Mumbai Mirror, Monday, September 17, 2007
Loins of Punjab takes a look at what holds a community together says Anuvab Pal
Your film is a heart warming comedy about Indians in America with a fondness in its core for the country. This is somewhat in contrast to the more critical approach you took towards Indians seeking to live the American dream in your play The President Is Coming. How come?
For one, President is my play but Loins is co-written by Manish Acharya, the director. President was more about how far will ambitious people go for an insignificant contest than our fascination for America which I think is lesser now than it was in the 80’s and 90’s. Loins is a different sort of contest, in that it is more about understanding the ethos of what holds a minority community together. Plus Loins was written in 05 and I didn’t begin writing President till 06.
Off late there has been a rash of films on the American desi experience. Your film has a refreshing and intelligent sense of humour. What else do you think is distinct here?
It is different for the reason you mention. Also it isn’t about an individual trying to understand why America doesn’t love her or what her real identity is. Manish feels very strongly about good cinema not being about a personal agenda taken out on an audience but a balanced view of a slice of life.
The film revolves around a singing competition of the variety Indian television is fraught with currently. Did you also wish to raise a larger question about the lack of a unified cultural identity among Indians which Bollywood makes up for?
I don’t think we did but I think Bollywood is largely our only unifying culture. Now shoddy or divine, is a cultural argument best left to critics.
You were working in the US yourself. What made you come back?
I want to write original stories about contemporary India. In the US, I was writing plays with Indian characters that I saw around me but the expectations of audiences were for something more exotic, and more in line with existing notions of India as a mystical impoverished place.
Today, when even commercial bigwigs are banking on the NRI to make their films work, do you think you would be able to write a film with this kind of humour and appeal purely on the Indian urban experience and find backers if you could not guarantee returns from overseas?
I think one should tell an original good story to the best one’s ability. The job of who will watch this and why is for market researchers. We have tried to create a world from the world we saw around us. We’re hoping our target demographic is everybody who enjoys a good story. Like David Mamet had said once, “I am not better than the audience, I am not worse than an audience, I am the audience, so I write movies I like to watch and hope other people will too”.