(kj/tg) During the 8th “Bollywood and Beyond” film festival in Stuttgart we met film producer Sunil Doshi who talked about his successful career and the development of the Indian film industry providing interesting insights. Some of his productions include movies such as “Hulla”, “Bheja Fry” and “The Waiting Room”. In 2006, Sunil Doshi’s production “Mixed Doubles” was the festival’s opening film and was awarded as well. This year Doshi was appointed as a member of the jury alongwith director Roger Spottiswoode (“James Bond”).
Mr. Doshi, welcome to Stuttgart and welcome to the film festival 2011. How do you like the festival so far?
Well, it is my second time in Stuttgart. The first time I came in 2006 with my film “Mixed Doubles”. This time I came as a member of the jury. I really appreciate the smallness of the festival, the quality time which one can spend with each film. At bigger festivals one tends to feel lost and to miss a lot of stuff. What I also like about Stuttgart is the coexistence of the films like “Dabang” and “Udaan” with the shorts and documentaries. We don’t get to see them in India, we have to travel 7,000 kms to experience the sheer talent of our country. I particularly enjoyed the works of Daniela Dar-Creutz (“Arranged Happiness”), Sidharth Sinha (“Sumthing like Luv”) and Sudhir Aggarwal (“It’s cricket, No?”). I think as a member of the jury I could really do justice to the films and not loose my objectivity.
We can see that the topics in Bollywood movies changed over the last few years. For instance, if you compare evergreen movies like “Kuch kuch hota hai” and “Rock On”. The taste of the new young generation is changing accordingly as well. How do you see the upcoming years in Bollywood? What will be the themes and topics which will be screened?
I think these are very exciting times which we are living through now. Old school of thinking is changing. The impact of social media and Web 2.0 reflect and change the stories that the young generation wants to tell. The current rate of growth of the Indian economy at 8.2 % gives young people plenty of opportunities to produce the works of art and cinema. The three F’s of Indian – “fashion, food and films” – are doing good to the country. There is lots of curiosity among the youngsters. Thoughts will find their ways to express their feelings through media. Films like “Delhi Belly” reflect the metamorphosis of our time and society.
Which of your productions is your personal highlight?
So far I have produced eleven films. It is surely difficult to pick up the most favourite. I liked “Navarasa”, “Mixed Doubles” and “Hulla”. I prefer to give opportunities to young filmmakers. It has always been a conducive and favourible experience.
“10 ml love” is your latest production, has just been finished and was shown at the New York Film festival in May 2011. Can you tell us more about this movie? Will it be released in Germany as well?
We are currently working on the German release. As per the content, it is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Midnight summer dream” in an Indian environment.
There are new stars and new faces in the Bollywood world. In Germany, most of the viewers prefer heros such as Amitabh Bachchan or Shah Rukh Khan. How is it possible to break this stereotype and to introduce novel movies and news faces to the German audience?
Well, this change is already happening. Maybe in Germany it will still take some time. Most of the viewers over here would like to find their home away from home reflected in the films. And of course it will take time to understand these new idioms of expression. I am sure film festivals like Stuttgart will help them to accommodate and see “the new”.
Do you consider this festival a good platform for that?
Yes, I hope that distributors will come in large numbers to see the movies.
Can you describe the Bollywood film industry in a few words?
I am not really fond of the word “Bollywood”. Is it an industry or a genre, what do you mean by it? A cab drive at the TV station in Mumbai will not take you to bollywood if you happen to ask him. And I also believe that this term excludes the good cinema from other regions of India.
Do you feel the difference in the reception of movies in India and abroad?
We believe that a film is made for the sake of its story and not to target an audience. If the public is able to relate to the story, than we achieved what we wanted. Our endeavour is to have a variety in the film culture.
Let us talk about film and comedy. There was no comedy in earlier Bollywood movies. There were always hillarious moments integrated in melodramatic movies. Now we have movies such as “Munna Bhai MBBS”, “Bheja Fry”, “Hera Pheri2 or “Goolmaal” which are almost pure comedies. How do you see the development of those two genres? Do you think that this a genre which will shape the next years of Bollywood movies?
We now try to make films on the variety of subjects in a completely dynamic environment. Young people now are not afraid of being mocked or laughed upon. Simultaneously the attention span is becoming shorter. Soon we will have a 60-minute film instead of a 3.5 hours which we have now. The situations and the way we are going to consume the films will also change. We started with the first screen, then the second (television), then the 3rd on our computers and now we are down to mobile phones. The art of story-telling will therefore change as well.
The idea of the upcoming movie with Ajay Devgan “Singham” e.g. is close to a South Indian movie. Do you think that there will be more synergies between different Indian film industries, such as Tollywood, Kollywood and Bollywood?
Currently the business is driven by the economies of the film. The film industry got corporatized and has to answer now to its shareholders. A movie has to be a success.
In Germany the audience does not expect any intimate scenes in Indian movies. So far it was a taboo in Indian movies. If we watch modern movies from the recent years, there is a tremendous change in the way Indian producers handle this delicate issue.
I believe we must be receptive and accommodative to the changes around us. It is now a reflection of the society which is dictated by the changes. What is wrong if such changes happen and they are reflected on the screen?
Which are your next film projects?
We have a few works of literature adapted to the cinema, an upcoming Indo-French production and a couple of documentaries on surrogate mothers and missing children. But it is still too early to talk about it.
As a successful producer, what is your advice to upcoming producers or actors who are heading for Bollywood?
Never give up. Continue. Sometime you are lucky early enough to get it early, but sometimes you are rewarded later. Pursue your passion.
Thank you very much for your time and the nice interview.
It was my pleasure. Thank you, too.
Our correspondents Karuna Jha (kj, left) and Tomal K. Ganguly (tg, middle) interviewing Sunil Doshi (right), film producer from Mumbai. More about Sunil Doshi on IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0234391.