Steering the ship

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personality Filmmaker Kiran Rao on presenting Anand Gandhi’s Ship Of Theseus

WE HAVE TO CHANGEOur methods of film distribution and exhibition, believes Kiran RaoPHOTO: BHAGYA PRAKASH K.
WE HAVE TO CHANGEOur methods of film distribution and exhibition, believes Kiran RaoPHOTO: BHAGYA PRAKASH K.

The quirky Kiran Rao has always been in the news for being different, in every facet of her life. It comes as no surprise then that she’s doing what most directors in Bollywood won’t openly do — promote a fellow-director’s work (with exceptions like Anurag Kashyap). And a newbie at that.

Audience’ interest peaked when Kiran was labelled “presenter” of the now much-talked-about film by director Anand Gandhi, Ship of Theseus (SOT). Kiran’s logic for going onboard this ship is simply this. “I feel that’s really one thing I hope we can instil in our children – the ability to recognise and salute quality. It’s so important for us to say ‘That’s incredible work. And I’m so happy that you made it for all of us’. That I think is something I really lament about us. As people, for some reason, many of us are not happy to see other people do well. But I’m so excited that Anand made a film that none of us could make.”

Kiran first watched the film, and it got her to think about, and act on that thought, she says. What got her hooked to the film was the idea that director Anand Gandhi gave her something that she could mull on and use to change her life, says Kiran. “I actually used it in a real way.” The presenter’s job is being the bridge between film and the audience — to bring the audience to the film through a known face, says Kiran.“It’s so nice to have colleagues doing interesting work in the same world as you. I asked him if he needed any help — putting him in touch with people or advice, because I’ve been around in the industry a bit longer than him. But when Anand said ‘Will you come on board and present this film?’, I was quite sceptical about why anyone would come to watch a film because I’m presenting it? But one of the more basic things the film tells you — there are many deeper and complex questions, thoughts, meanings — yet, the one thing you come out feeling is that every one can do a little bit. has. It changed me — the film.”

Kiran says she considers herself as audience when she sees a film like this. And that such a film as SOT will work with the Indian audience, despite a remarkable audience diversity.

“I don’t think box office is necessarily the only way to judge that. We actually did a campaign for SOT called ‘Vote for the film in your city’ and we only promoted the film online; we’ve done no advertising. We have to change our methods of distribution and exhibition. And we’ll have to democratise it more. This is one of our attempts here — to gauge if there is an audience out there… I mean that’s why Torrents even exist!”

Post her debut Dhobi Ghat, Kiran, the director has been quiet. “I have a story idea which I’m going to chip away at once SOT is done,” is all she’ll say. She’s one of the few women directors in Bollywood, and I wonder whether being labelled a “woman director” is different from just being a director. “The fact that women are making more films in Bollywood is important. And I am happy to be called a woman film maker because that’s what I am , but one hopes that when people watch a film, they watch it because it’s a good film and not because it’s a woman making it! ”

Kiran doesn’t fail to point out, though, that the film industry is a forbidding and intimidating place for many, not just women. “It’s an industry one would conventionally think twice about joining. But I think it’s certainly important that more women work in the film industry. In different capacities. I’m on the board of Women in Film and Television (WIFT) in India, and met a woman who’s on the board in the American Chapter. And she said ‘You’ll be surprised it’s the same in the U.S. In the Academy, there are fewer women than men.’”





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