Do you agree that the presence of Aishwarya and Rahman adds a lot of grace and class to Provoked?
There is no doubt about that. I had wanted to work with A R Rahman ever since I saw Roja in Chennai and I went to meet him right after the show. I am glad that after all these years, I found a project which creatively stimulated both Aishwarya and Rahman.
What genre will you put Provoked in - crime thriller, courtroom drama, social cause?
It is all that and much more. It is dramatic story of great social significance narrated in the style of a thriller.
Woman being oppressed is regularly shown in Indian films. But Provoked takes the story to new lands showing a woman being victimized even in London. Do you think injustice against woman is a global issue and not just confined to India, as is a notion?
Not only is this a global issue but it cuts across all class, race and religious boundaries. It is harder to detect on the surface in our culture because of the conspiracy of silence in the name of family honour. The shame felt by the victim in admitting abuse because they feel it is like washing your dirty linen in public has allowed many a perpetrators to get away with it. The film's message is to get out of such a relationship before it leads to a tragedy. Aishwarya's character says in the end that it is up to the mothers to teach their young sons to treat women with love and respect, not violence and anger.
Provoked has also been showcased at some film festivals. How was the response?
The response has been overwhelmingly positive. It has received standing ovations and men and women alike have said that it brought a lump to their throats and tears to their eyes.
The film released internationally last year. Why was the Indian release delayed so long? Films targeted at festive audience do tend to get delayed... why so?
Strong word of mouth is very important for these kind of films and festival audiences gradually create a kind of buzz which takes time to spread. If the film gets critical acclaim, a certain section of the art house audience gets ready to patronize it when it commercially opens. Since these kind of realistic films are not necessarily patronized by those who want escapist fare and want to leave their brains behind while watching a movie, you can't mass market them by saturating the media with promos before release. A niche market film to realize its full potential needs special handling.
You also planned a film on Sonia Gandhi with Monica Belluci. What went wrong with it? Did political parties and pressure disrupt your idea?
I hope it is only a temporary setback. The congress party served me a legal notice that I should refrain from making a film on Sonia Gandhi's life without her permission. I responded by saying that I didn't seek her permission to save her from the embarrassment of a "no win" situation. If she said yes to my request, it will be considered endorsing a propoganda film for political gain by the opposition; and if she said no, it will be considered curbing freedom of speech in a democracy by the media. Therefore, I wanted to make an unauthorized biography with no political agenda. My interest was to humanize an iconic figure by presenting a love story of a woman who came to India for the love of a man and stayed for the love of a country. I have made my point of view known to the congress party. I hope they will withdraw their objection and let me tell this fascinating story sometime in future.
What about your other film Backwaters?
Backwaters is a thriller set against the exotic backdrop of Kerala, where a young wealthy white couple goes for ayurvedic treatment for the wife whose leg is paralyzed because of a car accident in England. When the wife's body is pulled out of the backwaters, the husband is accused of her murder. His only alibi is the wife of a local fisherman who he is having an affair with. Will the local policeman investigating the murder be able to get to the truth which is far more twisted than what appears on the surface? "Seduced by paradise, deceived by desire", is the tagline of this thriller starring Nicholas Irons, Tamzin Outhwaite, Jason Fleyming, Gulshan Grover and Sandra Teles.
Lastly there was news that you are making a film 'Shoot on Sight' with Naseeruddin Shah and Greta Scacchi. Tell us about that film. When is it going on floor?
SHOOT-ON-SIGHT was the order given by Scotland Yard to its armed officers after July 7 bombings, when the racial profiling of Asians as potential Muslim terrorists resulted in innocent people getting shot. In such an environment of distrust, the film tells the story of Tariq Ali, a thirty year veteran of Scotland Yard, a commander, a devout Muslim having a white woman as wife and father of two children, as he is put at a crossroad where he is forced to choose between faith and loyalty; love and duty. The film stars Naseeruddin Shah, Greta Scacchi, Om Puri, Gulshan Grover, Nafisa Ali, Laila Rouass, Peter Firth, Gary Stretch and many other well known British actors. It begins a start to finish shooting schedule from May 21 in London.
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