Vidhu Vinod Chopra: An Indian 'proving his point' in Hollywood

By Radhika Bhirani New Delhi: English was alien to him until he was 16; but he landed an Oscar nomination in 1979, directed pertinent Hindi films like “Parinda” and “1942: A Love Story”, produced India’s cinematic goldmine “3 Idiots”. And now, he’s ready with his maiden Hollywood project “Broken Horses”. At 62, Vidhu Vinod Chopra feels like a debutant who has “proved his point” that even a Bollywood filmmaker can make a Hollywood film.

It was five years ago that the idea of writing, directing and producing a Hollywood film struck him. He set out to “chase the new dream”, in a new country, with new people, with new ethos and a firm belief in his passion for filmmaking.

In fact, he says “Broken Horses” was a case of his “passion overruling rationality”.

In a chat with IANS over phone from Mumbai, Chopra said: “See, I come from a small village in Kashmir. I studied at a D.A.V. School in Kashmir, didn’t even know English till I was 16… All I was dreaming was to make one Bollywood movie before I die. But after that dream got fulfilled, either I could keep sitting on my laurels, or I could create new dreams.”

He chose the latter. When he was nominated in the Documentary Short Subject category of the Academy Awards for “An Encounter with Faces” — which highlighted the plight of India’s destitute children — Chopra was tempted to “go back” to the US to make a film.

“The point I wanted to prove was that as most of us know that Hollywood looks down upon Hindi cinema, and their attitude is that our cinema is loud and over the top, the thing is that we can also do what they can do, if not better.”

“People like James Cameron and Alfonso Cuaron have been raving about my film. My point is proved — we can make Hollywood films too,” said Chopra, two of whose Hindi films — “Parinda” and “Eklavya – The Royal Guard” made it to India’s official entries for Oscars’ Best Foreign Language Film category.

Made on a budget of $20 million and backed by Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Entertainment, mystery thriller “Broken Horses” stars actors like Maria Valverde, Thomas Jane, Anton Yelchin and Vincent D’Onofrio. Chopra even worked with an American crew — and there’s no denying that he faced the prejudices an Indian filmmaker is likely to in the western world.

But Chopra says “the only way to overcome them is by way of your work”.

“When people read my script, all their defences broke down because they felt it was brilliant. The bottomline is that finally, your work speaks for itself. And in the US, if you’re talented, you will definitely be respected,” said the creative mind, who considers it “madness” (but a worthwhile one) on his part to venture out into helming a Hollywood project.

For the seasoned filmmaker, who has dished out ‘edutaining’ movies like “3 Idiots” and “PK” for the modern Indian audience, filming an English language project for the global audience came with its set of challenges.

“It was not easy for me, at 62, to unlearn whatever I learnt for 40 years in India about cinema. And to learn all over again and do something new… I feel I’m making my debut at 62,” he quipped.

Chopra unlearnt the art of India’s over-the-top filmmaking laced with songs and dances. And then, he found an “amazing learning” in the efficiency of people in the US.

“Indians are great people, but we are highly inefficient professionally.”

Now geared to release his Hollywood baby globally on April 10, Chopra is also ready to work on other foreign projects.

“There are Hollywood studios which are interested in talking to me after this movie. I will talk to them, and let us see… If there is another mountain to climb, I will climb it.”

(Radhika Bhirani can be contacted at [email protected])

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Vidhu Vinod Chopra: An Indian 'proving his point' in Hollywood

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