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June 2005

On Movie Making and ARYA

With Manan KATAHORA, director of the ARYA

Interviewed by:

Manan likes bold and beautiful films, he is 29 charming and witty to the hilt. Nominated asone of the best director for the Desi club South Asian Movie Awards Along side Mira Nair and M. Night Shyamalan, is a powerhouse of talent and creativity. He likes to make movie that "shock" people according to him "bold is beautiful".

Manan how did you get in to Film direction?

A-I had an MBA and lot of time; I always loved movies so I took script writing classes and four months diploma in NYU. Once in my life the teacher made me watch all the good movies, I love the whole game of Indian movies, I first acted in Indian Fish and then Raj and D.K for flavors. I met with Mr. Tirlok Malik who is a well-reputed producer in NYC and a theater personality and he gave me a major break in “ARYA” for which now I am nominated for the best director.

Q When did the idea of ARYA first come into your mind?

A - After assisting and acting in few independent films – I decided to write my first film for my directorial debut. I couldn’t write the same - can’t eat cheeseburger, can’t marry a white girl kind a movie. Inspired by Magnolia, A Beautiful Mind, Pi and million other movies... I decided to go back in our Indian roots... researched on a famous mathematician ARYABHATTA who lived in 496 AD, and inspired from that - wrote a fiction based in New York...

Q Do you think you have reached the audience that you wanted to connect with, with ARYA?

A – ARYA, I think is an innovative original film. And I hope people will appreciate the attempt to do something different here, using 27 new local actors. Mr. Malik, my producer - his dream is to create that platform with his NRI TV-Film Club, and I hope we have taken the first baby step in the right direction.

Q What are some of your future projects that we have to look forward to?

A - I have 3 scripts with me, some tempting offers with new producers... lets see... I don’t want to take a hasty step and ruin my resume... for me filmmaking is a passion not a source for bread butter bacardi and bhelpuri:) I was engaged last year, we called off the wedding early this year... so I think my next would be a bold honest shocking look on romantic relationships :) art imitates life, life imitates art :)

Q Do you future projects involve the support from the NRI TV-Film Club?

Tirlok Malik, Producer, Director & Founding President of the NRI TV-Film Club
with the director of ARYA, Manan Katahora and whole crew of the film while
posing with the DVD cover of the film for this photo
during the official launching of the ARYA.

A- Yes. I will always be involved with the NRI TV-Film Club... Mr. Malik is my mentor, my guide, my guru and a great role model, a great human being.

Q Now I have worked with you in the past in Indian Fish in American Waters. How do you think your previous projects have influenced your dedication and work on an original project like ARYA?

A - I learned acting from sets of Indian Fish; I learned direction from FLAVORS team.

Q If there were one person who you felt has influenced your work and your progress the most, who would that be?

A – There are people, I haven’t met – such M. Night Shyamalan, Karan Johar, Paul Thomas Anderson and Shahrukh Khan. In my personal life - my dad - values for human and emotions, my mom - creativity and Mr. Malik.

Q If you had the choice, would you aim for an Oscar or a Filmfare?

A - They both are my dreams... I just want to do my work and make good films... The journey itself is the biggest reward... but yeah both will be nice :)

Q What was the metamorphosis? From a Pune Computer Engineer graduate to a film director, any significant incident that changed your life?

Like all Indian parents, my parents aspired me to be an engineer, I pined to be a filmmaker the turmoil was finding myself in this chaos. As I went soul searching I couldn’t resist the climb that lead to days of worship at Vaishnov Devi Temple. It’s there that I became aware of an inherent fear for humanity. I came closer to my family, started respecting women, why women, I don’t think I respected anyone before, I was a Casanova who indulged in vices and lived life on the edge. Filmmaker JOHN COCTEAU  said - "A film is a petrified fountain of thought." I just love to share those thoughts. I am not here to preach, just share a part of my thought-process and in the process would like to entertain, shock my audience.

