Indie director Ashim Ahluwalia will never shy from speaking his mind. At a panel discussion at the ongoing Dubai International Film Festival, the Miss Lovely director spoke openly about swatting stereotypes attached to an Indian filmmaker and how they are often asked to make Slumdog Millionaire prototypes to secure easy funding from Western countries.
“There are a lot of prejudices and stereotypes attached to India ... Being Indian and to get money from the West comes with some cultural baggage,” said Ahluwalia. His drama, set in the seedy backdrop of Mumbai’s erotic industry in the 1980s, has been the toast of film festival circuit and was also selected for Un Certain Regard at Cannes Film Festival 2012. But ducking from poverty porn just to pander to the western idea of what an Indian film ought to be is just the beginning. Despite getting discreet feelers from Bollywood A-listers starving for good cinema, Ahluwalia is convinced that a Bollywood superstar can never totally exorcise the star persona in him.
“These A-listers have made their money and what they want now is to be a part of some good content-driven films. But I have a feeling that they don’t [know] what they are really seeking out.”
The weekend tabloid! caught up with him ...
You can barely mask your contempt for Bollywood. Why such distaste?
It’s not contempt because I don’t have an issue about Bollywood existing. It’s just the way Bollywood tries to dominate and doesn’t allow other spaces to exist. I am happy to have it side by side. So far, that’s not the scenario.
What did you think of Bollywood blockbuster The Dirty Picture? It seems a lot like your film Miss Lovely.
Honestly, I don’t want to get into it because it’s a bit controversial. We submitted the script to Balaji Motion Pictures and then The Dirty Picture came out.
But isn’t that plagiarism?
It was pretty much that. But I didn’t take up the issue because the film was so different from what I was making. I never really took up the issue because the film itself was so far removed from what I wanted to do. I just felt that by getting into a tussle over it, I would give that film a lot more importance. In my universe, that film doesn’t exist or is not relevant in the space that I occupy. It’s was lesson for me not to approach any studio with my script. I would never again leave a draft or a copy of it in any of the studios. It’s a sore point, let’s leave it at that.
Have you ever been tempted to make a traditional Bollywood musical?
No. I don’t want to be represented by any studio or be led by any star. No big star in Bollywood today can really let go of their star persona. As a director, if you want to show them living in a small house, they will just not able to look that part. The star in him will not let him pull it off. Plus, I am not really dependent on Bollywood industry for my films. No, you will never see me make a Son Of Sardaar. Also, remember you needn’t always make a formulaic Bollywood film or a Slumdog Millionaire to pander to the West’s idea of what an Indian filmmaker should do. Just go out there and make your films. Try to expand the vocabulary of what an Indian film is. We can’t only be defined as Bollywood. That just can’t be our identity.
Miss Lovely will be screened today, Mall of the Emirates, Screen 11 at 11.30am
“Out of the stars existing today, it’s Aamir Khan who’s pushing the envelope. He’s like the George Clooney of India.” -- Ahluwalia
“Oscars are a back-slapping ceremony for those making films in Hollywood, the rest is consolation prize. I don’t see Indians bother to dress up and be there. Perhaps, it’s the rub-off effect. But I don’t get it. The foreign films category is such a dubious category. Remember Jeans [Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s debut] was selected by India to enter the Oscars.” -- Ahluwalia.