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    Home > Interviews'Indian cinema is very strong', says Ashim Ah...

'Indian cinema is very strong', says Ashim Ahluwalia, director of Cannes selection MISS LOVELY

Tuesday, May 8, 2012 6:06:31 PM (IST) | Rajesh Kumar Singh, Bollywood Trade Editorial


His film MISS LOVELY has been selected in the Un Certain Regard section of the 65th Festival de Cannes that begins on 16th May 2012. Ashim Ahluwalia made his first short film, THE DUST, in 1993. His docudrama titled JOHN & JANE had a world premiere at the 2005 Toronto Film Festival followed by a European premiere at the 2006 Berlin International Film Festival. The film won the National Film Award in 2007. He runs an independent production company Future East that makes television commercials. Ahluwalia was named 'one of the ten best emerging film directors working today' by Phaidon Press in 2010. He responded to some of our questions before his departure to Cannes. Here is what he had to say.

Congratulations on having received the exceptional honor. How does it feel to have your film in Un Certain Regard section of the 65th Festival de Cannes?

I've worked on this film for a long time and it wasn't very easy to get it made, so it was really good news. It was nice to know that MISS LOVELY was the only Indian film in the official selection. People are excited about the film, and that's great.

Are you disappointed that your film is not in Competition?

I guess I should clarify that Miss Lovely is in Un Certain Regard, which is an official competitive section. They award one film the Prize Un Certain Regard every year. Regardless, I'm not so interested in competitions - for me, filmmaking is not like running in the Olympics.

Was Cannes the first international film festival you had sent your film to and if it is so why?

The film was in the rough cut stage when we showed it to the Cannes selection committee because they were curious to see it. There had been a buzz about the film, so they were aware of it already. We really didn't expect to be selected and have it ready so soon.

Did you expect this to happen after having made the film? Did you deliberately set about to make a film that will go to Cannes? You know, filmmakers have these things going on in their heads about Cannes and Oscars. 

I just made the film I wanted to make and I spent more than five years of my life doing that. I'm glad that Cannes likes it and wants to show it, but at the end, I don't think you can set out to make anything that will target a particular festival or a particular audience. Films find their own space.

When you talk about the ‘Indianness’ of your film, what do you exactly mean by this?
MISS LOVELY uses a lot of cinematic language from our own cinema, from the past. I love the way earlier filmmakers in Bollywood would compose shots - through a woman's legs, or through whisky glasses. There was something daring about the framing, about the editing, about the design - all of which we lost once we started aping Hollywood. I want to return to some of that quality that we had in our cinema, the craziness and confidence of that.

You have said that your film is a tribute to ‘C’ grade filmmakers who were the true indie filmmakers. Have you met any of them? Can you name a few and the films they have made? 

I've spent a lot of time with these filmmakers, including Joginder before he died. I particularly admire many of the women directors - people like J. Neelam and Sheetal who made films despite tremendous odds. Then there are people like Harinam Singh who made KHOONI DRACULA, which is a truly mad film. I'm not even getting into the obvious filmmakers like Kanti & Kishan Shah, but I spent time with people like Ramesh Lakhiani, who made KHOPDI, or Vinod Talwar who made KHOONI PANJA. Actually I'm a virtual encyclopedia of C grade cinema in this country, including stuff made in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

Thierry Fremauxa, the festival director, made a special reference to India’s pornographic film industry while talking about MISS LOVELY and 100 years of Indian cinema during his press conference to announce the official line up. What do you think, where does Indian cinema stand after 100 years of existence apart from being branded as ‘Bollywood’?

The great thing about Indian cinema is that it's very strong, very confident of its own audience and star system. That's why we are not dominated by Hollywood, like most of Europe. What I'm disappointed with, though, is that we don't make many cinematically interesting films, edgy films. Most of all, we don't make films that translate for global audiences, unlike say Iran or Japan. I want to make films that can be both very Indian, and yet they shouldn't have to always be defined in terms of “Bollywood”.

In what way will this recognition at Cannes help you as a filmmaker and an artiste?

I think it's nice that international audiences will get a chance to know that Indian cinema doesn't only comprise of either Bollywood song-dance extravaganzas or state-funded parallel cinema, there can be other visions as well.

Will you continue to make films like MISS LOVELY or you will be open to the idea of making mainstream popular films in Bollywood or Hollywood?

Not really, unless I can do something really different with it.

What next? A foreign language Oscar? Are you hoping that your film is India’s official entry to Oscars?

Funnily enough, I'm one of the few people that hate the Oscars. It's just an American film industry insider party - it has nothing to do with the rest of the world or with cinema. I don't like most of the films they pick in the Foreign Language category. I much prefer cinema that would showcase at a real film festival like Cannes or Berlin.

This year Cannes has a good Indian presence with films by Wasan Bala and Anurag Kashyap in the Critics’ Week and Directors’ Fortnight and your own film in the second most important official selection. Do you foresee a trend here?

I hope so. I want to be optimistic that Indian film is going to become more interesting, more unique, with more individual directors taking charge of how their films are made. But it may still be early to tell.

Any ideas and ‘gyan’ for the other aspiring filmmakers who would like to follow into your footsteps?

I think it's important for filmmakers to stick to their original vision of what they set out to make in the first place without always thinking about stars or music directors. Those will come if they have to. Just don't compromise the original vision by always trying to cater to the marketplace. Often films that do that fail at the box office anyway.

Who were your inspirations when you embarked on your film-making journey and was it a difficult one?

Too many to name, but it's an insane struggle trying to make independent films. But so worth it at the end.

(Rajesh Kumar Singh is Editorial Consultant for Festivals and Markets for He is a filmmaker, critic and market analyst)

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Tags : Miss Lovely, Ashim Ahluwalia, KHOONI DRACULA, Harinam Singh, Ramesh Lakhiani

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