Director Roger Spottiswoode is currently in the city as part of the jury of the international section of films being screened at the on-going Mumbai Film Festival organised by the Mumbai Academy of Moving Images (MAMI).
But this isn’t his first trip to India. The filmmaker visited the country two years ago, when he was working on a film about India’s best-known mathematician, Srinivasa Ramanujan.
Unfortunately, all plans for that film are now on hold. "I hope I will do it soon. For now, there’s no money. We were just starting and we had hired Siddharth (of Rang De Basanti fame). We were just going into preproduction when we were told that the funds had fallen through," says Spottiswoode, who came across the story through a friend’s play 12 years ago. "I suggested he write the screenplay and it won a prize at Tribeca. A financier and co-director on a documentary I was making told me her brother was setting up funds for a film that was about India, but would have a wider audience. For a while, it seemed like it would get done, but the money didn’t appear. Now, we’re going through the process of finding funds again; the script is terribly good."
Insisting that the movie isn’t a biopic, he adds, “This film is just about his time in the University of Cambridge and his friendship with an English mathematician. Back then, when Ramanujan was unheard of, three people received his notes. Two of them just said ‘this guy’s crazy’, and the third one said ‘he’s either crazy or a genius beyond all of us’. He invited him to Cambridge. And within two days of his arrival, they all knew he was better than they were.”
Though Spottiswoode hasn’t been exposed to a lot of Indian cinema, he did meet director Kiran Rao in London and happened to watch her film. He smiles when asked what his views on Dhobi Ghat were. “I thought it was quite good… well, it was a little beyond me, but it was a very good first film,” he says, adding that he liked Udaan.
In 1997, Spottiswoode directed the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies. Bring up that title and he bursts out laughing. “Bond films are terrific because they finance you, while you make films that will never make money. They’re fun to make, but they’re all similar,” he says, smiling.