• Friday, 06 December 2019

Meet Varun Chopra, an independent Indian voice in US cinema

By Pallavi Aman Singh, New Delhi [India], Aug 21 : For some, crossover films are the ones that are able to gross appreciably in the global markets, but for others, they are the movies with broader themes that are on the same wavelength as the international audiences. Whatever may be the definition, the growth of this genre seen in India is very prominent.

It may still not be the norm to see many Bollywood actors crossing countries to appear in prominent Hollywood movies, but that doesn't stop the helmers from creating independent works of art. And while some couldn't come up to scratch at showing the East meets West thematic, others won hearts with their thoughtful storylines and seamless character development.

Talking on the same, Varun Chopra, the youngest Indian to be featured at the Cannes Film Festival 2016 with short film 'God on a Leash' and an independent Indian voice in the U.S. cinema, told ANI, "Cross cultural exchange through cinema is the reality of a globalised world."

The film industries across the world may have their pros and cons, but when melded together, they can triumph cinematically. As an emerging form of cinema, the question remains: How important is this cultural exchange in today's society?

"Films are a medium that circumvents geographical, lingual and cultural boundaries to reach deep into social spaces. In a political atmosphere that pushes the narrative of national identity, the importance of this cross culture exchange becomes crucial to provide a voice to the underrepresented and provide a basis of relatability to others," he explained.

The cross-cultural movies' appeal as well as presence may have multiplied by several times in the recent past, but is there a long way to go before films reflect the kind of multicultural world we live in? Yes, according to Chopra.

"It will take its due course if we don't push forward and ask for it passionately," he said, adding, "The industry needs to invest in stories that reflect a multicultural world we live in, told by people who understand or represent the ethos of that culture. It's high time we do away with to kenism and misrepresentation that reinforces stereotypes."

On the one hand, the globalisation and international film festivals are changing the Indian stories and how they are told, on the other, more and more people are living the "crossover" dream of crossing over to the West.

Chopra, who also saw an opportunity in the "American dream," said, "I consider it a chance. I would love to make films in India that follow my aesthetic. The only conscious choice here is to avail endless opportunities and acceptance that Hollywood has to offer and make a mark in the industry that produces films I relate to."

"But acceptance of one kind of cinema isn't the rejection of other. I want to shoot my next film in India and I'm looking to collaborate with Indian producers as well," he added.

The 23-year-old, who "happens to be an Indian who just wants to make films about different cultures through an apparatus of film industry in the US," spoke out about making a mark in a different part of the globe.

"I'm constantly learning how to create footing in a very competitive industry, being hopeful that there are people out there wanting to put their trust in my stories and skills. I have learned filmmaking in the US and continue to merge that with distinct experiences through my upbringing in India that universalize my stories," he said.

He added, "More and more Indians are now making their mark in this industry. It's becoming evident that our community is more than a technician workforce and we are bringing our stories and our identities into the mainstream."

So, what is the scene for filmmakers in an industry that has historically been dominated by white men?

"It is always hard to challenge the hegemony but things have never looked so encouraging. I believe that it is hard to navigate through a close knit industry, historically dominated by one particular group but the call for diversity is getting louder every day. For an industry, inclusivity isn't just a suggestion for improvement, it is a need of the hour for its survival," Chopra noted.

Talking about his work, Chopra, who likes to watch and tell engaging stories with elements of social realism about normal people on the fringes of the society, said, "My subjects are often based in reality-borrowing from real life events and experiences. These are stories that keep me up at night up until the point that writing about them becomes therapeutic."

His latest creation, 'Abandon,' which was recently produced and shot in Los Angeles, is a short film inspired by true events that shook the system of foster care in the US.

"It is a story of a suicidal teen who finds a friend in an oversexed 9-year-old when they go AWOL from a facility for at-risk youth. The story is a study of the sensibilities of children confined in a broken system, forgotten by the society," he said.

He continued, "My personal association with the cause of child care in India informed me during the research process and combined with the real incidence that unfolded in Davis, California; it paved way for a unique narrative written by Myles Reid, my outstanding collaborator who grew up in suburban Maryland, USA."

On the work front, Chopra, who is an Editor on the TV series 'The Hollywood Masters' that recently premiered on Netflix, has three projects in the pipeline.

"The most recent is a short film that I am co-writing. It is about a first generation Sikh American teen who comes to terms with his unique appearance while navigating his identity in the world of Internet V-Logging," he said.

"The second is a feature film that follows an estranged father fighting a battle for the independence and agency of consent for his developmentally disabled daughter, while the third project is a short film that I wish to shoot in India. It is based on a true story about tribal women in insurgency hit Bastar. It is a story that follows a young single mother who is put to a test of her motherhood at the behest of a brutal police force," he continued.


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