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Shalimar's maker is back

Krishna Shah, who fathered Bollywood's crossover movement, has high praise for Lagaan's Ashutosh Gowarikar.

india Updated: May 15, 2012 17:24 IST

Krishna Shah, who is said to have fathered the crossover movement in Bollywood with Shalimar, is back here with ambitions plans. The movie that starred Rex Harrison alongside Dharmendra and Zeenat Aman didn't do well, but it changed Shah forever by reminding him of his Indian roots.

Almost 20 years later, he is abreast of the goings-on in Bollywood and is full of plans to work here, Shah told IANS in an interview. Excerpts:

It's been a long absence from India.
Yes, Shalimar seems like another era. I've been in Hollywood where I've written a number of films. I'm essentially a writer who strayed into production and direction.

I don't think the term crossover cinema existed when I directed Shalimar. So you can say I'm the father of a genre before it was invented.

But Shalimar didn't really succeed.
That isn't really true. Maybe it lacked Indian emotions – no one ate with his fingers nor wept by his dying mother's bedside. I was aware of these 'shortcomings' in Shalimar. But since there was certain audaciousness to the whole endeavour I thought I'd gloss over the supposed weaknesses in the Hindi version.

But it managed to make back its money. The English version of Shalimar did very well. You see the shelf life of an English language film is unlimited. It's sold and resold to the public in so many formats and through so many mediums, from cable TV to the US Navy.

Now what are your plans?
I plan to divide my time evenly between Mumbai and Los Angeles every year. I've formed a banner. My brother is the CEO of my company. He has an astute business sense, which I don't have.

I continue to be a script doctor in Hollywood. Many messed-up scripts are rectified by me. It's only two-weeks' work. But a lot of money. I'm in Bollywood to make a difference to my own identity.

With globalisation and Bollywood directors making it big in the West, I feel it's time for us to strike. We can make a difference globally. Films like Gandhi and Monsoon Wedding humanised us.

The image of Indians abroad is changing. At the same time I notice a shift in Bollywood trends as well. The traditional Hindi cinema is dead, though they may not acknowledge it. A whole new set of filmmakers has come up.

I find Ashutosh Gowariker and Farhan Akhtar very exciting. Sanjay Leela Bhansali is god among directors.

After such a long absence how do you intend to fit back in Bollywood?

I haven't really been away. I'm a cinema historian. Even from Hollywood I've been keeping tabs on Bollywood. For a year-and-a-half I've been planning to make films in Bollywood. I was here during the Kargil conflict and I saw the anger on both sides.

That inspired me to write an Indo-Pak love story, the Hindi-English bi-lingual Diamonds In The Sky. I want Shatrughan Sinha to play the prime minister of India. It won't have big stars. My period musical Birju Tansen will be a far larger project.

Where would you get a composer to do the music for this story?
I have A.R. Rahman. I think he's the Mozart of Asia. When I narrated the subject to him I was bowled over by his knowledge of Hindi music and gypsy music originating from Rajasthan. Rahman will take quite a while to get the music in place. So I'll do my Indo-Pak love story first.

I'm also doing an animation film. I've already done an animation version of Ramayana. The same director is now making Krishna for me. It'd be a two-part film. The first part would show Lord Krishna as a prankster. It'd very identifiable for all the Walt Disney fans the world over. It would be a $18-million two-part feature, like The Lord Of The Rings.

Back in Hollywood I've just done a script called Singh, Sarah & Hymie, which is about a Sikh family after 9/11. I want to direct at least two films in India every year. I feel I've come home.