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A college dropout, a filmmaker who sold his script for Terminator for one dollar on the condition that he direct it, and then went on to give us blockbusters like Titanic and Avatar, James Cameron wowed actor and director Aamir Khan alongwith everyone in the audience at The India Today Conclave 2010, whose theme was 'New Decade: Great Expectations' on March 13.
Held at The Taj Palace Hotel in New Delhi, the session was chaired by editor in chief of the India Today magazine, Aroon Purie. The event was attended by the creme de la creme of society, all eager to hear what the two trend setting filmmakers had to say about The Future of Cinema.
Lovely ladies dressed in expensive silks, leaving behind trails of expensive perfume, perfectly turned out gentlemen, and the delicate clink of wine glasses were everywhere you turned.
And if that wasn't enough, the presence of celebrities like Asin, Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Koel Puri to name a few, completed this star studded event. Once seated, beautiful table linens and choice wines accompanied the discussion that left everyone present enthralled.
The Oscar winning director shared what it was like to have a dream, and then to go ahead and realize it. At a time when 3-D films were almost unheard of, James Cameron decided to take the plunge and bring in a technological revolution that few had faith in. But Cameron knew this was just something he had to do.
"Though the 3-D cameras were unwieldy and almost as big as refrigerators and though this form of cinema was totally new, I was hooked from the start. Once I shot on 3-D cameras, I swore I would never go back to 2-D!" says the filmmaker.
But there was one big hurdle in his way -- the fact that few theatres were equipped to show 3-D films. That's where Avatar came in -- the dream was to make a film so big, so exciting and so irresistible that the theatres couldn't ignore it.
"Avatar is a film that was written 10 years before it was made. I had almost forgotten about it, but when I pulled it out again, I knew this could work, if done right. So I assembled together a crew and we got cracking. It was really exciting to be a part of something so cutting edge that if we had a problem, there was no manual to refer to -- we were going to have to figure it all out ourselves. That's why the film took 4.5 years to make!" reveals Cameron.
Aamir Khan, clearly taken by Cameron's story, expressed disappointment at the fact that Bollywood is technologically far behind Hollywood.
"I find that Hollywood spends so much time and effort on research and development, which we lack in India. I have always wanted to go to L.A. and learn the techniques of special effects. Maybe someday I could visit your studio and you could show me what you've done with Avatar," charmingly delivered the Indian superstar.
So is it special effects, technology or the story that makes a film work?
According to Cameron, "In the case of Avatar, I don't think it was 3-D that made it successful. What made it work was the fact that the story works -- it touches people's hearts. It's a very personal film for me; it reflects my feelings as a teenager about how we are treating our planet, war, and things like that. Movies are made from the heart, not by computers. Avatar is a film made from my heart."
Khan agrees, "I think the core responsibility of cinema is to entertain. But you can't entertain unless you have something to tell. I remember, as a kid, when I'd come home from school, there would often be these writers pitching ideas to my father. I would sit in a corner and listen, fascinated by the various stories. But the one thing I remember my father always asking every writer was, 'What is your story in one line?' So that's what I learnt -- that a story should have a message, however simple or complicated it is."
So what does Aamir look for before he signs a film?
Pat comes the reply, "I look for filmmakers who have a story to tell. If they are just bursting to tell it, I know they will find the right way to tell it, and make sure people listen to it. That's the central thing I look for. That's what I felt when I heard the stories of Rang de Basanti, Dil Chahta Hai, Taare Zameen Par...in fact, 15 minutes into the narration of Taare Zameen Par, I was crying so hard that I had to request a break, go into the bathroom and get a towel before continuing."
Cameron agrees. "If I can't make myself cry while writing an emotional scene, I don't believe it. I know I haven't arrived," he adds.
The perfectionist of Indian cinema did, however, confess that he is not immune to his films -- some of his films have changed his perspectives in life.
"For example, while making Sarfarosh, I met a lot of policemen. Some of the things they said really shook me. One cop told me that whenever they get a little time, the first thing they do is either eat or sleep...because they don't know when they'll get to do either next! Another guy told me that he hates finding dead bodies- because if they can't locate a relative soon enough, he has to pay for the post mortem, last rites, etc. Incidents like these can just suddenly change the way you've looked at something for years. I realized that while we blame the police force for all the crimes they didn't prevent, we forget about all those that they did."
From serious discussions like editing tips and life, the topics became lighter like the one on whether Aamir would allow his wife Kiran Rao to accept an award. The session spanned over a wide range of subjects, including a rather unexpected statement from Cameron, implying that he would like Aamir to work with him in a Hollywood film!
Perhaps we can expect great things to come out of this interaction between the giants of Hollywood and Bollywood.