(The History Channel puts the spotlight on Bollywood’s top notch directors in their special segment ‘Bollywood Bosses’ aired every weeknight at 10pm from February 19-24, 2007. Here we present to you an interview excerpt with Vidhu Vinod Chopra)
A man who believed strongly in his conviction and abilities and went onto become one of the most respected directors in India and an internationally known name. Yes we are talking about none other than Vidhu Vinod Chopra
Walking down memory lane we find out more about Vidhu’s childhood, his years of struggle and more.
Vidhu was brought up in a close- knit family in the Kashmir valley. One of his elder brothers Ramanand Sagar is one of the most eminent directors of our country. Vinod was fascinated by Ramanand Sagar and by the films he made. An imaginative Vinod needed only a little exposure to start dreaming about making films, as all young minds tend to do
“I was wearing my khaki knickers & a blue shirt and I felt slightly unwanted & I think Ramanand also felt that I wasn’t appropriately dressed to be in front of Sadhana & Rajinder Kumar and for him to introduce me as this kid from school — we have a huge age gap — as his younger brother. And I felt, unwanted. You know how kids are — in retaliation I said, “Ok, I will make movies. I will show you.””
“We had an older brother — a very well known film personality called Ramanand Sagar who was already very successful. So the question was whether Vinod should go & assist him and learn from him or go independently to film school & learn. I was always in favour of the independent learning process. Fortunately, he was of the same opinion, but to get that support within the family not only to go out to film school, but also the financial support that would need, eventually had to come from someone in the family.”
The first award
“Who would give up a chance to do a doctorate from Cambridge University for a course in a government run film school?” asked a professor on the admission panel at the Film and Television Institute of India”.
”Unfazed by the question Vidhu answered calmly," A mad-man".
Vidhu learnt filmmaking from the prestigious film institute in Pune. His diploma film Murder at Monkey Hill went on to receive 12 international film festivals and to top it all a national award and cash prize worth 5000 rupees to be encased after 5 years. His documentary film on street children in Bombay called “An encounter with faces” which, went on to win top awards abroad including a nomination at the Oscars in the best short film category.
“I had no money; I had only 17 bucks, I went to films division & I said, “Please give me money to make a movie”. They gave me 4000 rupees for 6 months I slogged on ‘An Encounter with Faces’ got nominated for an Oscar. When it was nominated the first thing I wanted to check was if there was any money in it & they said, “No money, only an award” and I was disappointed, I wished there were some dollars in it!”
Even with Oscar nomination and 12 international film festival awards things weren’t easy for this director. His first film Saza-e-maut bounced on the box- office
“Saza-e-maut’ was perhaps my most pretentious film. In the film school though I tried to protect myself from the influences of various French & Italian filmmakers, I did want to use that to make what I believe was cinema of my land
That was a very bad period of my life…’Saza-e-maut’ was pretentious it didn’t do well. I was having trouble in my first marriage… I had no money, I hated the big city …so finally I thought of ‘Khamosh’ and I said to myself that I will go down with an honest film if I have to go down.”
And then came success….
But as they say failure is the first step to success, after his first failure the director never looked back. Be it Parinda, 1942 A Love Story or Munaabhai M.B.B.S , Vidhu only made the most brilliant films.
“I realized to either leave India because by then I was nominated for the Oscar & had 21 international awards. So I said to myself; in order to live here I should do popular format films. And I did Parinda.”
“I wanted to make a musical; I wanted to bring music back to Hindi cinema so I made ‘1942 — A Love Story’”
“I was in love with my present wife and that was a movie for her, so it was the most expensive love letter ever written I think…”
“Raju Hirani was my editor on ‘Mission Kashmir’. He had the script, he wanted my help — I helped him write the script. After I wrote the script, I said, “Go, somebody will make it for you”. Nobody made it! And I said, “Oh c’mon — ok, I will make it!
Few final words….
“I was in the governing council of the film school and there was this secretary. I was a member & he was the chairman, Mr. Sehgal. I’m sure he’s completely forgotten this little thing that happened. He was very concerned about my poverty. And I still remember we were in the loo and that’s an image I want to put in a movie. We were both taking a leak and he looked at me & said “Vinod, why don’t you make one commercial film yaar, make some money, so that you are comfortable and then make your honest film”, and I said it’s like telling you, why don’t you become corrupt for like a month, become dishonest and then become honest again. And he didn’t get the point, I said once you’re dishonest you are never honest again.”
“I come from Kashmir & in the Sufi tradition when I was young, the Sufis there actually used to sleep in the coffin & wake up from the coffin the next morning & say — “ah another day”! And I’m a firm believer of the “Ah, another day” philosophy.”