Starting off with a star studded red carpet, followed by the film Monsoon Shootout,a Q and A with director Amit Kumar… and then topped off with an after-party at Leicester Square, the London Indian Film Festival began their spectacular 4th edition. LIFF will be screening a huge variety of films in various languages including Hindi, Gujurati, Marathi, Punjabi and Spanish. LIFF aims to showcase a diverse and vibrant selection of films. Festival director Cary Rajinder Sawhney recently told BollySpice: “We try and show a range of different cinema, not just Hindi films but a range of different languages. Something that reflects modern India in all its diversity and richness. Ultimately, the most important thing is that they are great stories.”
Held at Cineworld Haymarket in London, Amit Kumar’s Monsoon Shootout started off a week of exciting Independent Indian cinema. To set the scene of the opening night, we begin with an exclusive interview with Amit Kumar and then head straight onto the red carpet.
Amit on his personal journey as a filmmaker
Did you always wanted to be a filmmaker?
Funnily yes. Not only did I always wanted to, but I always presumed that I will be a film-maker. Me and my older brother Anish, who is now a geologist in America- we would play a game where I would narrate him a plotline for characters for both of us. In a way we were telling stories already without a camera but we would be re-enacting them. Somehow I always thought that I was going to make films.
Is there a film in particular that inspire you and influenced you the most in your childhood or teenage years?
From my childhood I would have to say Sholay. Because Sholay is a movie that I’d watched before I went to Africa. The whole enactment started with us enacting Sholay. I would be Amitabh Bachan, my brother would be Dharmendra. From there I started saying- hang on…why don’t we change the storyline. Why don’t we do this? Or do this? We’d remain the same characters but we’d change the storyline. So I’d say that kicked it off.
In my later years, there’s a French filmmaker- Leos Carax. I watched a movie of his, Mauvis Sang. I saw it and I was totally blown away and I thought: Okay- nothing but cinema. So I’d say that these two films had a powerful influence.
Amit on Monsoon Shootout:
What would you say is the essence of Monsoon Shootout?
The essence of Monsoon Shootout is basically about an idealistic cop trying to make a decision. Through his conscience he has this moral dilemma of whether he should shoot or not at this suspect in his line of fire. It’s this process that is going on in his mind that will make him decide to shoot or not. So it’s like going through his mind on if I shoot somebody what would happen and if I don’t shoot- what would happen? It’s about understanding the implications of your actions on other people’s lives and then taking responsibility for it.
What inspired you to make Monsoon Shootout?
Actually it didn’t need too much inspiration because that’s the kind of person I am- I don’t deal with guns but I find it very difficult to take decisions. I go to the supermarket selection on fifty different types of jams. I find it impossible! How do I decide? I agonise over each one of them. If I pick this it has more of this or if I pick that it has more of that. I also think somewhere that I have this habit of thinking of the other person sometimes more than about myself. Somewhere, I planted this sensitivity, if you call it that, to this cop- who instead of thinking about himself is thinking about the guy in front of him. Just like I said- how will his action impact the other guys life?
What was the most challenging aspect of making this film?
The monsoon that we created made it difficult for the actors and the crew because I wanted the rain to be absolutely perfect. There was no compromise that a bit of rain would do. It would take hours and hours some times and the actors would be very wet and shivering- but the moment we switched on the camera they had to get into character.
Amit on film and society:
Films are indeed a very powerful source to improve society. So how can films be used as an instrument for social change?
My feeling is that as long as a film is coming from the world that it is in, it will obviously deal with characters facing some issues or dilemmas that are actually existing in our society. I think that as long as a movie does that then anyone watching it will be compelled to think about it. You know? It’s not like the movie will straight away make him go home and think ‘okay- I’m never going to do this again’. But at least it will make him think on whether he should or shouldn’t. I think that’s probably enough. I imagine that a movie can’t be more powerful than that.
Amit’s words of advice:
What is your advice to budding filmmakers?
My advice would be to always remain convinced of two things. I would say: One is that ‘you are the best filmmaker in the world’. And two is ‘that you are nobody’. So if you remember that you are the best filmmaker in the world because you’re the only one who has the perspective that you have- nobody can have that perspective. And if you have an idea to make a film in a certain way- no matter what the world tells you, if you’re convinced about it just do it.
Now getting to the red carpet, speaking to a LIFF volunteer, she remarked: “The buzz of the opening night is just electric!” And electric it was. The dhol players welcomed the guests, adding to the excitement. Cineworld Haymarket was buzzing with energy where people awaited their favourite stars to arrive and Monsoon Shootout to screen.
Amongst those gracing the red carpet were Irrfan Khan, Priya Kalidas, Rez Kempton, Arjun, Sophia Hyatt, Atul Malhotra and Asad Shan. Arjun the sensational British Asian singer told us that his favourite films are Dil Chahata Hai and Kabhi Kabhi. He said, if he could be given any role to act, he would take Aamir Khan’s character Bhuvan from Lagaan. Asad Shan, model, actor and star of Zing told us that he is very excited for Monsoon Shootout as he was at the Cannes and had heard so much about it- especially as the journey behind the film has been ten years. We spoke to beautiful actress Sophia Hyatt of Nachle London and asked her what her favourite all time film is: ‘The Dirty Picture. Purely because it is female led and she is not your typical skinny, glamorous heroine- when I started working in India I was told that most films are not female led and that the man is more important. The woman is there to make the man look good. So more films like that I’d be very happy to see.’ Rez Kempton of the British drama ‘The Bill’, ‘Spooks’ and upcoming film ‘Amar, Akbar & Tony’ said that the most challenging aspect of being an actor is to hold onto perseverance. He added: ‘You have to be tough, resilient and really want to do it’. Atul Malhotra told us about his upcoming film: Our film is called ‘Amar Akbar and Tony’- and it is about three friends growing up in West London. It’s a fun film. I think audiences will be seeing characters that they have not seen before and a slice of life that they have not seen before.’
Check out the pictures of the night!