French film, comedy, pregnancy - Chadha juggles them all!
Britain-based Indian film-maker Gurinder Chadha has lots on her plate. She first completed a short French film on Islamic purdah, then moved on to preparing for teen comedy Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging and lastly, she is happily dealing with pregnancy changes.
Her French film about a meeting between a Muslim girl and a French boy in Paris is releasing on Friday in India.
Excerpts from the interview:
Tell me about your French film - how different is the experience of doing a short film from a full length one?
The producers of Amelie asked me to be a part of Paris Je T'aime and I immediately said yes. I liked the idea of 20 international directors making five-minute short films in two days on the theme of love, each set in a different neighbourhood of Paris. The day they asked me I wrote the script with my partner, Paul (Mayeda Berges). I knew exactly the theme I was interested in exploring.
For me Paris, like London, is a great example of a vibrant, multi-cultural city that is constantly evolving. In Paris they are having similar cultural debates that we had previously in Britain, so I was excited to look at the future possibilities of Paris.
Your short film is about the Islamic purdah. How politically correct is your film considering the changing profile of the Muslim identity post 9/11?
In France, I knew the issue of wearing the hijab in schools was very controversial. I wanted to include it in my film because we rarely hear from a Muslim woman why she chooses to wear or not to wear the hijab.
Most people in cities like Paris or London love the diversity of where they live. It's part of the reason why people are drawn to these cities in the first place. Unfortunately, that isn't celebrated enough and the problems become the focus.
I wanted to show a meeting between a Muslim girl and a French boy, which is like the beginning of a new, honest relationship, where they both throw away their preconceptions and start from scratch. It's a way of saying, 'come and walk with me, learn about who I am, not who you think I am'.
In Paris Je T'Aime, you share the short film platform with several stalwarts like the Coen brothers. Honoured, flattered or comforted?
I was honoured to be the only British filmmaker asked to participate. It's rare to meet and hang out with other directors so I was interested to be a part of the project and see how all the films would play together.
I was happy as a lot of people in France told me that my film was looking forward to the future of Paris, not looking back at the past.
Would you like to make a similar film in India?
I think it would be great if a similar project was made in India. There would be so many amazing cities to choose from. It could be Bombay (Mumbai), Delhi, Amritsar or Patna.
Mira Nair is also doing short films (on AIDS). Is this then a symptom of audiences' growing impatience with lengthy films, or just the demand of the times?
I don't think it's about the audiences' impatience. It's more about storytelling, and whatever the length of your film, you have to be clear about the story you want to tell. Some themes lend themselves to short films because you can tell different stories with multiple points of view.
Big themes like AIDS, or love, or the nature of a city, take on a different resonance when you look at ways directors from different parts of the globe perceive them.
What progress with your next project?
I've been prepping my next film for Paramount's Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging and it's been a lot of fun. I'm having a fabulous time casting 14-year-old girls and 16-year-old guys. I'll be shooting the film in England later this year.
How're you coping with your maternity leave? Have the twins started kicking you around?
I'm feeling great and getting bigger every day. I had no appetite for several weeks, which was bizarre for me since I'm such a foodie. Happily my appetite has come back and the babies are doing bhangra and kung-fu kicks in my tummy!