Time spent on sets of low grade films- the basis of Miss Lovely: Ashim Ahluwalia
Ashim Ahluwalia is a director, screenwriter, and producer. His feature film project “Miss Lovely is one of the five projects selected for production funding during winter granting cycle of the Global Film Initiative; from 68 applicants of 34 countries.
His first feature was John & Jane, which had a world premiere at the 2005 Toronto Film Festival followed by a European premiere at the 2006 Berlin Film Festival. The film won an Indian National Film Award in 2007.
He is one of those few filmmakers in India who disapprove of the Bollywood system and have ideas of filmmaking of their own. Ashim Ahluwalia on “Miss Lovely , independent filmmaking, Bollywood and more ¦
What is “Miss Lovely all about?
MISS LOVELY is set in the Bombay of the mid-1980s. It’s the story of two brothers, Vicky and Sonu, who produce sleazy C grade films. In a sense, they are petty criminals, they interpolate illegal sex scenes into their films and are always running from the police. Then they both end up falling for the same woman. That’s their downfall. It’s a tale of betrayal and doomed love.
Where did you derive the inspiration or the idea of the film from?
Almost ten years ago, I spent a lot of time hanging out on the sets of really low grade films. I was planning a documentary about the shooting of a sex-horror film called ‘Maut Ka Chehra’ made by a bunch of ex-convicts. I spent lots of time drinking with the cast and crew of these films, and they were an amazing bunch. These renegade filmmakers produced films out of nothing. Here was genuinely independent filmmaking misfits working on the margins with pathetically low-budgets, making cinema with their own sweat, blood and tears. Their raw energy reminded me of why I set out to make films in the first place. But people were too scared to talk on camera because there was so much overlap with the underworld and prostitution, so the documentary I was trying to make never happened. The material I collected and the people I met became the basis for MISS LOVELY.
When will the film be complete? How long did this project take you?
The film will be completed by mid 2011. Since we have a French co producer, they are keen to have it ready for Cannes next year.
How do you see independent filmmaking in India today?
It’s an exciting time. There’s no doubt about it. But let’s face it; we are nowhere near China or Korea or even Thailand when it comes to radical cinema. I think the problem is that many Indian filmmakers are too safe, there’s no edge, they are too worried about stars and box office and music releases to really make something that will blow anyone away.
What do you think needs to be done to support independent filmmakers in India?
To start with, we need a proper film fund, not something with a government agenda, like the NFDC, but a fund that genuinely promotes good, radical, risky cinema and yet makes it commercially viable. Most European and many Asian countries have this. Even Iran has one – Farabi – that is who produced Abbas Kiarostami and Mohsen Makhmalbaf. Even people like Lars von Trier could not exist without Danish national funding.
How do you see the film festival scenario in India? How far do they help independent filmmakers in terms of distribution etc.?
After completing my last film, John and Jane, I sent it to the Mumbai International Film Festival. It was rejected, and I was really disappointed. But then the film was accepted to the Toronto Film Festival and the Berlinale and won a European Media Award. I kind of realised that my film wasn’t all that bad. This is the disappointing truth: if the film hadn t hit the international festival circuit, if it hadn t been picked up by international distributors, I don t think it would have stood a chance in India.
What is your view of contemporary Indian cinema? Any filmmaker you like?
I don’t watch of lot of contemporary Indian cinema, but there are definitely interesting things going on. I think it’s still early days for a totally new wave, but I do feel a certain connection with other filmmakers of my generation. I just wish we made edgier films and didn’t give in to formulaic demands so easily.
What is it that makes you uncomfortable working within the existing Bollywood system?
Everything. All the fakeness, hammy acting, overblown plot lines, ridiculous endings. I just don’t like it.
What do you think of contemporary Bollywood cinema? Do you see things changing?
Our films are becoming more American, which is not necessarily a good thing in my book. Basically, they look and feel more like Hollywood in terms of the gloss, editing, camera movement and all that. But essentially they remain totally uninteresting.
What are the parameters by which you judge the success of your film?
If I’m happy with it, it’s a success.