Following the success of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws in 1975, hundreds of voracious nibblers swam into the screen three years later in Joe Dante’s Piranha. In ’81, a sequel, Piranha II, came along to mark the directorial debut of James Cameron, along with a made-for-television redo.
On October 29, Piranha 3D, a remake of the ’78 disaster movie, comes to India with 250 prints in English and Hindi. The ensemble cast features Elisabeth Shue, Jessica Szohr, Ving Rhames and Richard Dreyfuss among others and is helmed by Alexandre Aja. Promising the ultimate ride, the director of extreme horror offerings such as High Tension and The Hills Have Eyes and Mirrors admits that after Jaws, he wondered if he could create a movie that could traumatise another generation.
"I faced a tricky balance when it came to designing the film’s prehistoric Piranha FX," he reminisces. "Delving into research material concerning deep sea fish, I juggled between depicting the piranha realistically and going completely radical with their features. Eventually, I decided against the latter because everyone knows the piranha and if I changed them, they’d turn into just another type of monster."
How big a pressure was it knowing he’d be compared to James Cameron? "There were no comparisons; except for the plot, our films are very different," retorts Aja. "He has not seen the film yet but I’ve read somewhere that he’s not happy with it. He thinks it cheapens the medium and reminds him of the bad 3D horror films from the ’70s and ’80s."
The film was shot in 2D, then, converted into 3D. Was the move prompted by Avatar’s super success? "A movie is not just something you watch but something you experience. You need to be sucked underwater with all the fish. But my movie is the opposite of Avatar in terms of 3D because everything here is flying out of the screen at you. It’s Spring Break under attack by prehistoric piranha and we could go for an over-the-top 3D experience" Aja argues.
He’s not disheartened by the negative vibes from Cameron. Buoyed up by the US and UK box-office collections, he expects the film to do well in India too. “It’s got naked girls, crazy fish, great actors, a fun story line, and 3D. It’s the Jaws of our time, and more fun,” Aja asserts, adding that he’d love to come to India, may be even share the same stage with Cameron and our Bollywood A-listers to take cinema beyond the boundaries of region.
He has remade The Hills Have Eyes and Mirrors earlier and was first introduced to the Piranha script written by Pete Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg. He had to refuse then because he had other film commitments. “I was re-introduced to the property years later and this time I wanted to go back to Spring Break to increase the fear, gore and action pieces,” says the filmmaker, who doesn’t believe in ghosts but believes in the supernatural phenomenon and loves the 1931 Frankenstein horror series.
Aja’s The Contractor and The Gospel According To Jimmy will hit the screens next year. He’s also working on the script of Cobra: The Space Pirate. “I grew up dreaming about Cobra,” he admits. “There are 60 books, many TV animation series, adventures, pirates and bad guys that can be reinvented into a really cool space opera adventure franchise for a new generation. But it will take two-three years.”