'It is light, campy, entertaining'
Deepa Mehta on what makes Bollywood/Hollywood a fusion film
Arthur J Pais in Toronto
After the Hindu fundamentalists shut down the production of Water, I was in the dumps for many months," said Deepa Mehta cheerfully. "But I reasoned out I needed to do something to lighten up myself."
She did not want the fundamentalists to feel she had been defeated, she said, hinting that she might return to the Water project some day.
So she made Bollywood/Hollywood, which was the opening film in the Canadian Perspective section at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Made for about $2 million, Bollywood/Hollywood involves a young dotcom millionaire (Rahul Khanna) who is rebelling against the traditions of his family. When his mother (Moushumi Chatterji) threatens to call off his sister's wedding unless he finds himself "a nice Indian girl", he hires a Spanish woman (Lisa Ray) to masquerade as his fiancιe --- only to discover that she is indeed Indian.
The Toronto festival officials chose her film for the inauguration of the perspective because, they pointed out, Mehta has a very good name in the film community, is internationally known, and her film has that feel-good touch that could draw the people in.
It did. Three public screenings of the film, which opens for regular shows in Canada on October 25, were sold out. For the final show on September 10, more than 90 people waited for over two hours, just in case there were cancellations. There weren't.
While many critics felt the film soon became predictable and gave it just two stars, the audiences seemed to enjoy it.
Bollywood/Hollywood will have to earn at least $4 million to break even. Will it be another Monsoon Wedding, which grossed $14 million in North America and about $8 million abroad where it is continuing its run in minor territories? Or will it be another also-ran movie about desis in North America?
"It is light, it is campy, and it is entertaining," Mehta says of her latest offering. "It is not a film about East and West values as such. I would call it a hybrid film, a fusion film. Its composer is from Bollywood and its choreographer is from Toronto who works in Hollywood."
Several leading Canadian publications have run stories on Lisa Ray and her role in the movie, but down south in America there hasn't been much interest. Mehta feels, however, that once the film opens in Canada and becomes an audience favourite, interest is bound to increase.
The 52-year-old filmmaker made her debut with the feature film Sam and Me about a decade ago. The film told a poignant story of a friendship between an Indian immigrant and an elderly Jewish man.
Her father, who was in the movie exhibition business in Delhi, used to tell her that there were two things most uncertain in life --- when death will come and how a film will end up at the box-office. "And yet one goes on making movies," she laughs. "We were always optimistic in our family."
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