'We don't make films like this anymore'
ARTHUR J PAIS reports from the Toronto film festival
Shekhar Kapur is coming in for a lot of praise for the deftly staged battle scenes in The Four Feathers.
But the director says there was so much of chaos and panic in planning and executing those scenes that he might not have been to handle them had he not been trained in Mumbai.
Handling the camels and sandstorms was an awesome challenge, he says. And then there were artists from five continents and hundreds of extras.
"This film was made in a state of panic but (that) itself gave it energy and I think it gave us a focus," Kapur says, recalling his years making Mr India and Bandit Queen in India.
"I come from India, we are used to chaos and this film is ultimately about chaos," he told rediff. "And how from chaos order emerges, especially for Harry Feversham, who refuses to fight the war but eventually ends up in Sudan to save his friends, and emerges as a new man."
"I have said this before, shooting in India is like guerrilla warfare," Kapur, who was in Toronto to attend the world premiere of his film on September 8, said. "But it is a different concept in the West where everything looks well planned." He paused for a moment, "But then again how much can you plan perfectly?"
"In some ways, my cinematographer and I welcomed the chaos," he said. "The film has acquired a gritty look because of the chaotic conditions we worked under. The artists will tell you they felt even more energized by the chaos."
"We don't make films like this anymore," he continues. "All scale in films now is created in relationship between man and machine. When you go out and face the elements, the elements dictate how you make the film."
He says he asked cinematographer Robert Richardson, who has worked extensively with the likes of Oliver Stone but for the first time with him, if they could make the film the old fashioned way, not depending on digital magic.
"I said, 'Bob can you shoot from the hip?' He smiled and said, "I started shooting that way long time back."
When Kapur was ready to shoot The Four Feathers about two years ago, he was told he was going to make an epic like Lawrence Of Arabia. Much of the action in the movie takes place in Sudan where the British army is trying to put down a rebellion led by a charismatic man known as the Mahdi.
"Everybody said you are going to make Lawrence Of Arabia," the director says, amused. "But then I remembered it took David Lean about two years to shoot his film. And I had just about two or three months."
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