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The Deepa Mehta Chat

Deepa Mehta
Deepa Mehta
Click for bigger pic!
At 2230 hours IST we approached Deepa Mehta's home at Gulmohar Park, New Delhi. An intimate family gathering was in full swing. But the celebrated director excused herself from the proceedings, draped her petite frame in a black shawl. Within five minutes she was ready to leave for the Cybercafe at the Maurya Sheraton.

"You have only a limited time on this planet, it's best you lead your life without any regrets," she told Suparn Verma, who had flown to Delhi to host the event.

Before the chat, she had only two fears."I am not very savvy with computers," she said. "In fact, I write my scripts by hand. My daughter uses the Internet, I have never really done so."

And just before she got out of the car at the Maurya, she asked, "Will there be anybody in the room to actually talk to me about the film?" Her doubts were soon put to rest.

Deepa Mehta (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:9 IST)

Sanjay (Mon Nov 16 1998 9:45 IST)
Ms Mehta: What inspired you to make the film?

Deepa Mehta (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:11 IST)
SANJAY: Lack of choices people have. We're told we have to do something when we want to do something else.I guess a desire to do something else was expected from us.

Jeevan (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:10 IST)
Ms Mehta: Do you think people will accept the concept of lesbianism in India?

Deepa Mehta (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:12 IST)
Jeevan: I certainly hope so because it is a reality as is homosexuality.

kgmohan (Mon Nov 16 1998 6:55 IST)
Were you apprehensive how the Indian audience would react to a film like Fire?

Deepa Mehta (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:13 IST)
K G Mohan: Extremely apprehensive, we have a population of 1 billion people and yet people pretend that sex doesn't exist.

sri (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:14 IST)
What was it like to work with A R Rahman during the film shooting?

Deepa Mehta (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:17 IST)
Sri: Brilliant, I think he is the consummate composer that I know of in the world. His music comes from the characters and is an extension of them. I think he is the best.

Nidhi Sharma (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:12 IST)
Deepa: Why do you think producers and directors in India don't take a risk of making your kind of films?

Deepa Mehta (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:14 IST)
Nidhi: No they don't. Because they are entrenched in what they think people want which is popular cinema and anything that is a deviation is too risky for them.

k g mohan (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:16 IST)
Hi Deepa, would you agree that lesbianism in India, is prevalent both in the urban and rural areas, but under some shroud or other?

Deepa Mehta (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:20 IST)
K G Mohan: Yes it is, we don't wanna talk about sex so you start talking about bisexual sex. Everybody just freaks out. It is shocking when we are going towards the 21st century that we are still so inhibited about love, caring and emotional nurturing and we are so judgmental about people who make choices that are their own and don't affect us in anyway

Rajesh Sawant (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:15 IST)
Ms Deepa Mehta: Why did you choose this subject?

Deepa Mehta (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:22 IST)
Rajesh Sawant: Because I really wanted to talk about the lack of choices available to men and women and women in particular as far as self worth, self dignity and love is concerned and the constant tug of war between the desire for an independent voice and what is expected by us from society.

Vishaka (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:22 IST)
Ms Mehta: You have received an international award. Do you expect to get an award in India too?

Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das in Fire
Click for bigger pic!

Deepa Mehta (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:24 IST)
Vishaka: If I do I'l probably die of an heart attack*lol* It has actually received 14 international awards and if I get an award from India I'll be really thrilled. I think if Shabana gets one for best actress it will be the way to go.

Joy (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:23 IST)
Deepa, two thumbs up for Fire!! When can I get to see Earth in Canada?

Deepa Mehta (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:25 IST)
Joy: Earth is being released all over the world in February 1999 including Canada.

Nakul (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:25 IST)
Ms Mehta: How did you convince Shabana Azmi? I mean, was it difficult to convince her to act in your film?

Deepa Mehta (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:27 IST)
Nakul: Actually she said "NO!" after reading the script and the next morning she called me up and was feeling terrible because she had said no and would I give her two weeks to think about it. Because if she was not committed to it she would not want to do it. Two weeks later she called me up and said she had thought about it and she was totally supportive and would love to do that.

Joy (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:26 IST)
Deepa, I loved every bit of Fire. It was very well done... don't have enough words to express myself. :)

gaurav (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:25 IST)
Are there any internationally successful directors in India. If not, what would you blame for it?

Deepa Mehta (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:29 IST)
Joy: Thank you, thank you ..Gaurav: Definitely: Shekhar Kapur is, Mani Ratnam to a certain extent, Mira Nair... can't think of anybody else. Ray being a given.

