Canadian-born film director and writer Roger Spottiswoode is on the International Competition jury at the Mumbai Film Festival. Having directed a number of notable films and television productions including Under Fire (1983) and the 1997 James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, Spottiswoode is looking forward to all the Indian movies at the fest – and he has some advice for Indian filmmakers too!
Do you watch Indian films?
Yes, I have watched films by Satyajit Ray like Pather Panchali and most of Deepa Mehta’s and Mira Nair’s films. I also like to watch Anglo-Indian cinema by Ismail Merchant. Of the new films, I really enjoyed Lagaan. But I am not really a big fan of Bollywood.
Because they revolve around the clichéd song-and-dance routine. They need to break away from this mould and tell stories that appeal to the audience across the globe.
As part of the jury of the Mumbai Film Festival, what criteria will you use to evaluate films?
A film should be able to move me. It should be able to tell me about India or life in general. It should bring about a different perspective to story-telling. I am also looking forward to films with great technical advancements in them. The film should be able to illuminate not just the screen but our hearts as well.
Will you be laying down a mandate or guidelines for your fellow jury members?
No. Each member has their own taste and perceptions about cinema and that’s what they will bring to the table.
Are there any films that you are looking forward to, personally?
I want to watch all the films. I really hope I can watch Ray’s Pather Panchali and a whole lot of South Korean cinema. I also want to watch all the Indian cinema that will be screened at the festival and the entire line-up seems quite exciting.
What roles do festivals like the Mumbai Film Festival play in exposing Indian filmmakers to world cinema, and conversely introducing Indian cinema to the world?
The festival will provide a wonderful opportunity for local people to watch international films. There is an enormous list of world cinema which Indian filmmakers can learn from and vice-versa. This will also be an opportunity for international filmmakers to interact with Indian filmmakers. Indian films can be introduced to a lot of new countries and markets. This festival has invited a lot of people from the film fraternity who will get to watch films that otherwise have restricted viewing.
Is there any particular genre of films that you enjoy watching or would like to make?
I like political thrillers and documentaries. I enjoy making films on the lives of other people who have great stories to tell. They make a great narrative and appeal to most people.
How about action, since you made the popular James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies?
I did not enjoy it all that much. I am not at all a fan of action films but they do well with the audience. Tomorrow Never Dies turned out to be a good film and became very popular but I don’t think I would like to make that type of film any more.
Why is that?
Because these films, especially the action films being released of late, tend to make a mockery of the audience. These films are getting stupider by the day. They try to sell things which are absolutely unreal. Although box-office-wise, these films are big money spinners, I personally neither enjoy making nor watching them.
What do you think of technological advancements like VFX in a film?
Technology can sometimes bring about ridiculous things on screen. It’s like filmmakers are trying to sell stories which are not real. In fact, they appear to be more like video games on the big screen. It’s like chewing gum… you keep chewing on it but there is no real nourishment.
How about things like 3D and James Cameron’s Avatar that made a lot of money worldwide?
Here’s an interesting bit of trivia. 3D has been in use since the Victorian days, almost since 1950. And my father, Raymond Spottiswoode, was the first to invent a still 3D camera. So I grew up watching a lot of 3D films. This technology is nothing new to the film world. It tends to enhance thriller and action films but the real beauty of a film lies in its story and content.I know Avatar made a lot of money and I really liked the scenes with the islands. I think it was quite creative. But 3D is not the backbone of a film. You need imagination. A good story is the heart of a film. Ray’s films are not in 3D but they are landmark films. Not only do people still talk about the stories in these films but they are also screened repeatedly at festivals across the world. I think ten years down the line, people will be discussing Avatar’s 3D genius but not its plot line.
Are you familiar with Indian actors?
Not all of them. But I know of Aamir Khan. In fact, I wanted to work with him on one of my projects but he turned down my offer. I will be working with Siddharth Suryavanshi from the South film industry. The film is expected to hit the floors next year. We are still in the process of finalisations and funding.
According to you, which Indian actor would fit the role of James Bond?
Madhavan. He is a very funny guy. Bond’s character is that of an intelligent and witty man and I think Madhavan comes across as quite humourous in real life too.