Posted by barkha on June 14, 2011 | No Comments

He made his first feature, MASALA, when he was barely out of his teens. MASALA had the maturity of an experienced hand and was the pioneering North American Indian film, to come from either Canada or the US.  MASALA caused a huge ripple not only amongst the Film festivals and commercial distribution,  but also in the social strata of Canada. It dealt with the emerging immigrants from the sub continent and the undercurrent of racism that they faced as they assimilated in a new land. Added to this was the 1985 bombing of the Air India plane, Kanishka.

Srinivas has since gone on to make many more features and documentaries, continuing to work with some of the finest actors, and also making television software. Just last week, Srinivas wrapped up his installation at the TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) called, NY NAME IS RAJ, which is about the work of filmmaker Raj Kapoor.  This will also be showcased at the IIFA awards in Toronto. Here we catch up with this maverick.S

What inspired you to make Masala?

I grew up in Toronto, Masala came out of my experience in growing up in Toronto. What it means to be an Indian and Canadian here. It also speaks of the experiences I had. The Kanishka crash, the Air India flight that was blown up in 1985. I lost friends in that flight. It was also about the fact of Indians giving up their home and arriving in contemporary North America. They encountered everything from crazy real estate prices, to economic opportunity to racism, and in this midst trying to keep what is theirs as true to them, while at the same time losing it.

Now let us fast forward to the Smart Womans Survival Guide, the TV show, what prompted the move to TV?

I actually did a number of films after Masala. In Toronto one is always doing a lot of things as opposed to calling yourself a feature film maker, so I do film, television, theater, video, public art and industrial projects. So these various lives kind of makes it interesting and gives you a variety of professional experiences that you may not have as a feature director. So after Masala I did another feature, Lulu that went to the Cannes film festival, I also did some television work. I made a film with Nandana Sen, called Forever. Then I went back to writing some plays for theater, cause I was still very young. Then in the beginning of this decade I did another series on the Kanishka crash. It was a mini series for Television. The Smart Woman was a show I did for a friend of mine who is a television producer here in Toronto.
What are the challenges that  have faced during the initial days of your carrer?

Each project has its own share of challenges. In Masala it was my first feature and when you start nobody wants to produce your film, you are an unknown commodity, so the challenge there was to find a producer and I realized that I had to start producing it myself. And when I started to do that, things got done a lot faster and I ended up making the film. So the challenge there was to wrapping my head around the idea that I had to be a producer too. When I started I was just a writer and a director and an actor. So from the quiet of the creative environment to the hustle and bustle of producing. So the biggest challenge is wearing the different hats and not losing yourself in the process.

Would you ever want to do a totally Bollywood film?

I’d love to do that but I guess the opportunity to do it has not really come up as yet. It is just about meeting the right people and the right time. But I live here in Toronto,  and Bollywood is Geographically far away so it is not something that crosses my path frequently. I have actually been commissioned to make a documentary on Raj Kapoor, for the a major Art Festival in Toronto and the Toronto International Film Festival. It is called MY NAME IS RAJ and it celebrates the work and legacy of Raj Kapoor and his films. Specifically I am making a work around Awara, Shree 420 etc.

On your choice of actors, some top notch talent like Saeed Jaffery, Nandana Sen, how did that come about given you were not in that surrounding?

It is about the role at the end of the day. Can the actor bring that role to life and if you don’t respect that criteria, it is now going to work out. No matter how fine the actor is they really have to be the right actor for that part. The person has to seem the part, that is my greatest pleasure as a director. I am an actor and I just love actors. I started off my career in a theater company at the age of 16, as an actor. So for me finding the right actor is a key moment in the filmmaking process. From that moment on I know the film is going to be good and my job is to support that actor. So for me it affects how I define my job.

What is coming up now?

What is coming up next for me is a vacation. There is MY NAME IS RAJ, opening in June. After that perhaps a feature, a science fiction thriller that I have been working on, called GLITCH.

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