Jeevan (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:29 IST)
Ms Mehta: Can you tell us something more about you? I mean about your family and how did you come into films?

Deepa Mehta (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:31 IST)
Jeevan: I was born in India, went to boarding school in Dehra Dun, Univ in Delhi, masters in philosophy, father was a distributor of Bollywood films. Was crazy about movies, my first film I ever saw was Mamta, I saw it forty times, and have named my daughter Devyani after Suchitra Sen's character.

Manoj Nair (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:28 IST)
Deepa: Can you tell us how did the word 'fire' come from? I mean, does it mean something in the film?

Deepa Mehta (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:32 IST)
Manoj Nair: It is the fire of passion and desire.

sri (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:32 IST)
Is the background being released as an audio cassette or CD? In many of the movies for which Rahman has given music for, the music alone can tell most of the story. I would like to listen to this before watching the film.

Deepa Mehta (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:33 IST)
Sri: It already has been released in Europe by Colosseum. I dunno about India, it doesn't have songs!!!! DOES ANYBODY WANT TO PUBLISH THE SCRIPT OF FIRE IN A BOOK FORM???

Jeevan (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:33 IST)
Ms Mehta: Do you think you should have not released your film this time considering the fact that Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Bade Miyan Chhote Miyan have just been released? It was a wrong time...

Deepa Mehta (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:34 IST)
Jeevan: They're very different films and I hope Fire can find its own audience.

gaurav (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:32 IST)
was Fire your first film, Deepa?

Deepa Mehta (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:35 IST)
Gaurav: No it was my third film. The first was Sam and Me, the second was Camilla.

sri (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:35 IST)
I would like to hear your thoughts on Dil Se. It flopped because it was not a typical Indian film. But I believe there were some subtle points made in the film. Your views if any?

Deepa Mehta (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:36 IST)
SRI: I haven't seen Dil Se, but I'm a big Mani Ratnam fan and not all subtle films have flopped.

Prem (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:36 IST)
Ms Mehta: Tell us something more about it?

Deepa Mehta (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:37 IST)
Prem: Earth is set in 1947, it is about the Partition of India and Pakistan. This particular holocaust was one I wanted to explore. The film is very particular and it took place in South Asia and it is totally universal considering Bosnia, Rwanda, Ireland etc.

Nakul (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:37 IST)
Ms Mehta: Who are your favourite directors abroad? And why do you like the film Mamta so much?

Deepa Mehta (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:40 IST)
Nakul: I like the Yugoslavian director Emir Kusturica, the Chinese director Zhang Yimou, the Cohen Brothers and Jonathan Demme, because all of them explore emotional elements in our lives. They are not art film directors nor are they commercial film directors. They walk that line which I really admire which entertains as well as informs.

Joy (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:38 IST)
Deepa, what do you think of Aamir Khan? He was in awe while working with you.

Deepa Mehta (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:42 IST)
Joy: I think Aamir is brilliant for a director to work with. A talented actor is a boon, but to work with one who is also intelligent is like icing on the cake. No, he wasn't in awe of me. We respected each other as I do all my actors.

Joy (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:41 IST)
Deepa, what is your favorite scene from Fire? I like the one where Sita slaps Jatin back. Then another one in the end, where Shabana tells her husband that she has desires "because she wants to live."

Deepa Mehta (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:45 IST)
Joy: I like those, but my favourite one is when Shabana tells Ashok that the concept of duty is over-rated.

Nakul (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:41 IST)
Ms Mehta: Is the film Earth based on some novel then?

Deepa Mehta (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:45 IST)
Nakul: Yes, Earth is based on Bapsi Sidhwa's novel Cracking India.

Joy (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:45 IST)
Deepa, why did you name it "FIRE"? Don't you think "In Your Face" would have been a good one as well. :) Just Kidding!

Deepa Mehta (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:46 IST)
Joy: I like your sense of humour keep it up.

Komal (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:45 IST)
Ms Mehta: Where are you chatting from? I mean, where are you based most of the time?

Deepa Mehta (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:46 IST)
Komal: I'm chatting from Delhi. These days I feel I'm based on a 747! :-) Seriously, mostly between Delhi and Toronto.

Prem (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:46 IST)
Ms Mehta: Do you think your film will be a hit?

