'It's not old men playing Bond and going out with young women anymore.'
Dominic McAllister, the new British deputy high commissioner for Bengaluru, who first visited India in 1971 as a child, moved to the city two weeks ago.
On the occasion of the release of the latest James Bond film, Spectre, McAllister talks to Nikita Puri about Bond’s legacy and how the spy franchise fits well with the United Kingdom's efforts to project itself as a country that is changing with changing times and is much more than a sum of its traditional values.
Can you explain the link between the fictional secret agent and the UK?
The Bond franchise is a representation of what the UK is good at -- the skills and the technology that go into building such movies.
Bond is iconic; he is supposedly the epitome of every UK gentleman, but I doubt that's the case!
The movie has been filmed in some of our iconic sites like the City Hall, the London Eye, and this directly relates to our 'GREAT' campaign that promotes the UK as a destination for businesses, students, tourism and investments.
What exactly is the 'GREAT' campaign?
The British government has been running 'GREAT' for four to five years now in 60 countries. The campaign was launched because the nation's impression was of a very traditional country with traditional values; it was stuck in the past.
What we are trying to do is to explain what modern Britain is like. It is a multi-faith, dynamic society.
We recently had an event called 'Technology is GREAT', where researchers and scientists came in for a multi-city tour in India. Similarly, we're likely to have 'Innovation is GREAT' and 'Music is GREAT'.
What makes the campaign trend on the social media with hashtags such as #HomeofBond, #BondisGREAT?
When you talk to people, you realise they've begun to see the UK in a different way -- it's not just 'Let's go visit Buckingham Palace'. They now want to see the places where Bond was filmed, to visit the castle where Downton Abbey was shot. A lot of visitors want to see the Highclere Castle where the show's outdoor scenes were shot.
Businesses are also now looking to the UK as a technology partner. What we want to tell people is that you have many more reasons to visit the UK other than the traditional ones, and what better way to say that than a Bond movie.
How do you see the evolution of Bond, be it with Daniel Craig or otherwise?
Bond's character will reflect our changing society. For example, Spectre is an evil criminal organisation (in the movie) and it is not country or government-led, unlike the past where it used to be the Russians versus the West.
You are looking at someone who grew up on Bond. I went to the cinema every week for four weeks and spent my pocket money on The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), my first Bond movie. I've seen him changing.
Roger Moore was a very charismatic character; he was flippant and relaxed even when chaos was breaking out. Craig's movies appeal to a more modern audience. He's a more sensitive Bond; he understands and respects women better.
Bond girl Monica Bellucci is the same age as Daniel Craig (50), and I think what the producers are trying to say with that is that James Bond has come of age.
It's not old men playing Bond and going out with young women anymore. There is a certain element of equality in the films now.
What are the parallels between the lifestyles of Bond and the people of the UK?
The Bond lifestyle brings together the different aspects of Britain. Bond is a character you'd like to emulate, so people buy the brands that Bond uses.
It is possible to live a Bond life in the UK. And while most people in the UK can't afford an Aston Martin, there is scope to do so.
Would you say that the Bond lifestyle has an aspirational quality? How is this balanced with the advertising that is woven into the films?
Yes, it is aspirational in the sense that Bond's brands are iconic brands. Some want the car, others the suit, others the watch.
The criticism of old Bond movies was that they were more focussed on advertising than the storyline. Producers now know that products add to Bond's character, but they are not the focus of the movie.
The movie is about an individual with values; he's not a perfect man and can be weak. He's got a heart, and that's more important than him driving an Aston Martin or wearing expensive watches.
IMAGES: TOP: Daniel Craig as 007. BOTTOM: Lea Seydoux, Daniel Craig and Monica Bellucci. Photograph: John Phillips/Getty Images.