PROUST QUESTIONNAIRENagesh Kukunoor is an independent filmmaker who continues to make films that defy convention and genre. His filmography includes the critically acclaimed Hyderabad Blues, Rockford, Bollywood Calling, Teen Deewarein, Iqbal, Dor, Aashayein and Mod.
What is your idea of happiness?
To feel the rush that could come from driving down a gorgeous stretch of road with the sun beating down on your face, or a rock concert you are at or a perfect take on the sets.
What is your greatest fear?
That I would lose the passion. I’ve always felt that we are wired to have a maniacal passion for that one special thing. For me, it’s filmmaking.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Honestly, if I could just remember to wake up and smell the roses or the coffee. Basically, to enjoy the moment instead of glossing over it and enjoying it at hindsight.
If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?
I wish we met more often. I meet them just once a year.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Without doubt, Hyderabad Blues. It was not the success, just the making of the film. All your life you are like, give me a chance I could do this and that but after Hyderabad Blues, I felt I had nothing more to prove to anyone or myself.
If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
Maybe as a rock. l think it is so much nicer to just stop thinking.
If you could choose what to come back as, what would it be?
Hugh Hefner would not be a bad idea.
Where would you like to live?
On a ranch in the U.S. outside a big city with my own vegetable and fruit garden. Not way out in the boondocks but with access to the big city so that you have it when you need it.
What is your favourite occupation?
Filmmaking. It truly completes me...Two professions actually. Medicine, it fascinates me. And if I were not a filmmaker, I could be a chef. I enjoy cooking. I think being a chef or a doctor at some level is about the propagation of life.
What is your most marked characteristic?
That’s an easy one. It’s single-mindedness to the point of ridiculousness.
What is the quality you most like in the opposite sex?
Oh brother! I would like to go for sensuality. I know it seems superficial but sensuality can come in many ways. I know I could have said companionship, intelligence or honesty but I would rather pick this because women have the ability to be sensual in a million different ways, doing the most mundane of things — whether it is reading a book, dicing vegetables, yawning, you name it...
What do you most appreciate in your friends?
Loyalty. Just knowing that you can count on them.
Who are your favourite authors?
Stephen King, George Orwell and J.D. Salinger.
Who is your favourite hero of fiction?
Indiana Jones. Well, like I used his character in Aashayein. Indiana Jones represents adventure, the ability to take life to that next level. Raiders of the Lost Ark (which introduced Indiana Jones) is the film that changed my life. It was that epiphanic moment that I decided to become a filmmaker. I am drawn to the rush and sense of adventure and therefore Indiana is a constant reminder... To take that step, physically and metaphorically, and embark on another adventure!
Who are your heroes in real life?
I would pick some contemporary ones. Richard Branson, George Clooney and Steve Soderberg. Branson is a true maverick and has the guts to stick to his intuition. Clooney, after becoming one of the biggest movie stars turned his attention to humanitarian efforts. Only one in a billion can become a Gandhi. I could never reach that level but I can aspire to do what Clooney does. Make money, enjoy life and help the world. And Steve Soderberg, because he has the guts to do bizarre things. He could shoot on a Canon 5D in half a day and make something out of it. I am in awe of someone like that.
What are your favourite names?
I think girls’ names evoke beautiful images... Salma Hayek, Madhubala… Wow. They bring a smile to your face. There are too many to mention.
What is your present state of mind?
Reinvention. During my chemical engineering days, I read about a CEO, who every five years starts to do something radical and different and keeps his interests fresh. I take a lot of risks through my films. So there is some degree of reinvention but I am trying to make it in my personal life as well.
How would you like to die?
Without knowing. In an accident or in sleep. The knowledge of death is the worst thing. I don’t care when I go.
What is your favourite motto?
‘Either you do or you don’t’. The rest are just excuses. It’s a saying that I put up at the start of every project. I genuinely believe in it.
The Proust Questionnaire is a fortnightly feature that alternates with the Saturday Interview. These questions were most famously answered by the French writer Marcel Proust, whose personality-revealing responses came to define this form of celebrity confession. This fortnight’s questionnaire was administered by SUDHISH KAMATH