From bringing producer Aditya Chopra out of the shadows, not just to the face the camera for the first time, but also to share an insight into his childhood as well as filmmaking sense, to the last interview of late actor Rishi Kapoor, docuseries The Romantics is making the right noise for more than one reason. And the maker Smriti Mundhra admits that she didn’t anticipate this reaction.
While the docuseries is a tribute to the filmmaker Yash Chopra through the lens of his production house, the project puts spotlight on the evolution of Indian cinema in general, evoking a great sense of nostalgia.
“I couldn’t have anticipated how much the series would tap into people’s sense of nostalgia and their love of cinema, and that’s been really gratifying to see,” confesses Mundhra, the creator of Indian Matchmaking. Here are a few excerpts from the chat:
How do you look at the response to the documentary series?
It has been absolutely overwhelming. I couldn’t have anticipated how much the series would tap into people’s sense of nostalgia and their love of cinema, and that has been really gratifying to see… To see people reconnect with films that they’ve loved over the years which they may have forgotten.
How do you look back at bringing the vision alive and talking to so many actors from Shah Rukh Khan to Amitabh Bachchan for the same?
It has been a long journey of over three years when we started this process and began the research of watching a lot of films, going through the whole catalogue of the production house and what was happening around the time when those films were made and released. All this because we wanted to paint a larger picture in terms of what movies tell us about the world and time we live in.
Tell us about putting a spotlight on the evolution of Indian cinema with the project.
One of the reasons I wanted to tell the story through the lens of Yash Chopra was because of the longevity of his career, how his career started in the aftermath of partition, and went on. The more I realised how closely these elements from socio economic, political climate are braided into their personal story.
It is the first time that Aditya Chopra is facing the camera, and you instinctively added the video interview footage of Aditya on the editing table and then showed it to the team for Aditya’s view. How relieved you were after he agreed to the cut?
It wasn’t easy to convince him. . But once I could show him what the series would be with his perspective, and how important his perspective was to telling the story of his father, that’s probably what convinced him finally. Anyone who has worked in any capacity with Aditya Chopra can tell you that he holds creative integrity to the highest standard, and will move mountains to make sure that the creative integrity of whatever project he is involved with, is intact. When he could see that his involvement was vital to the creative integrity of the story, which was a tribute to his father, that is what convinced him.
How did he react watching your first cut from his video interviews, which he agreed for archival use?
He kept a cool head with me. He had some time after seeing it to just absorb before I talked to him. Maybe if he was really angry, or horrified, he conveyed that to somebody else, but he didn’t convey that to me. From what I remember, after he saw it, the first conversation that I had with him was him saying, ‘Okay, I see what you mean’. I was thankful about that, otherwise it would have been bad news for me.
You also got Aditya Chopra open up about the whole nepotism debate, taking his brother Uday Chopra’s acting career as an example. Tell us about getting that topic in the narrative?
We could not have made the series on this topic without addressing that subject. Through Aditya and Uday, the idea was to give that topic some dimensionality. On social media, everyone has an opinion, but I wanted to give it some dimensionality through their perspectives. It is a valid topic of discussion, not just in India, but also in Hollywood.
How did they react when you told them that you will be bringing this topic to the table?
They were pretty game about it. They were not trying to run away or hide from anything. They acknowledge that it is a topic of discussion in the industry, and you can’t speak on every other aspect, without speaking on this, and particularly how it affects you. I’m grateful they were very game and there was no push back.
Another special aspect about the series is seeing late actor Rishi Kapoor talk. Can you take us through the interview?
It is one of the highlights of my career. I feel so lucky and so privileged that I got that opportunity not knowing that just a month later, we were going to lose him. He seemed at his best on the day that I interviewed him. He looked great, was gregarious, very chatty and charming. There was Neetuji with him, and they just had such a great banter back and forth. It was really wonderful. I’m so glad that I got to interview him when he was feeling good, and he was in the mood to talk, especially given that it was his last interview. It will remain special for me.
Have you had a chance to talk to Aditya on the response the series is getting?
I haven’t had a chance to speak with him since the release. I had to come back to Los Angeles because I have two little babies here. But I know that everyone associated with the project is very pleased by the reaction to the series. It is gratifying to see people reconnect with what they love about Hindi cinema.
What’s next ins store from your end?
I would love to do more from Indian cinema. This has been such a defining part of my upbringing and my understanding of the world, that I feel like I’ve just scratched the surface in terms of my curiosity. There are certain actors who I would love to make a docuseries on. I would love to do something that explores the cinema of the South.
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(With Inputs from hindustantimes)