Posted by Vivek on April 23, 2011 | No Comments

Right when American Desi hit the Indian American scene, another film and filmmaker also exploded on the Indian American film movement. Nisha Ganatra’s debut film, CHUTNEY POPCORN, had a little bit of both Chutney and Popcorn and a whole lot of class. She chose the path to mainstream America and more power to her for that. COSMOPOLITON proved that she was here to stay, but if you thought that was the best of Nisha, wait for some more. We recently caught up with Nisha during the screening of her short film BEHOLDER, at IFFLA.

Firstly wonderful work in Cosmopoliton and Chutney Popcorn. So tell us about your whole journey into filmmaking?

I went to NYU film school. I made a short film with friends, in my undergrad days and I sent that short film to NYU, the only film school I applied to and they actually ended up accepting me. I went there and learned everything there was to learn and then I made Chutney Popcorn and that did well in festivals and that launched me and I started to work as a director from that point on.

When Cosmo and Chutney were made, we were not living in the times that we currently are, so these films had an element of controversy in them. Did you think that you were treading into territory that might face resistance?

With Chutney it was just such a personal story that I wasn’t really thinking about it. I assumed that nobody would really care for the movie, I just sort of made it for the American audiences I guess. Then I was so happily surprised that the community came together and embraced the movie and everybody accepted it. It was a big shock for me. Cosmo yes, come to think of it, an Indian man having an affair with an American woman, cause his wife has left him. Sure there was an element of controversy in that. Again I just made the film that came to me, without thinking too much about it. Seems that after that a lot of movies came out on the same theme, like American Chai, etc. I was really happy that I got to talk about our parents generation.

Given that you are from Canada, how much has the Canadian Indianness, influenced you?

In terms of subject matter, I moved from Canada when I was really young, so that was not that much of an influence, however, in terms of supporting the careers of filmmakers, Canada has been an essential element. Without my Canadian citizenship it would have been hard, since I have got two movies made as Canadian Co Production.  Also from the time I spent in Canada, it got me thinking and observing. As you know the Canadian Indian community is so different from the American Indian community.

What are your upcoming projects ?

I have an Indian and Latino DJ movie coming up. When I was in New York I spent a lot of time directing shows for MTV and I spent a lot of time going to these clubs. And I would watch all the Indian and South Asian DJ’s struggling to be heard. Now of course the music is very much there. This movie is about the early days. And I thought it was a small independent film that I was going to make on my own, but the producer of Dream Girls, read the script and loved it. So now Sony is on board.

You have Beholder playing here at IFFLA, talk to us about it?

This is a modern day Twilight Zone series kind of a movie.  So they invited ten filmmakers to make a movie and I made this. It is fun as we tell a story that explores ideas of identity. To me one fascinating aspect of Indian American culture is when a visible minority aligns with a group that doesn’t have the interests of that minority group,  that is fascinating to me. So why are there so many conservatives in Indian America, what are they thinking.  Why are they putting their political weight behind the Republicans who have not had the best interests of people of color, in their actions and agenda.

Till now Nisha has not written stories because studios wanted her to do so, you wrote what you wrote and you showed what you showed and we as audience accepted it. How will you prevent a Gurinder Chaddha type of a fallout where she is now trying to be everything to everyone and in turn falling flat?

I respect Gurinder a lot. Her films like Bhaji on the Beach were a huge inspiration to me. Yes, so that is something I have been aware of and am great full for that lesson, before it happens to me. So hopefully I will continue to tell the stories I want to tell. Mira Nair has sort of stood her ground all along, so that is someone to look up to. I remember a professor in NYU telling us to write our own stories when we become filmmakers and not add to the crap, that is out there, so hopefully I will continue to do that (smiles).

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