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NY cinema lovers have Company
Tanmaya Kumar Nanda | May 15, 2003 04:27 IST
The Hindi film, Company (Ajay Devgan, Manisha Koirala, Vivek Oberoi, Antara Mali) is all set to make a comeback in the New York area after being selected as the Indian entry for Subway Cinema, an annual festival of the best in popular Asian cinema.
Ram Gopal Varma's underworld drama will be screened on Tuesday, May 20.
The festival, titled 'Asian Films are Go!!!', features a range of films from China, Korea, Japan and Taiwan, among others.
Subway Cinema is a two-year-old voluntary organisation run by four white men -- Grady Hendrix, Paul Kazee, Brian Naas and Goran Topalovic -- who have one thing in common: a love for Asian cinema.
'The Asian Films are Go!!!' festival is an attempt to get other people in the US to enjoy the films as a theatrical experience.
"Piracy has killed all the North American Chinese theatres [though there are a couple of South Asian ones left], except one in Vancouver [in Canada]," says Hendrix, "and this is an attempt to bring people of those nationalities as well as Western audiences to watch these films.
"If you grow up in America, the map centres [on] the US and Hollywood, but we realised there were lots of other film industries out there and they became our passage to the world."
Hendrix met the others through a happy, if unfortunate, incident. "We all used to visit this theatre in Chinatown that showed Chinese movies and we were like 'What's that white guy doing here?' Later, the theatre had to shut down and we met through email trying to raise funds to save it from closing, but we were unsuccessful. That's how we decided to start our own organisation to bring popular Asian cinema to a theatre."
Hendrix, who confesses to being a Ram Gopal Varma fan, told rediff.com that Company was chosen because "we all agreed it was the best Hindi film made last year".
"Technically it is perfect, there isn't a single lazy shot, there is an intention and purpose to each shot," he says, adding that he thinks Varma tells the best stories. "There has been no film like Company about crime, in America, since Heat."
The criterion for selection was quite simple. "We all had to love it, since that is the ultimate deciding factor for any viewer."
Although they also planned to get Devdas (Shah Rukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai, Madhuri Dixit), they decided against it because the movie has already had a long run in New York theatres. "And we didn't want to have a repeat of last year where we couldn't get the print of Dil Se... (Shah Rukh, Manisha Koirala, Preity Zinta) in time and ended up playing a DVD."
Even for Company, Hendrix reveals they spent almost $100 on phone calls trying to get through to the right people.
The quartet loves Indian cinema so much, it is now working on a proposal to have a festival of Bollywood films at the Lincoln Centre, hopefully at the end of the year. "Most Westerners have stereotypes of Indian cinema -- either arthouse or corny -- but we want to show some of the newer stuff, the more contemporary filmmakers such as Varma, Mani Ratnam, Kamal Haasan," Hendrix said.
As for the festival, Hendrix makes it clear that it is not arthouse cinema. "These are popular films and good films and there's a huge gap between the films and their marketing in the US," he said. "This is a labour of love to get people who don't get a chance to see these films otherwise to come and see them."
The films are being shown from May 18 at the Anthology Theatre, a 230-seater in the East Village, through May 26.