With fans picked from the Wilbur World Wide community online making up its cast and crew, Simple Superstar, releasing today, pushes the envelope of what is considered normal
Wilbur Sargunaraj’s comical, philosophical biopic, Simple Superstar is upon us. Wilbur has previously told us that Chicken 65 is the “First Class meat”, showed us how to “eat with the hands on the green banana leaves”, proclaimed that “mark of the man is his moustache” and has performed “first class Bhangra” while dancing like Michael Jackson . He has dispensed jitters of “flying on the airplane for the first time” and given valuable tips on “how to tie the lungi.” Simple Superstar will unravel the person behind these YouTube videos.
This movie, which is in “English with a peppering of Tamil” had its world premier at the Calgary International Film Festival, Canada in September followed by its USA premier at the San Francisco South Asian Film Festival, in November. It has won the Golden Palm award for Best Musical at the Mexico International Film Festival and the Wild Ace award at the Las Vegas International Film Festival already. Wilbur says that Simple Superstar is not your conventional Indian movie. The cast and crew were his fans, picked from the Wilbur World Wide community on the internet. “The cast doubled up as crew doing production, sound and DOP work,” says Wilbur. “It is truly an international collaboration. My cinematographer, Ben Stamper is from New Jersey, Cara Priya from Toronto filmed with us, Suha Deeb a belly-dancer from Lebanon flew to Dubai to be part of the film shoot. Others like Robert Stephens, is co-funding it by practically emptying all his savings, Dr. Christine from Glasgow is funding the premieres in India, a fan from Oman arranged for the cars we used in the Dubai shoot, etc. The list goes on and on. This was made 100 percent with the Wilbur fan base.”
Considering its international nature, was language ever a hurdle? He says, “When you are having so much fun, language never is a barrier. In Dubai I did an impromptu concert for labourers from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Afghanistan. Even though we all spoke different languages we did the Cobra and clapped to Simple Superstar. It is beautiful how music and dance can bring people together.”
The movie was shot around Dubai, Chennai, Madurai, Mumbai, rural parts of Tirunalveli and Virudhunagar. The India shoot took 23 days. “Our DOP’s visa expired in exactly 24 days, so it had to be completed in 23. I overheated and got heatstroke after doing fight scenes for two hours in 44 degree weather in Chennai. I had to sit out for an hour and poured bottles of cold soda over my head! Thankfully there was cold Bovonto to cool my system down.”
Wilbur is currently based out of Toronto and “splits his time between Madurai, Rajapalayam and Toronto.” Speaking about family, he says the he had a “first-class” family that supported him. He studied in different parts of India, including Darjeeling, Ooty, Robertsganj, Benares and Madurai. As a child, he pestered his cousins living abroad to bring him tapes of the latest music. “I immersed myself in musical styles from all over the world. I was always curious and open to what was different.”
Talking about his ‘How to’ videos, Wilbur says: “They are a marriage of the rural and modern through social media. I love helping people increase their cultural intelligence. ‘Making the common extraordinary’ means exactly that….to give the common a voice! While people put celebrities on pedestals I want to put the common person on a pedestal and let them know that they are extra special for who they are!”
On making a film Wilbur demands, “Why not? It’s fun! I have a story to tell and a YouTube video is too short.”
His work is inspired by Michael Jackson, his favourite movie is “the Australian cult classic, The Castle.” In his free time, Wilbur enjoys watching “Airline Investigations with a good cup of tea and some Tapioca chips!” If he weren’t doing what he is, he would have been a pilot or a drummer for a Timba/Salsa band from Cuba.
He is next collaborating with Nandita Sen, for a project called Dark is Beautiful. He is toying with the idea of starting a tour company in India, to “take them on an exciting adventure,” in the distant future. He also plans on releasing a book on cultural intelligence for children and then there are his Lungi-Pants announcing his entry into retail.
Simple Superstar will premier in Bangalore today at (Alliance Francaise).