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'I was amazed at the craze for Devdas'
Subhash K Jha | January 28, 2003 11:56 IST
Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Rs 500 million film, Devdas, won MTV's Best Asian Foreign Language Film Award at a ceremony held on January 24.
The director, now in Singapore, says happily, "For me, the experience of watching a live event was too much. I gave away the last award of the evening for Best Video. I am amazed at the craze for Devdas among the local Malaysians, Chinese and Koreans. There were just a few Indians in the audience apart from Aishwarya Rai, A R Rahman and me. Both Aishwarya and Rahman have a huge fan following in Malaysia."
Bhansali was a bit dazed by the attention. "I did not expect Devdas to stand out in such a Westernised, urbanised audience. My film is about classical dance, music and drama. Here, the event was contemporary celebration. The young yuppie crowd at the MTV awards also cheered for Devdas. Nothing makes me happier than seeing youngsters outside India accord so much respect to the Indian classical heritage."
Recently, Rahul Bose, who won the second prize at the Palm Springs Festival for his directorial debut Everybody Says I'm Fine, said the infamous Indian song-and-dance formula is passe in the West. Crossover films are in.
Bhansali disagrees: "You can only crossover with an absolutely Indian thought in an Indian language. English language films about the urban Diaspora cannot achieve that crossover -- that is my interpretation of crossover cinema. Chinese cinema did it with exotic and ethnic homegrown ideas. We need to do the same. We have to believe in our own culture and go with it. It may or it may not work. But we cannot carry Western ideas to the West and expect to make an impact."
For Bhansali, one of the highlights of the event was his meeting with Rahman. "He's such a wonderful guy. He broke the ice by approaching me and greeting me warmly. Considering he is a man of few words, that was very nice of him. I think he is as eager to work with me as I am with him. Rahman pointed out how everyone had written off Devdas as the story of a loser."
"The Oscar," says Bhansali, "is a completely different ball game. But yes, the MTV award does guide attention, as the one Asian film that needs to be looked at closely."
Devdas, starring Shah Rukh Khan, Madhuri Dixit and Aishwarya Rai, was also selected by Time magazine as the fourth best film of 2002.