British producer-politician Lord David Terence Puttnam, who won an Oscar for Chariots Of Fire (1981), was in Mumbai last Friday for a session with the students of Whistling Woods International. And of the recent movies he has seen, the producer admits he was impressed by Karan Johar’s My Name Is Khan (2010). “It was a charming film, if a little naïve and too long.
It had an important message and Shah Rukh Khan was fantastic, striking a sympathetic chord,” says the 71-year-old producer. “Indian filmmakers should learn to trim the length of their movies and be more clued into what’s happening in the west to have a real chance at the Academy Awards.”
Describing this year’s Best Picture, The Artist (2011), as “charming, imaginative, emotional and original”, he doesn’t believe another silent, black-and-white movie would be as successful, pointing out that the novelty factor that worked for the French film would be gone the next time.
Admitting that he didn’t expect to win an Oscar for Chariots Of Fire, the producer adds he was “stunned”. The film is about two athletes in the 1924 Olympics — Eric Liddell, a Scottish Christian, who runs for God, and Harold Abrahams, an English Jew who runs to overcome prejudice. He recalls the widow of one telling them they’d gone wrong with the way her husband ran.
Ask him which film defined him as a filmmaker, and he says it was Local Hero (1983), a comedy-drama that bagged Bill Forsyth the BAFTA for Best Director: “It came at a good point in my life and gave me a chance to go into avenues I hadn’t explored before.”
Ask him about a dream never realised and he says it was a film on Vikram Seth’s novel, A Suitable Boy. “I tried for four years to raise money but couldn’t,” he sighs.
And what’s he taking home from India? “Just memories of my visit to Whistling Woods. My wife, who has accompanied me on my many visits here, has strictly told me not to bring along anything else,” he laughs.
About David Puttnam:
He is a British film producer.
His successes include Bugsy Malone (1976), Midnight Express (1978), Local Hero (1983) and Memphis Belle (1990).
His film Chariots of Fire (1981) won the Academy Award for Best Picture.
In 1982, he received the BAFTA Michael Balcon Award for outstanding contribution to the British Film Industry.