Q. What did your visits to the FTII teach you about the art of acting and film making?

A. DEDICATION,   persistence... that’s what I gathered from my visits. It’s a tough industry, very very competitive, stakes are high. I am sure there are 200 better writers out there, South-Asian, and 100 directors better than me, but I was persistent, and I was fortunate to get my first break - by TIRLOK MALIK, one of the most respected well known Indian American producers/actors. Call it luck, I didn’t have to wait till I am 30 and invest my own money in my directorial debut. God was kind and I think my script was decent and my passion was visible. Mr. Malik, I owe it all to him. He is a visionary. He made the first Indian-American film in 1988 - Lonely in America. He has launched so many careers. HE is my idol, my guru, and my godfather.

But, at the same time, James Hillman once said - "I am not caused by my history --my parents, my childhood and development. These are mirrors in which I may catch glimpses of my image. "

Q. ARYA is a psychological thriller- a theme never explored in Indian-American films. What kind of target audience are you looking at?

A. Yeah... when I decided to write my first script - am like I can’t write been-there-done-that "I can’t eat cheeseburger becauseI am Indian." "I can't marry a white girl," and 20 more cultural clash plots. I saw 'Pi' 'A Beautiful Mind' 'Magnolia' and zillion other movies which inspired me to go deep in my Indian roots... go to 476 BC and read about ARYABHATTA... this movie is not about ARYABHATTA... but that’s where I got the inspiration from.

AUDIENCE - :) I would like to quote David Lynch here - "All my movies are about strange worlds that you can't go into unless you build them and film them. That's what's so important about film to me. I just like going into strange worlds." - so it’s for people with open mind - who want to think out of the box and are receptive to unknown.

Q. Out of body experiences, reincarnation, multiple personalities and Hindu mythology.. What inspired you to write the script of ARYA?

A. M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN - just him and his brilliant movies. When I wrote the anti climax of ARYA, I was watching SIGNS for like 52nd time. There’s no similarity, no aliens in my movie, but it was just so inspiring. LIKE for my next film - my inspirations are Eyes Wide Shut, Closer, Crash, Raincoat - its about the most bizarre wild shocking complex and add 100 more adjectives here - RELATIONSHIPS.  It’s not just another love story. ITS OUT THERE... and please don’t watch it on your first date. I believe in LOVE, romance and etc.. At the same time the world we live in is very f***** up and I just want to share that with the whole world especially South-Asians.

Q. What after ARYA. Where do you see yourself five years from now?

A. After ARYA, I am working on another DVD... which has short films directed by different South-Asian filmmakers... it will include my www.paintmeBEEP.com *ing purva bedi of American Desi. Plan to release this in few months. And then I have some tempting offers from different investors/producers. I will have to be picky, cos like I said, I don’t want to screw up my resume. This is not my bread butter and bacardi, its my passion my life my dream.

I have a few scripts in progress, and this time I have collaborated with new writers... because in the end its a teamwork... its never 'I" - and 2 heads are better than 1... working on this special script with a very talented writer/actress Sudha, really excited about that. And then I have a project with Satish Zalavadia, most hardworking most passionate filmmaker/editor/DP out there. I LOVE working with like-minded souls. And I have been fortunate. Samrat Chakrabarti, lead of ARYA... watch out for him - he is going to raise the bar high for South-Asian actors.

Q. What do you feel about being nominated as the best director? Do you feel you deserve to share the platform with Mira Nair and the like?

A- I am honored... for my first film, nomination before its released, based on what perhaps people saw at special screenings - an honor... but long way to go... I need Ms. Mira's blessings not her award :)

Q And finally, what sincere advice can you give to the struggling NRI artists in the USA (besides the same old ‘ if you believe you will succeed’)? Something secret and original.

A - Keep working... big small, good bad... everything... don’t sit and wait for big break... go for each job/break... we learn new things everyday... keep working... we have miles to go... and its a teamwork... never think its 'me' or 'I'... once you have ego, you go :) down... be humble, be sincere, be passionate... thank for these kewl (cool) questions. God bless us all...

Q. Can you quote for the aspiring young India filmmakers out there?

“If it’s easy to break down it’s easy to give up”

“This is my script, which is part of our f… up world, the plan is just to share my script with every one hence I wrote it.”

Manan walks down the hall holding a burning cigarette in his hand and looks out of the window with an orgasmic smile…

_ . _

http://www.lightmillennium.org - June 2005, New York

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