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Rajshree Ojha Vents Her Anger On Bollywood

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By: Diti Shah, IndiaFM
Thursday, March 22, 2007
She is young, talented, and rebellious. But she is thoroughly disappointed! Born Indian, brought up in America, director Rajshree Ojha marks her Bollywood debut with a cross-cultural film Chaurahen (Crossroads). She feels strongly about the current status of Indian cinema, and will stop at nothing to attempt a revolution in her own respect.

Rajshree's tryst with filmmaking began when she was only a child. The charming lady goes back in time and elaborates, "I always wanted to be a filmmaker and I have never deviated from that idea. I did my schooling in Bangalore and then I went to do my Undergrad at NYU. Then I worked for a year and a half at Broadway, and then I went on to do my Masters at American Film Institute." In her years as a struggler, Rajshree did some brilliant work and won awards for films like Moment and Badger. She gained a lot of respect and recognition in America.

But now that she is back in India, she feels estranged in her own land. "I have been accepted much better in America than in India. I have done all my stuff there and I have been here only for one and a half years." Her debut film Chaurahen, which stars Soha Ali Khan and Shayan Munshi among others, is a drama about four relationships that run parallel. Since the film is not like a typical Bollywood pot boiler, Rajshree has been written off as a 'serious' filmmaker, who will now make only art-house films. She no longer wants to be the victim of a typecast. She retaliates, "I am being postmarked as a serious filmmaker, and that I can't make films that are funny. And that is annoying because I want to try everything. And it is very difficult especially in India because India has these clichÉd lines of distinguishing - this person does this type of cinema, that person does that type of cinema. What is wrong with people?"

This attitude of the industry seems to be the reason why Bollywood fails to enjoy international acclaim. She wistfully asserts, "People in America are looking at Indian films but they are not getting as much as India can really give. There are many talented filmmakers in India. But they go off to America and places abroad because that is where their films are recognized. Don't you think that's wrong? We should have these guys coming here and making films for their own country."

And who is to blame? Bollywood bigwigs have adopted the play-safe attitude. They prefer to churn out typical masala movies because they sell. "Half of the people out there like to play safe and do something that has already been tried and tested. They want to try out the same old theories which have worked because then they can keep making money, and that is all that matters. That is what is going on in this country and I am hating it everyday." Rajshree explains, "As a filmmaker I believe that there is a market for anything you make, as long as it is good and you have the guts to put it out and market it well."

Rajshree is currently facing a huge challenge - to bring Chaurahen to the theatres. She is facing trouble as the film has been departmentalized as artsy cinema. However, she refuses to let her spirit die. There is a way to break out of the Bollywood typecast. And Rajshree shows us how. "What we really need is for everyone, all the big guys in the industry, to encourage and make small films, because in India, there is definitely potential to make good films. Filmmaking is a risk, everybody knows. So people have to start taking risks."

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