If one film wins, four lose: Deepa Mehta
Deepa Mehta’s Water, starring John Abraham, Seema Biswas and Lisa Ray, finally releases in India on March 9.
The Oscar nominated director gets candid with HT City from Canada. Excerpts:
A huge relief for you as the film finally releases in India this week…
Yes, I am very happy about the film being finally released in India. It has gone through the Indian censors without one cut. I will try to be in India for its premiere.
Shooting of Water was halted in India years back. How confident are you of its chances in India?
My father, who was a distributor in India, said there are two things — one you never know when you are going to die and two you never know how a film is going to work — so who knows…
As a filmmaker weren’t you upset with the reaction to your film in India?
Definitely, I was very upset. And it was not that all of India was protesting. There was a certain section, which claimed itself to be the RSS, which protested.
Does this mean that we are not yet progressive enough?
No, not at all. You know what, it happens all over the world and not just in India. There are some cultures, which are far more open to looking at people who might be marginalized in their society in the name of religion or culture or class or colour and there are some societies, which aren’t.
Why didn’t Water win the Oscar?
It is not a question of going wrong. There were five films in the Foreign Film category and all of them were excellent. In fact the head of the Academy Awards told me that it was the first time in 20 years that there have been such strong films. If one wins, four don’t.
I feel we all won because it is such an honour to be in this company. Indians might be feeling bad but I am not. The Red Carpet experience at the Oscars was fabulous not just for Water but also for all the actors. Don’t you think a nomination is enough?
Why John Abraham for the role of Narayan?
I am a director and I saw the potential in him as an actor. I saw that what I was looking for in Narayan in John — he is a very sensitive man. And I was not influenced by what he is known for.
People like Bruce Willis cannot be termed only as an action hero. He was the lead in The Sixth Sense. We slot actors in certain roles. That shouldn’t be — everybody has the potential, as actors they can do anything.
There are two films, let’s see which one happens first. There’s Exclusion, which is based in 1914, and is on racism. It’s a true story. Amitabh Bachchan has agreed to do the film. Then there’s another project, which is on an American woman who got married to a Korean, who turned out to the Crown Prince of Korea. This is again based on a true story and is based in 1958.
Finally, what is your message to Indian audiences?
I think very strongly that they should just go and see the film and interpret it. Water is about compassion, about the importance of tolerance.
The point is that it is a period film based in 1938, when Mahatma Gandhi was alive. So, you should treat it in that context and enjoy, because it is such an enjoyable film.