For those who have arrived late in the game, Deepa Mehta is considered one of the most brilliant and creative directors hailing from India. Though she resides in Toronto, her films are very India-centric and include masterpieces like her elements trilogy; Earth (Aamir Khan, Rahul Khanna, Nandita Das), Water (Lisa Ray, Sarala, Seema Biswas, John Abraham) and Fire (Shabana Azmi, Nandita Das). Recently, Water was nominated for an Academy Award.
Right now, she is gearing up for the premiere of her film Heaven on Earth at the Toronto International Film Festival this September. Starring Preity Zinta in a leading role, it is the story of a Punjabi woman who uses her imagination to escape the horrors of an abusive lifestyle with her husband in Canada. Deepa has openly said that after a preview of the film, there was pin drop silence and nobody could even recognize Preity in the film.
Recently, she also shot a film titled What’s Cooking? with Shriya Saran and Seema Biswas. Of Mehta, Shriya says, “An actor gets to learn so much through the perfect system of filmmaking and workshops done regularly with her. We needed to rehearse very regularly, almost before each and every scene. We had to enact the scene to perfection and go beyond the scene. This process made us feel very comfortable with each other. We were even asked to improvise on our roles. When she would not be satisfied, she would give her creative inputs, get the scene right, and then make us shoot. Believe me it works. After the rehearsals when we had to give a take, it used to be so smooth.” The film is produced by Indian banner BR Films and is said to be a comedy.
However, the most exciting of the lot is Deepa’s latest venture which is based on the acclaimed and best-selling novel Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi. The book is the story of a literature professor in Iran who regularly holds classes reading literature from around the world that is not allowed in the conservative country. Of the film, Mehta says, “When I read ‘Reading Lolita In Tehran’, I knew this was something I had to do.” Without a doubt, she is the perfect director for the job!
It looks like her film with Amitabh Bachchan titled Exclusion is going on the back-burner for now. Rumour also has is that due to a few disagreements with the producers, she will no longer be directing the Rachel Weisz-John Abraham starrer, Luna. Nevertheless, she has a very interesting crop of films coming up.
From her very first film, Deepa has slowly become an international force to reckon with, and it looks like there’s no stopping her now.