Tuesday, 12 March 2013

My films are psychiatric: Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg My films are psychiatric: Steven SpielbergThe world’s most famous director charmed the film making fraternity and even praised the Bandra-Worli Sea link In a recent article in the New York Times, Steven Spielberg was hailed as Hollywood’s Secret Santa. Reportedly, the world’s most influential filmmaker is a “sounding board” for directors not always working with him. However, when the publication wanted to speak to him about the invaluable creative inputs he shared with the aspirants, Spielberg declined, saying they were private conversations.
Bollywood just got lucky on Monday night. In a discussion organised by Anil and Tina Ambani, and helmed by Amitabh Bachchan, over 40 filmmakers here got a glimpse of his generosity and vision.
A suburban five-star was the milieu for the unique congregation – when did you last see Abbas Mastan sit next to a quiet, and evidently restless Prabhu Dheva, or a Sudhir Mishra share a table with Javed Akhtar or for that matter a Raju Hirani win a nod from Spielberg himself – he said he loved Three Idiots.
It was interesting to see filmmakers with similar sensibilities share tables – so you had Kiran Rao, Zoya Akhtar, Reema Kagti with Anurag Kashyap at one place, while R Balki and Raju Hirani sat close elsewhere.
The conversation flowed from Spielberg’s earliest works, to his wife, who is “the smartest person” in his life while taking in almost all of his seminal works and how they were put together. The director-producer was at his charming and wittiest best. When asked about Jaws, he said: “It scared me off filmmaking.”
And if all movies were this tough to make, he said he’d rather not make another one. As for the scary water beast, Spielberg said apparently, the 20 feet machine did not respond well to “salt water” and that when he watched frightened people throw their popcorn in the air, he “couldn’t believe that the audience believed in that white turd!”
For a filmmaker with such an immense body of work, it was interesting and heartening to hear him pick his favourites – ET and Schindler’s List. And that is because both these films are what
people still talk about everywhere he goes. ET especially because his seven kids love it.
ET also has a deep, personal subtext. It was Spielberg’s conversations with his father about benevolent and curious aliens that shaped the film. In fact, talking about how his films are often
deeply personal, he said, “I have never visited shrinks, my films are psychiatric.”
Not the kind of person who believes in compromises, Spielberg touched a chord with many of the filmmakers present when Jaya Bachchan asked him if he ever considered dropping a project
because he did not get the actor he wanted. Once again, Spielberg was ready with his answer: Lincoln, because Daniel Day Lewis took a fair bit of convincing even after turning him down twice.
It was Leonardo Di Caprio, “a friend of the family” who took the initiative to track down the reclusive actor in Ireland, and got him to read the new script. The rest is moviemaking history.
It were the many anecdotes about the camaraderie between Spielberg and his contemporaries – Martin Scorsese and Francis Coppola to name a few – that livened up the conversation. “We are fiercely competititve but always helping each other out,” he said.
What was most amusing, however, was Spielberg’s take on why he could never make a Bond film. “I tried,” he said, shaking his head. Not once, but three times. The first attempt was right after Jaws, when producer Cubby Broccoli turned him down because he was “not successful enough.” After several attempts, there came a time when Cubby wanted to use the haunting 5-note leitmotif from Close Encounters of the Third Kind as the entry code for an electronic laboratory door lock in a scene in Moonraker, Spielberg readily agreed. But when he wanted to use the 007 signature tune for The Goonies as a tribute to the franchise he always loved, he was flatly refused. “I was told the Bond theme had two more notes….” he shrugged.
The hour-long conversation ended with an interactive session, that saw Kunal Kohli, Anurag Kashyap, Sudhir Mishra, Javed Akhtar, Prasoon Joshi among others ask him questions and even indulge in some fanboy moments – Rakeysh Omparaksh Mehra gushed – “We love you. God Bless you!”
Spielberg admitted he has not seen enough films from India as yet, but encouraged filmmakers to think of shared platforms for a global cultural exchange so that Americans get to see more of the films we make here. He also wanted to know if the audiences here were accepting of genrebenders, the way they were in the West. And cited the example of Beasts of the Southern Wild, an indie film that was hailed as one of the finest to have released last year.
And last but not the least, Mr Sheshadri Srinivasan take a bow. If you are wondering who that is, well, he is the gentleman who designed the Bandra-Worli Sea-Link. And to quote Spielberg: “It is the best piece of art in this city.”

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