Utpal Borpujari

March 24, 2011

Christian Lara: Recreating Age-Old Ties

By Utpal Borpujari

He made the first film of Guadeloupe, the tiny Francophone island in the Caribbean, way back in 1978, after making two feature films in Belle Isle en Mer in France in the early 1970s. Since then, he has made 17 more films, with stories that have taken viewers from France to Guadeloupe to Senegal to Gabon to Cameroon.

Now, director-writer Christian Lara, Guadeloupe’s father figure as far as cinema is concerned, has decided to turn his viewfinder towards India. His next full-length feature film, “Incredible LAXMI”, will be shot across India early next year.

For Lara, it will be a long-time dream fulfilled, as the script he is writing for the film will not only tell a moving story but also recreate the age-old ties between India and Guadeloupe, which has a large population of people of Indian origin, a fact not commonly known in India.

Lara, whose first visit to India was in last November when his film “Lost Heritage” was screened at the 41st International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa, is excited at the prospect of shooting his film in India. In this interview, he shares his thoughts:

You are planning to make your next film on India. What is it about?

The film project in India – “Incredible LAXMI” – is the story of a young Guadeloupean girl of Indian origin, who visits India for the first time to fulfil her mother’s last wish after her death.

You had never visited India till you came to attend the IFFI. Why did you decide to set your new film in India?

In my island, there’s an important Indian community since 1848. They came after the abolition of slavery and have succeeded in safeguarding some Indian traditions through the years. “Incredible LAXMI” is a way to honour these adventurers of the unknown and at the same time create a bridge of friendship between Guadeloupe and India.

Did you develop the idea after your IFFI visit?

The idea didn’t come to my mind at IFFI; I’ve had it for almost five years since I shot “Lost heritage” in Cameroon and Gabon. Bringing people together is easier through the pictures; it enables the fight against racism, intolerance and xenophobia. This project seemed necessary to me, to highlight India in my country and Indian people of my country in India.

Where exactly do you plan to shoot in India, and why?

I have chosen to make my heroine travel from Mumbai to Mahe – where she gets by the sea – then to discover Bollywood. From there she reaches New Delhi, then Amber in Jaipur, Udaipur and finally Varanasi. This road movie, which I want to be international, will permit me to show off to advantage and make people discover the different faces of the modern and eternal India.

Will the cast be an international mix or a purely Indian one?

In order to succeed, I’ve decided to make an Indian cast the priority, and I would love to have Madhuri Dixit and Lara Dutta in the film. And I trust in the skills of my technicians for my crew. Beside Indians actors, there will be a Chinese actor as well, Mi Kwan Lock, and some famous American actors.

What kind of market do you think your new film will have considering that it will be multilingual and multicultural?

Several languages will provide realism and get a greater efficiency. Now, the international audience is eager to hear and see the unknown. For example, when I created West Indian cinema, one of the factors for my success was introducing people to Creole language. Like in “Lost Heritage”, the mixture of humour and fantasy is a must for success. The more serious the subject, the more you have to make the audience laugh.

Do you think post “Slumdog Millionaire”, international filmmakers are looking at India as a location as happened briefly after Gandhi?

I don’t think the success of “Slumdog Millionaire” has changed the filmmakers’ point of view about India. India has always fascinated filmmakers; I would rather use the word “dreammakers” because India makes people dream. This is my childhood dream that will come true by shooting “Incredible LAXMI”.

“Lost Heritage”, screened at IFFI, was about a character travelling to Africa from France in search of his roots. Will your India film too have a similar treatment?

If I chose this title, it’s because of the Indian Tourism ad that talks about “Incredible India”, in order to show the love I feel for this country.

And Love is one of my favourite themes. It’s the basis of my last film “Emoticon” shot in the south of France, which was about the meeting of two people totally opposed: a young Chinese woman Lily (Mi Kwan Lock) full of the ancient traditions, and a painter Tom (Marc Michel), at the point of death. Although he’s condemned by an incurable disease, the painter passes his love of life and dreams to this young woman.

(Published in The Hindu, http://www.thehindu.com, 20-03-2011)


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