“I didn’t want to be a filmmaker. I didn’t know I could be a filmmaker. I didn’t grow up as a budding filmmaker obsessed by movies. In fact, I didn’t actually like movies back then. To some extent that hasn’t really changed, and I think that’s because I find it hard to sit through bad movies.
But I had a strong interest in photography and storytelling. I’m a natural, intuitive storyteller. I think we all are, actually.
I remember vividly the day I picked up the telephone to call Saeed Jaffrey. His agent told me he’d read and liked the script, but he wanted to talk to me before he would commit. Picking up the telephone to call him was a terrifying experience – what do I, a fledgling student filmmaker, say to one of the most famous Indian actors of his generation.
One of the things I learned from Saeed, and from other actors on subsequent productions, is that the better quality actors are often the easier ones to work with. My best advice to directors when working with highly talented actors is to leave them alone.
I’ve become increasingly aware of the stories that interest and attract me, and I now realise that many of the stories I have been telling have been different version of the same story. In many ways, I’ve only been telling one story all my life.
I often say to students: ‘I think all the stories that you want to tell are already in you. i think they’ve been there since childhood. They’re the product of childhood difficulties, traumas, and puzzles that you solve or don’t solve when you’re a child.’
I think my story is one that you could probably best describe as the ‘outsider’. it’s the person who finds himself or herself in a place or environment of some kind, in which they don’t really belong.
One of my favourite bits of making a film is walking to the screening room or the cinema to watch the fully finished version of the film – the joyous moment when all the heartache of shooting and post-production is over and you can watch and enjoy what you’ve all achieved.
Students often ask me how to get into the film industry. I’ve got two answers to that. Firstly, getting in is the easy bit, the hard bit is staying in there. Secondly, you’re living in a world where everyone has access to cameras and platforms to show their work on through the internet and other outlets.
Make your films with the people and communities who want to make films that you want to make. Build the industry around you.”