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A Minute With: Vidhu Vinod Chopra on ‘Broken Horses’

The producer of Bollywood’s highest grossing film made his debut as a Hollywood director this month.

Vidhu Vinod Chopra hasn’t directed an Indian film since 2007, but couldn’t resist the lure of foreign shores for his latest project “Broken Horses“.

The Hollywood film, a crime thriller set on the U.S.-Mexico border, is a re-imagining of Chopra’s critically acclaimed 1989 film “Parinda“.

In recent years, Chopra has built a reputation as a leading Bollywood producer, financing blockbusters such as “PK“, which raked in over $3.4 billion at the Indian box office last year.

Chopra spoke to Reuters about why he wanted to make a Hollywood film, how “Parinda” has stood the test of time and what Indian directors need to unlearn to make films in the West.

Q: Why did you think of “Parinda” in a Western setting?

A: If you go back to Sergio Leone and what he did, when he made what they call the spaghetti western, just because it was a different genre. He didn’t know English well, and he made these films sitting in Italy. This film is dedicated to Sergio Leone because it’s a tribute to somebody who has created a whole genre, sitting there in Italy. All I have done is gone to Hollywood and taken their actors and made a film. For me, I am more Sergio Leone and less John Ford, because Ford knew the terrain.

Q: But why remake “Parinda”?

A: It’s not really a remake. I and Abhijat (screenwriter Abhijat Joshi) were in the United States, and this was around the time when “The Departed” came out. If you see the original film, you’ll know that it is much, much better than what I believe Mr Martin Scorsese made, even though everyone raved about it. So we said, hey let’s take our original film and make something better out of it. But it was a long journey, and it took us four years to write that film, so it has come far away from “Parinda”.

Q: What is it about “Parinda” that makes it a classic?

A: I think it’s about brotherhood, about family – that stays forever. These are emotions that are universal and are never going to die. And because family is forever, these emotions will always last.

Q: What Indian sensibilities do you bring to a Hollywood venture like this one?

A: You know, someone said to me that me making this movie is like Quentin Tarantino coming to India and making “1942: A Love Story“. I have done the reverse. But this is not a Tarantino movie. This comes with my culture – I am very close to my family, very close to my brothers. Culturally, this film is very different.

Q: What are the differences between working in India and working in Hollywood?

A: The environment in India is very warm, but it is extremely inefficient. In Hollywood, it’s really cold, but very, very efficient. So what I did is that I created my own little world – where I took the warmth of India and the efficiency of Hollywood. That’s what worked for me. I took a little bit of my country and made the film that I wanted to make.

Q: Why did you want to make the move to Hollywood?

A: I was nominated for an Oscar when I was a kid, really in 1979 (for his documentary short “An Encounter With Faces“). That stayed with me. After doing “3 Idiots“, which was (in 2009) the most successful movie in the history of Bollywood, I felt it was time to move on. I learnt my English when I was 16 years old, so to go to America and direct a film was scary. I could have made a fool of myself and my countrymen. All these years, you are conditioned to make films a certain way. It was like going back to film school. I had a script with me, but nobody knew who I was, and they didn’t give a damn either. They judged me by my script. For me the stakes were very high. But when people like James Cameron and Alfonso Cuaron speak highly about my movie, I feel very satisfied.

Q: Do you think more film-makers from India can follow you?

A: We’ve done it in IT and other sectors. Now we should do it in films. Why not? But the only thing is – we’ll have to unlearn things. We are used to over-the-top performances, used to pushing the actors to be louder, etc. But if I can do it, anybody can do it. -Reuters

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