Keeping the fire alive - The New Indian Express

Keeping the fire alive

Published: 11th December 2012 11:02 AM

Last Updated: 11th December 2012 11:08 AM

Deepa Mehta became a familiar name to the film buffs in Kerala fifteen years back. The delegates had literally gatecrashed into the main venue of Kairali theatre where her second feature film ‘Fire’ was being screened as part of the International Film Festival of India 1997. Though the film was in the news for the wrong reasons, her fame as a director grew day by day as did her association with Kerala and Thiruvananthapuram.

Her last film in the trilogy, ‘Water’, was premiered at IFFK 2005. The Toronto-based director is excited as her latest film, ‘Midnight’s Children’, is having its Asian premiere at this year’s IFFK. “I’m thrilled. It’s a great feeling to have the premiere here in the city. The festival treats films in a serious manner unlike the north Indian ‘tamasha’. The audience is great and known for the love of cinema,” she told Express hours before the premiere. She termed IFFK as ‘an apolitical film festival’.

The film ‘Midnight’s Children’, based on the novel of the same name by Salman Rushdie, looks at India through the eyes of Salim Sinai who was born on the same moment as the country attained freedom. “Definitely, there are some changes as the film would have been running well into ten hours if it was filmed as such,” she said in a lighter vein.

The film was shot mainly in Sri Lanka and according to her there was nothing controversial about shooting a film there and it was more a matter of convenience. “India has changed a lot and Mumbai is not what it was half-a-century back. Sri Lanka gave us the feel of locations required for a period film based in India. However, we had shot some portions in India including Mumbai, Agra and even Kashmir,“ she said.

The director had to shift her unit to Sri Lanka from Varanasi some years back after  fundamentalist groups threatened her while filming ‘Water’ which told the story of an eight-year-old child widow. “I’m not for controversies. The political conditions of the period results in controversies. Remember, though ‘Fire and Water’ stirred up controversies both were released in India without a single cut from the Censor Board. There is nothing controversial with ‘Midnight’s Children’, which had won the writer Booker of Bookers. Rushdie calls the work his love letter to India,” she clarifies.

As the wide canvas of the plot needed a lot of background work it took five months to complete the shoot. “It needed lot of planning as it tells the history of the country,” she said. I am not bothered about the size and budget of the film. I can make small budget films if the subject demands it.”

When asked about the association with A R Rahman who scored music for many of her films, the answer was quick, “because he is a genius”.

Though she is happy with the crowd at IFFK and Kerala as a state, none of her films has had an actor from the state. “My casting is purely as per the demand of the character. Thus I have a Satya Bhabha to Sidharth Narayan and Shriya Saran in this film. I doesn’t matter whether the actor is a Malayali or Tamilian or Andhrite,” she states.

Along with the release of ‘Midnight’s Children’ this year the director will start filming ‘Master Piece’ in France. The movie is  based on the life of renowned French artist Henri Matisse.

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