Almost 30 years after the release of Mr India, the film still resonates in the imagination of the Indian audience. In a conversation with Deepti Sreeram at Film Bazaar, Shekhar Kapur — the award-winning genius behind Mr India — explains why the industry has to think bigger than the box office.
Edited Excerpts from an Interview.
Mr India happened way back in 1987. Almost three decades later, we still haven’t had anything close to that combination of technology and fantasy. While visual effects are increasingly becoming a part of the industry, we still haven’t had a space movie, unlike Hollywood where science-fiction is one of the staple genres. How do you see this?
Sometimes, technology alone cannot make a good film. Take Mr India, for instance. You had various elements in it. You had ‘Hawa hawai’, the song, you had the characters, Calendar and Mogambo. You also had each of these characters deliver memorable dialogues that people have remembered through time. And this is because the movie was more than just technology or fantasy. It came with wellrounded characters and an edgy story.
How did you go about shooting Mr India, the various scenes where you had Anil Kapoor disappearing, at a time when we really didn’t have that sort of technology in our hands?
It was a struggle at that time. It was a laborious process because Mr India was shot entirely with the camera, unlike the present spate of movies, where effects are added during post production. For instance, if you look at that scene where the whips fly in the air, I had used puppeteers to execute it and then coloured out the threads. What sold that scene to the audience was Sridevi and her expression of bewilderment as she saw the whips in the air. In a similar way, to show Mr India sitting on the chair, I had shown a shot of the chair where I basically sucked the cushion down, to imply he was sitting on it. To show him drink coke, I had placed the coke on a glass pane and my assistants tilted it to show the coke tilt. Then I had many straws connected to each other going out of the bottle to another room where my assistant was drinking the coke! We had 50 takes of that shot and my poor assistant was almost high on Coca- Cola. So what Mr India did was this: we improvised on the spot and thought of ways to execute the shot, without thinking of effects. And the scene was pulled off with the expressions of the actors involved. Now, the situation has changed. People come to these shots only during post production. Technicians are assigned to achieve the effect. But they only know the technology for it, not the nuances.