Interview with director Manu Rewal

The 29th edition of The Montreal World Film Festival offered up an extensive selection of films from around the globe, giving viewers an opportunity to see the world through the eyes of people from foreign countries. Indian film director Manu Rewal had the pleasure of presenting his film "Chai Pani ETC." at this year's festival. The story follows an Indian filmmaker who finds himself not only having to sort out his complicated love life but also having to deal with corrupt bureaucrats who are telling him to remove selected images from his award winning documentary. Here are some excerpts of my exclusive interview with this talented director.

-Is this your first visit to Montreal?
No, actually this is my fourth visit to Montreal. My last visit was for another film
festival on art & architecture.

-What places did you visit during your past trips to Montreal?
I once visited with my wife and we went to Quebec and Gaspesie. I really like Montreal and I would be interested in discovering other parts of Canada also.

-How did you get interested in making films about architecture and urbanism in
India?

My father is a famous architect in India and I grew up in this environment where architecture was around me but I never studied it. I was more interested in film and theater. At one point he needed a film on his work so I made the film and discovered how interesting it was. I also discovered that there was practically nothing about Indian architecture on film. Indian architecture is very rich, not only the sacred architecture but the various types of habitations. It became my specialty as a documentary filmmaker since practically nobody else has done it.

-In 2002, your short film "Hollywood Ki Pukar" was screened at the prestigious
Cannes film festival. What was your experience like?

It was a fabulous experience. It was my first time in Cannes so I was discovering the festival and it was nice to have my film being screened at the same time. I was in a section with other short films. Most of them were relatively depressing and sad but mine was the only comedy so there was a really enthusiastic response to it.

-How did you come up with the idea for your film Chai Pani ETC.

I have been making documentaries and worked in Indian television. A lot of my friends who are documentary filmmakers and other people that I know have been dealing with bureaucracies at various levels. They had so many stories so I thought that it was a good idea to explore the theme of corruption but I didn't want to make it like a tragic story. I wanted to look at it from a comic perspective. I wanted it to have a subtle humor, a light yet touching story. I

-What are some of the challenges you encountered during the making of this film?

The financing was the first challenge. For the shooting, I only had three weeks so it was a tight schedule. The person in charge of the production was actually stealing money from the production. One of my cameramen left after three days because due to his amount of experience, he thought he would be able to do what he wanted but I was producing, directing and the writer so I have the right to make decisions. Luckily, I found a replacement. The biggest problem was the censorship issue.

-Why did the censor board give you problems?

The boss of the censors is an IAS bureaucrat and if the film is not pro-government or pro-bureaucrat like in my case it becomes an issue. He selected a jury who thought that smoking was bad for health and the film had to get a certificate because there were two kissing scenes. I refused to cut the smoking scene because it is the introduction to the main character and the theme of corruption is introduced in that scene as well so to cut that out would have mutilated the film. For seven months I had to petition the government to change this decision and the Indian press supported me a lot so things eventually worked out.

-What is your motivation as a director?

I want to tell stories which will entertain and at the same time hopefully give some insight on the world around us.

What's next for Manu Rewal?

I will be going back to India. There has been interest from distributors for the film
So hopefully it will be released in the U.S. and in Canada. I am working on other scripts so depending on how this film does, it will help with the financing for the next project.

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