With September just a few months away, Deepa Mehta is gearing up to debut her screen adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Deepa who had apparently offered the role of the protagonist to Imran Khan, Ranbir Kapoor and Shahid Kapoor before she cast British actor, Satya Bhabha, speaks on the challenges of making this epic film.
Many Bollywood artistes like Shabana Azmi, Anupam Kher, Seema Biswas, Rahul Bose, Shahana Goswami and Darsheel Safary feature in your film. Any particular reason?
Indian cinema has fabulous actors. There are many actors in the film from the National School of Drama and for a few it was their debut performance. It would be really dumb not to take advantage of this and dip into the Bollywood pool of talent.
How much did it have to do with the fee? Reportedly, Imran Khan was quoting a high price?
What fee? Though Imran Khan had crossed my mind briefly, it was just that I have never spoken to him, nor Shahid Kapoor, nor Ranbir Kapoor for Midnight’s Children. All fabulous actors, but Saleem Sinai, the unlikely protagonist, is hardly their cup of tea.
Rani Mukerji and Kangna Ranaut were to initially be part of your film. Irrfan opted out due to Life Of Pi and Nandita Das left the film for motherhood. That must have been a very difficult time.
It’s the nature of filmmaking. Some actors work out, and some just don’t. Not a setback at all, just an opportunity to get creative with one’s casting. To think outside the box.
For a film about Indian independence and Partition, you chose to shoot it in Sri Lanka. Did the protests against Water put you off filming in India?
The backdrop of the film is the postcolonial history of India, from its Independence from England to the Emergency. We chose to film in Sri Lanka because the locations available there were near impossible to find in the new India of skyscrapers. And yes, the debacle of shooting Water in India did cross our mind, but was in no way the reason we did not film there.
What thoughts crossed your mind when the shooting was interrupted following Iran’s complaint to Sri Lanka the film?
That I was watching a bad movie!
A few years ago, you had announced Komagata Maru, with John Abraham. But the film was reportedly shelved. Why? Any plans of making it in future?
It wasn’t shelved, just postponed. I decided to make Midnight’s Children first.