Richie Mehta digs his roots for quality films

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By Neeru Saluja interview Ritchie Mehta, director of movie Sidhartha screening now in Sydney cinemas

This year the Sydney Film Festival was packed with films from the Indian sub continent. One of the most powerful films was Siddharth, the story of an Indian father searching for his son. Directed by Richie Mehta, this film has already been a hit in Venice and Toronto. The Indian Down Under interviewed Canadian born director Richie Mehta for their art film lovers.

Director Richie Mehta was in the search for a story and he was in the search for his son. A ride with a rikshawwalla in Delhi changed Richie’s fate. As they both started talking, a poignant story unfolded and inspired Richie to make his next film Siddharta.

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“It’s almost too sad to contemplate and the movie is indeed tragic, although not just that. Mehta weaves a sense of lightness into the fabric; he has a keen gift for observation and (sometimes black) humour.” – Review by Paul  Byrns in Sydney Morning Herald

 

“I was in India and a conversation with a rikshawpuller became the plot of my film. He was seeking help from anyone he could. Once he recognised my Hindi with a Punjabi accent, he told me his story – how he sent his 12-year-old son to Dongri a year ago and has never seen him since then. He has been asking people for help as he was illiterate.”

“Neither did he have a photograph of his son nor did he know how to spell his son’s name. This was what moved me. It took my five seconds to find the place through Google but this guy kept on asking people for a year. I was motivated to tell his story in the most truthful and realistic way. I wanted to showcase the India that I experienced. My experience was that people were kind, and not what you see in mainstream cinema. It’s very easy for not being in India and criticise India.”

Richie Mehta is just a few films old but already making waves in cinema. His film Amal released in 2008 was nominated for the Best Motion Picture and Best Director at the 29th Genie Awards. In 2013, he made a science fiction movie ‘I’ll Follow you Down’. Siddharth has now been released in United States, Canada and Europe.

“I’m very honoured to be a part of the Sydney film festival. I know the quality of the festival and being a part of the festival is a good outcome for my film.”

Siddharth was shot on a shoestring budget, and it took him time to find his investors. The film boasts of a loyal and talented cast with actors Rajesh Tailing and Tannishtha Chatterjee heading the cast.

“Both of my lead actors were world class. Tannishtha as an actress is amazing. She is very focussed and professional. She has a very interesting style of working. Once she picks up her script, she runs through everything very quickly and doesn’t waste any time. We completed her part in a nine day stretch, which was amazingly good,” tells Richie.

Though Richie was born and brought up in Canada, he has his roots firm when he comes to his Indian heritage.

“I spend a lot of time in India now and am a witness to the changing India. It’s not only the cosmetic changes but drastic changes in lower businesses as lots of money is coming through. This is the India I would like to show in my films,” says Richie.

Not many know, but besides making films Richie was also a judge on Canadian’s talent show ‘Bollywood Star’.

Smiles Richie, “I have a strong connection to Australia! Bollywood star was actually based on the Australia show ‘Search of a star’ by SBS. They used the same method and I was approached by the co-judge. It was a good experience as I encountered many people whom I worked with. We telecasted four shows and all of them were a hit”.

So what’s next Richie?

“My next film will be inspired by the Delhi rape incident. I was in Delhi at the same time when the incident happened. I’m not a big fan of exploitation and my line of thinking towards the film will have to be non-controversial. It’s a sensitive topic and I’m not in a place to make judgements. The last thing I want is to make enemies.

“As an Indian living abroad, I don’t want to run away from my story. I don’t want to be seen as an outsider who knows nothing about India and is making films. It’s a useless exercise to criticise India’s system. I use my imagination to make a film as an observer from outside. Filmmaking was always my dream and I will continue to make films about India.”

 

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/movies/siddharth-review-a-tragic-tale-of-indian-child-trafficking-20141008-10rntj.html#ixzz3FkFcq27w

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