The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Universal themes rooted in India
- winning streak for The warrior

He bagged Britain’s highest honour for a film-maker just 10 days ago. Asif Kapadia, the newest name on an ever-growing list of people of Indian origin flourishing in the world of international film, was in the city on Tuesday to promote the award-winning The Warrior. His debut feature effort won Kapadia two of the top British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta) awards — the Alexander Korda Award for the Outstanding British Film of the Year and the Carl Foreman Award for the Best Debut.

After an interactive session with students and faculty at the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute (SRFTI), Kapadia mingled with film-makers and actors, after a screening organised by the British Council.

Though the British national has never lived in India, The Warrior— which has previously done the rounds at festivals in Bengal, Maharashtra and Kerala — is set in the deserts of Rajasthan and hills of Himachal Pradesh. From the harsh desert, the protagonist, played by the critically-acclaimed Irfan Khan, travels to the frosty mountains. “The story wouldn’t have worked anywhere else,” says Kapadia, on his choice of India as a backdrop.

He describes the language of his films as “European arthouse”, while his cultural grounding is Indian. “That’s just me, so it will have to be in my films,” shrugs the 30-year-old, whose family, which emigrated in the 60s, has roots near Surat.

“Why don’t you have heroines in your films'” was one of the questions thrown by the audience at SRFTI, where his graduation film at the Royal College of Art, a short called The Sheep Thief, and a documentary on the making of The Warrior were screened. There was no romance in The Sheep Thief, no song and dance in the feature film either. The Warrior is in Hindi, but there are barely six minutes of dialogue in the 90-minute film. The Sheep Thief, based on a biblical fable, also has very few scenes involving dialogue.

The emphasis is on the visual for the director with a history in graphic design. Though the settings for some of his films have been India, the themes are universal. “Many of my stories are based on classical folk tales. They are simple stories that people of various countries could relate to,” adds Kapadia, who describes his films as having an element of “magic realism”. Watching a wide array of world cinema, Indian films do figure on his personal list. Standing before a collage of Satyajit Ray’s pictures at SRFTI, he describes Aranyer Din Ratri (“the film about four guys in a car”) as “ahead of its times”, his favourite amongst the Ray films he has seen.

After the extensive travel involved with promoting a film, Kapadia is “dying to lock myself away and write”. An urban film may be on the cards. “I want to shoot a film in the Himalayas as well,” says Kapadia, who has been so far directing shorts and ad films for brands such as Kit-Kat and Canon.

His projects are all multi-cultural, having worked with a crew largely Indian, but with a core team of people from all over the world, “battling sunstroke, heat-stroke and malaria”. The striking music — with a distinctly Indian sound — was composed by an Italian, though the musicians were Rajasthani.

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