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Westward ho! M.R. Shahjahan
Westward ho! M.R. Shahjahan

M.R. Shahjahan weaves an Indian theme for the U.S. audience

Listening to the director and producer of Karma: Crime, Passion, Reincarnation, one starts feeling that cinema is no longer an art and these people have discovered the elusive ‘formula’. “A film should have Indian soul and Western packaging for it to work in the United States,” says Vivek Singhania, producer of this English film which was screened at the ongoing Osian’s Cinefan film festival.

The film stars Carlucci Wieant and Alma Saraci and Vijendra Ghatage in the lead roles. It talks about reincarnation without the melodrama we associate with Bollywood films of this genre. The story is about Vikram, estranged and separated from his father for the past 30 years. He visits him in Ooty with his bride Anna from New York. She unwittingly becomes the medium of events including visions of a murder that took place in the woods surrounding Vikram’s father’s home 30 years ago. At first Vikram accuses Anna of having some ingrained psychological problems, but later they discover that a murder had indeed taken place at that time. “Karmic theory has for long fascinated the West and now there is a section of people which has started believing in reincarnation, and we feel the film will appeal to them,” says director M.R. Shahjahan, who in the past has assisted the likes of David Lean and James Ivory.

He feels the American audience wants Indian subjects but the actors should speak in American accents. “They don’t expect an Indiana Jones from us. And they don’t like dubbing.”

Vivek, the man behind films like Na Tum Jaano Na Hum and Chura Liya Hai Tumne, has written the screenplay of Karma…. “When you write a reincarnation story for an Indian audience, you first look for song situations. Here you are expected to finish the story in 90 minutes.”

Not a monolith

Vivek mentions the West is not a monolith. “The European market behaves differently particularly Germany, Austria and Switzerland.” He is releasing Na Tum Jaano Na Hum in Switzerland soon. Indian cinema may have moved to films like Mithya and Shaurya, but Vivek says European audiences still associate India with family drama. “In Germany they love Shah Rukh because he cries in his films. German men don’t cry, so his behaviour is a novelty.”

ANUJ KUMAR

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