Since the film has been shot in Laddakhi language, don't you feel that English may have been the more appropriate language for the global audience?
I agree that shooting the film in language would have resulted in easy finance. But that would have resulted in the film loosing its authenticity. After making 'SAMSARA', I feel proud about the fact that I have broken the language barrier. Also, since the film has lot of silences, it is not all that difficult for a common man to comprehend the proceedings on the screen, regardless of the language. Moreover shooting itself was not that difficult since my assistant director understood both Laddakhi and English, hence making my job easier. As the film has traveled globally, it has been dubbed in languages ranging from German to Spanish. If you ask me about whether acting in a foreign language was difficult for the actors then let me tell you that we actually had a workshop prior to the film's shooting where we worked on "HOW NOT TO ACT?". That's because the idea was simple - no one had to ACT!!
What kind of target audience did you have in mind when you started working on the film?
To be honest, I didn't really think about any target audience. I believe a good story always gets its audience, regardless of the language and the country it is shown. Now if you see, the audience in Korea and Hong Kong mainly comprised of 30 years and above audience whereas in Germany the crowd was anything from middle age to youngsters. Now if youngsters come and watch my film I know that I have been able to make a mark since the youngsters, especially the college going students are the toughest to convince! Here in India, I have shown the film to bigwigs like Praveen Nishchol, Manmohan Shetty, Ram Gopal Verma and others and it has been heartening to see a positive response from them. See, if you look at the 'The Passion Of Christ', do you think that there was any target audience? Overall it's a very tricky situation to get into since a good film is that good film which is released at the right time. Now have a look at a Troy or a Sahara. They were so heavily publicized with all the right combination in place. But everyone knows that they were disasters. You can bombard people with promotional campaigns and make them enter the theatres but what happens when they come out of the theatres? Ask the very same people if they actually enjoyed watching the film? Now tell me did you really enjoy MI III inspite of all the promotion and an initial that the film took? I can narrate an incident when I had gone to see Alexander in a London theatre and the reactions of people coming out of the theatres had to be seen. They literally were storming out of the theatres. This is why I maintain that success is a big myth!
What are the chances that you fathom for SAMSARA in India?
I just hope that multiplexes will give the film a longer run and word of mouth will catch up. When it was released in Italy, it was barely in Top-20. After 6 weeks it rose to number 14 position while by 7th week it was next only to SPIDERMAN. Also in Hong Kong the similar graph was seen as it moved up the charts at the end of every week, something which is so very against the trend. In fact I wish to state that my film has never opened in Top-10 in any country and has always caught by word of mouth. This is why I feel that multiplexes should give the film a longer run because if you give a chance to people to watch a good movie, they will definitely watch it.
For a subject like SAMSARA, didn't you have any run with controversy?
Yes, that's something bound to happen when you create a film like this, primarily because religion always brings with it some controversy. Luckily Buddhism brings with it quite some tolerance and hence we never had any major problems. Also when you walk out of the theatres, you realize that there was nothing really to worry or feel offended about. In fact in Thailand the Censors were earlier not allowing the film's screening but when people got an option to vote for the film's screening, there was an overwhelming response. Now when I look back at the way people have reacted to the film, I realize that 90% of them have given it thumbs up. Yes, there were accusations that the film was packaged to suit the West but I choose to ignore that because if that was the case then why was the film appreciated in places like Vietnam and Korea? People have right to say what they wish and I also know that someone somewhere has been hurt by the story too. I am aware that some people follow Buddhism in such a fanatic manner and they don't want to change, hence the resentment for the film. But yes, no one has come and told me on my face that they didn't like the film. In fact in Canada, Tibetans have done a charity show of the film and invited me while in Germany some Japanese monks have written books about SAMSARA.
What are your final thoughts as the film has now released in India?
I just hope that people at least come and watch the film. I am willing to open heartedly hear what they wish to say after the screening. I want SAMSARA to open up a way for other films to follow since India is a great ocean of stories and has enough room for huge number of subjects to be filmed for screens. I am not saying that let crossover films be the flavor of the season but make those films which come straight from the heart and you would be amazed to see how tremendous they turn out to be!
OK, shifting the topic a little, which was the last Indian film, not necessarily in Hindi, that you thoroughly enjoyed?
Oh, I absolutely loved Rajnikanth starrer 'Chandramukhi'. I believe some of the scenes from the film would go in the history books, and I mean it! I especially love the parts where he does the same stunts with a nicotine chewing gum that he would normally do with a cigarette. Why do I love the movie? That's because the movie doesn't follow any logic and reasoning and still manages to drive home a point. That's why films coming from Manmohan Desai were interesting too and Amar Akbar Anthony tops my list of favorites!