Something had to go wrong. And predictably so, the MAMI film festival organisers forgot to mention in their booklet that director Oliver Stone’s re-cut version of his film Alexander (2004) — Alexander Revisited — was to be screened on Wednesday.
But Stone, who is in the city to accept the award for Lifetime Achievement from the 12th Mumbai Film Festival organised by the Mumbai Academy of Moving Images, remains nonchalant about the goof-up. He jokes around, as the director of the festival Srinivasan Narayan announces the time of the screening. “And please do come to watch,” says Stone into the microphone, smiling.
He says he doesn’t have all the answers. After being misunderstood for his statements for so many years, being controversial is a very unattractive proposition for the 64-year-old director today.
“It’s depressing to be categorised all the time for being me,” says the auteur. The expectation to deliver a certain “type of cinema” is not something he likes to abide by. “That’s not my nature. I am a dramatist. I make interesting movies about people, and I do not try to change the world every time I make a film. Nobody can. It’s an expectation that can defeat an artiste and make one feel like they can never deliver enough,” he says, recollecting a piece of not-so-pleasant feedback he received about his latest film, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.
Someone felt “the film looked dated.” “Ah c’mon! The point of a movie is not to give news, but to tell a story. People confuse that. It feels dated because perhaps you got tired of those events, but that does not mean the events are any less significant,” explains Stone, before adding, “As long as you’ve created good characters and interesting people, you’ve done your job as a filmmaker. I have always been guided by my own star, my own compass; I haven’t cut my fashion to any person’s taste. I read, I research and I feel strongly. I have never done a film where I have sold out.”
Though the director doesn’t disclose the topic of his next film, Internet sources reveal that he may be revisiting the Vietnam War again. Elaborating on what it was like to put together 110 years of American history into a 12-hour documentary called The Untold History of the United States, he says, “To find a pattern in 110 years of history is tough, but the real challenge lies in the trial of popularising the story in a visual form.”
After having made three films on important American presidents — JFK (1991), Nixon (1995) and W (2008) — the question of whether Barack Obama is in line next is only justified. He doesn’t feel so. “I am not chasing presidents,” says Stone, before giving the current US President credit for holding office well. “He’s managing brilliantly in a time when everything is so volatile. The world is economically very difficult. The reason is a systematic problem; a systematic greed that fed into itself, as the central banking system deviated from its original purpose. It’s a very serious heart attack that occurred and the US economy, being a patient, is still recovering.”
He shows no qualms in saying that he doesn’t have an opinion on Hindi and Indian cinema, but he does say, “Bollywood makes films in a very different and interesting way, and I think it should continue to keep doing so.”