As he gets into “Xtreme City”, Paul Schrader speaks about how cinema is getting superficial.
He is the man who helped in shaping Martin Scorsese’s vision. He is the man who characterised Robert De Niro as the subversive vigilante. Paul Schrader is in India as the member of the jury of the Mumbai Film Festival. The legendary scriptwriter and filmmaker, who inspired a generation with his cult scripts like “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull”, speaks cut to cut, very much like his screenplays. With 10 minutes at one’s disposal, one tries to indulge him on his latest fascination, Bollywood. He is working on “Xtreme City”, which is being co-produced by Anubhav Sinha.
The film has long been in pre-production. “Things are on course. I have finished the script with Mushtaq Sheikh and now we are taking it to the next level that is casting.” Shah Rukh Khan’s name is doing the rounds, particularly because of his proximity to Sheikh, but Paul says he has not been signed yet. “He is definitely a strong option. The talks are on but I can’t confirm right now.” In the same vein he adds there are not many ‘star’ options in Bollywood if SRK says no.
Meeting of cultures
He says the film centres on two friends, an American ranger and an Indian. “The two meet after many years in Mumbai. By that time the Indian has become a bhai.” He is known to take stylistic and thematic liberties within the Hollywood system and is expected to do something similar here. He affirms, “We are trying to bring in the best of American and Indian culture.” It is not the first time he is reaching out to a different country. In fact, his most critically acclaimed work as a director is “Mishima – A life in Four Chapters”, which was a Japanese co-production.
Danny Boyle’s success has made the world rush to Mumbai’s underbelly, but Schrader says he was developing the idea much before “Slumdog Millionaire” released.
Paul is now frequently seen on the Indian film festival circuit. Last year he was in Delhi for the Cinefan Film Festival. He says he has done enough research on Bollywood films. “In the current crop, I like the works of Ashutosh Gowarikar and Anurag Kashyap. I liked ‘New York’ for the way it portrayed an issue the world is grappling with.”
Isn’t Hollywood getting too commercial? Schrader interrupts, “Bollywood is no different. I don’t see independent cinema finds the right distribution channels here. By the way, in the U.S., the best screenplay writing is happening on television.”
Schrader agrees times have changed and we no longer see the unalloyed angst, the rebels of “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull”. “Apparently cinema has become superficial. We are not seeing any groundbreaking work. But it is a complicated issue, which needs to be debated, because superficiality is there, but side by side we are seeing the rise of independent cinema. Technology has become more accessible. Youngsters are shooting on digital format….”
Would he like to revise some of his works? “Personally, as you grow your experiences with life mould your writing. When I wrote those angst-ridden films I was in my 30s. Now I am in my 60s. But I have no complaints with ‘Taxi Driver’ and ‘Raging Bull’. They have been inspirational films. I might like to revise the ending of ‘American Gigolo’.”