people from Kashmir will love it. This film has no lies, all the writers have worked very hard to get the truth, you may or may not like the film, but there are no lies, everything you see in the film is true, and I suspect people who are from Kashmir but haven't been there for a while will like it, firstly because they will firstly and foremost see Kashmir after many years and secondly as a Kashmiri it will touch people's hearts.
What particular scene in the film for you is the most emotional?
There's a scene with Sonali, and her little children, and they die very early on, when the dead kid is found and comes into the film, for me that moment is wonderful, because in that one moment, the dead to me are saying live the life.
Are you worried about some of the feedback you'll receive from Mission Kashmir?
When you don't say the lies, and when you are honest towards your work, the feedback is really of no weight, the feedback becomes critical when you are deceiving yourself. I don't care about the feedback, what I care about is if the film is perfect.
What was the thinking behind choosing London and New York for the world premiere for Mission Kashmir?
I think it's time we got out of our little den and moved on to the rest of the world, it's important to us to let the world hear and see our movies. The world is our audience, we have to move on.
Has the Indian market seen that the world is so into the Indian Film Industry?
That realisation is slowly coming through yes, some films don't qualify, because some films simply don't work, but they are aware yes.
What differences have you seen from Jackie Shroff, from Parinda to Mission Kashmir?
He's grown as an actor, in Parinda he was like a wild horse that needed control, and I really needed to control him, in the sense to direct him in the right direction, and he was full of energy, which was not channelled so I had to control him to an extent. He was like a little kid wanting to do everything. I think he's really grown, he knows what to do with his ears, and voice. I hope in ten years from now I can still direct him. It's wonderful to see how far he's come.
Do you have any thoughts on this? Feel free to send Omar an e-mail @ Omar Ahmed.