NRIs have spoilt our mainstream cinema: Vishal Bharadwaj

Aug 13, 2007 Subhash K. Jha

Mumbai, Aug 13 (IANS) The non-resident Indian film market has spoilt the country's mainstream cinema, feels filmmaker Vishal Bharadwaj who has just won a National Award for "The Blue Umbrella".

"In their cinematic entertainment, the NRIs look for a country they left behind 50 years ago. 'The Blue Umbrella' is targeted at a white-skinned audience," Bharadwaj told IANS.

In fact, not too many people know that "The Blue Umbrella" was ready before "Omkara".

"That's right," laughed Bharadwaj. "But my producer UTV wanted to give it an international release and it was taking too long, since 'Umbrella' isn't a conventional song-and-dance ethnic NRI film. That market, I feel, has spoilt our mainstream cinema. That cinema and audience are caught in a time warp.

He is hugely excited about "The Blue Umbrella".

"It's very different from my other film with children 'Makdee'. It was made for kids. 'The Blue Umbrella' is more humorous, humane and mature, like an Iranian film. Kids will have to be accompanied by parents for this one.

"In those days, right after 'Maqbool', I was heavily into Iranian cinema. I came across this Ruskin Bond's good-versus-evil story with an authentic setting. 'The Blue Umbrella' is a kids' films for adults."

Bharadwaj is very impressed by Iranian films.

"Look at them. They make culture-specific films that are universal in appeal. That's what I aimed for in 'The Blue Umbrella'. We are such a self-sufficient market we don't look for non-traditional audiences, whereas European and Iranian cinema have to look outside the country for an audience."

Ironically, "Maqbool" never got released overseas.

"Today, when I see myself being announced as the director of 'Makdee', 'Maqbool' and 'Omkara' on the posters of 'The Blue Umbrella', I get a bit nervous. I don't want to live under any illusions about how much of the audience I can draw in.

"'Omkara' had stars. Before that 'Maqbool' didn't get the same audience, though it was an equally powerful subject. So stars are really valuable to reach the masses. Let's see if 'The Blue Umbrella' can get the audiences in without stars."

Bharadwaj says that NRI filmmaker Deepa Mehta first wanted to produce an English language version of his much-lauded "Omkara". But later she changed her mind.

"Yes, she wanted to buy the rights of 'Omkara' and make it into an English film when I met her in Canada. Then when I met her at IIFA (International Indian Film Academy) awards two months ago, she offered to convert 'Omkara' into a play to be staged at Shakespeare's birth place," Bharadwaj said.

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