Has the parallel and mainstream cinema divide of 1970s become the multiplex and single screen mass movie divide of 2010?
Multiplexes cater to both commercial and art-house movies today. And this equality, I believe, could well, mean the end of the small movie.
Well, you might pay Rs 250 for a big-ticket movie like My Name Is Khan, but would you pay the same amount for The Japanese Wife? It’s unfortunate that we have no graffiti culture in India, no gay or lesbian art, no world cinema. Unless we have a dedicated single screen theatre like the erstwhile Akashvani or like an Angelika in New York with scaled-down tickets, we won’t have art-house cinema either. Ours is one of the most conformist countries in the world.
And as a non-conformist do you fit in?
In a way, I’m a conformist too, even though 90 per cent of my taste in books, movies and music is art-house. I’m happy to be known as an art-house cinema actor even though I’ve done a Pyaar Ke Side Effects and a Maan Gaye Mughal-e-Azam.
These films didn’t happen by chance.
It’s important for me that my films raise the question: What comes next? I’d hate my audience to be able to correctly predict the next scene. The Japanese Wife has been in the making for a long time...(Cuts in) It’s been in editing for a long time. Once Aparna (director Aparna Sen) accepted it as delicate world cinema, the old rules went out of the window. And she was compelled tore-cut it. Today, it’s a far more beautiful film.
But will it stand out in a crowd of releases during the on-going IPL season?
This is the best time for the film to release. After IPL, we’d have been wiped out. (Laughs) Mr & Mrs Iyer got off to a slow start, only 11 per cent in the first week. It climbed to 65 per cent by the second. Today, an Aparna Sen film has a niche audience that are not likely to be drawn away by cricket or a Prince— It’s Showtime. With strong word-of-mouth publicity, we could sail through round one. But if they want a bigger second run, then they’d have to release a dubbed Hindi version to extend its reach.
What did Konkona Sen Sharma (Aparna’s daughter) think of you in the film?
When she heard that Aparna wanted to cast me, she told her mother that though she liked me very much as an actor, I’d never be able to pull off this character because he was so alien to me. But she loved the film and complimented me on my performance.