Deepa Mehta (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:47 IST)
Prem: I certainly hope so, but if Indian men have any say to it then maybe not ;-)

gaurav (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:47 IST)
This is a difficult one Deepa. Whose acting do you rate best in Fire?

Deepa Mehta (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:48 IST)
Gaurav: Ummmmm, as a director I think Shabana is luminous and as a person I feel Nandita sparkles. Both are extremely good in their respective roles.

Rohit Chopra (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:48 IST)
Ms Mehta: Pardon me for asking you. Do you believe in marriage and if not will you practice lesbianism if you don't get a proper guy in your life. I think your film is encouraging all these things, isn't it?

Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das in Fire
Click for bigger pic!

Deepa Mehta (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:51 IST)
Rohit Chopra: I was married for 14 years. I have a daughter. Subsequently I got divorced, now I'm living with a man who I love very much. Fire is not a solution to a bad marriage. This is a film for god's sake. The two women make a choice which is not a conventional choice and which gives them a shot at happiness. Surely we should applaud people's choices. Which give them a feeling of self worth instead of passing judgement on them. Nobody is a moral guardian on anybody's sexual preferences, and if they are they are full of shit!

Kiran (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:52 IST)
Ms Mehta: Why didn't you show some hot scenes in your film? Or were they censored?

Deepa Mehta (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:55 IST)
Kiran: Nothing was censored in the film. I make films not pornography. If you want hot scenes rent Basic Instinct. Besides, sexuality is far more erotic than pornography.

Rohit Chopra (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:53 IST)
Ms Mehta: So you think what Ashok Row Kavi is doing is right. So are you supporting his cause. As far as my knowledge is concerned no religion permits to act in such foolish things. So why are you going against the dharmas of all religions?

Deepa Mehta (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:57 IST)
Rohit: Preference of sexuality has nothing to do with talent. Religion when it is misinterpreted by human beings to serve their own cause does the greatest disservice to religion. To be a good person is far more important than to be religious in my humble opinion:-)

gaurav (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:56 IST)
Rohit: Homosexuality has been around since the Vedas buddy.

Deepa Mehta (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:58 IST)
Gaurav: Definitely it was.

Vishaka (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:57 IST)
Ms Deepa: Between Toronto and India. Does it mean that you are an NRI? If yes, how come you know so much about Indian society?

Deepa Mehta (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:59 IST)
Vishaka: I was born here and I was brought up here and I spend more than 6 months in India!

garib (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:50 IST)
Ms Mehta: If you want to make a film, why didn't you highlighted garibi in your films? These are the things which you need to fight in our country and not lesbianism. How can you show a subject which is restricted to only a certain class? So, are we seeing some film on our lives in the near future from you?

Deepa Mehta (Mon Nov 16 1998 11:1 IST)
Garib: For me Fire is not about lesbianism. It is about the plight of women in India. The lack of choices in a patriarchal society that takes women for granted. I'd say were a large part of our society, wouldn't you. Besides Manoj Kumar has already done Roti Kapda aur Makan.

Rohit Chopra (Mon Nov 16 1998 10:59 IST)
Ms Mehta: Thanx for smiling at me. I agree with you that there is certain sense of belonging in our society, between two bahus of a family. But I feel that your film inspires them to try lesbianism, isn't it folks? PS: NO HARD FEELINGS.. :)

gaurav (Mon Nov 16 1998 11:0 IST)
Are people more openly talking about sex in India than they were when you were in college? What do you attribute this to?

Deepa Mehta (Mon Nov 16 1998 11:2 IST)
Gaurav: Satellite television and the Internet.......Rohit: I'm not trying to advocate lesbianism to two bahus, it was a film, it is fictional. Why can't we live and let live?

indiann (Mon Nov 16 1998 11:1 IST)
Hi Ms Mehta, Welcome to the Rediff chat. I have heard a LOT about your movie Fire. I am based in New Jersey, USA. The next trip to the video store I will surely be looking for it. Meanwhile, I have a question for you. Which are the INDIAN directors that have inspired you the most? And more specifically, which movies? Do you believe that non-arty (to (ab)use a term) movies are meaningless and should not be made? Do you have any plans to make some non-arty movies?

Deepa Mehta (Mon Nov 16 1998 11:4 IST)
Lovely talking with you folks, see Fire and be nice to women:-) Ciao........................Indiann: I love Bollywood, its unpretentious pure entertainment. I personally don't know where I would put a camera to shoot a film song. Surely one can make commercial films without compromising one's integrity, I'm not averse to trying that.

Deepa Mehta Chat, continued