British director John Madden seemed tired but happy when this writer met him soon after his movie, Miss Sloane, unrolled the ongoing 13th Dubai International Film Festival on Wednesday. Fatigued after a long plane journey, a series of media interviews and the excitement of seeing his movie opening to a Red Carpet reception here, but really joyous after a great screening, the auteur appears genial, his great sense of humour in tact.
Madden is best known in India for two of his films -- The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel -- both set in Rajasthan and starring actors like the Slumdog Millionaire and The Man Who Knew Infinity Dev Patel and Judi Dench (whose role as M in the Bond series is unforgettable). But she has also played Queen Elizabeth in Madden’s Shakespeare in Love -- a fictional romantic affair between a woman (Gwyneth Paltrow) and the Bard of Avon (Joseph Fiennes) when he was writing Romeo and Juliet.
Madden’s other memorable movie was the 2001 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin -- which had two great actors, Nicolas Cage and Penelope Cruz, as lovers during the Italian occupation of a picturesque Greek island during World War II. Here was an army captain, whose passion was music, not war, and, believe it or not, he was commanding a regiment of soldiers that had never been in a battle.
Madden’s latest outing, Miss Sloane, is far removed from the romanticism of Shakespeare in Love and the musical disposition of Captain Corelli. The Jessica Chastain-starrer, Miss Sloane, is a ruthless look at the American gun culture -- nothing to do with love or affection. Sex here is purely a physical need, and the film does not even remotely mirror the emotional upheavals one saw in the Marigold editions.
Quizzed whether he was planning a third work in the Marigold franchise, he says, “no, not immediately”. What about something else set in India? “Admittedly, I feel very, very connected to that country. You will be surprised to hear this. There is a lot of pressure to do another Marigold.
“India is an extraordinary country, and the first Marigold movie took me there. I put into it a lot of sentiments I felt about India. The film is also about people colliding with Indian culture for the first time. The energy of that place really startled me. I enjoyed doing both the Marigold movies. I love that contradictory nature of the culture.
“Interestingly, India has been on my mind for a long time. I had promised my wife that I would take her there for her birthday. But the film got there first.”
Switching over his Dubai opener, he avers that having lived in America for a long time, he was quite familiar with its politics. The gun is such an integral part of it, and “I have always wondered why the problem of gun culture is so evasive, why it refuses to go away”.
With Trump set to become the US President, there is “lot of volatility. The situation is dismaying, to say the least. Politically, there is a lot of uncertainty. I would think one of the ways to tackle the evil of gun culture will be to get the grassroots involved”. No mean task, though.
The festival runs till December 14.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is covering the Dubai International Film Festival.)