Wednesday, April 14

I saw Ray and Ghatak films to prepare for my Kolkata trip: Andie MacDowell

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Many years ago, Andie MacDowell wanted to get a tattoo. “My makeup artist had lovely pastel tattoos and I wanted to get one. My children were young then — one 10 and the other, seven or eight. They strongly opposed the idea. Now, after so many years, they have tattoos and I remind them of what they had said. I still don’t have one,” said the actress, as she walked along the busy Esplanade pavement for our photoshoot. Andie — a caring daughter and a doting mother, who is proudly vocal about gender equality — is in town to attend the Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF) 2019. In a freewheeling chat with us, she spoke about her love for India, her idea about celluloid films and expressed disappointment about the US not having a female President yet.

You are here to attend the festival and will also be a part of masterclass. How do you think such an exercise will help you connect with people from a different culture?

Movies connect us with different cultures. In my preparation for this trip, I watched a lot of Ray movies, like The Apu Trilogy, The Music Room and others. I also watched Ritwick Ghatak’s Meghe Dhaka Tara. The beauty of film preservation and culturally sharing films is that you learn more about humanity. You see how we are alike and how we are different. And I think we are always more alike than we are different in our core beliefs about humanity.

This is your first visit to India…

Yes and I’ve been eating only Indian food ever since I came here. Everything is going to taste super bland when I go back home. Food here has so much flavour! I like spicy food. We travelled all over Rajasthan — to Udaipur, Dundarpur, Jaipur and so on. Sometimes we stayed at different people’s homes. We have tasted Indian food of all varieties. Food has been an important part of this journey.

I hope you enjoy Bengali cuisine as well…

(Rolls her eyes) Oh yes. I tried mustard with fish last night. It was so good! And they said it’s typical of this area. I never had anything like this. Shivendra (Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, film archivist) said, “You have to have this” (laughs).

You also visited Mumbai along with Rajasthan. How did you prepare for it?

One of my good friends, Karen, works with a very big film preservation company in America. They are famous for collecting classics and the top films. I met her when Sex, Lies, and Videotape was taken by them. And she lives in my neighbourhood. We hike together all the time. She was coming to India and asked me to join her. It has been a big dream for me to come to India. Everyone in my family knows this (laughs). It is very strange that I have been talking about India for 25 years, but I could never find anyone to go with me. I spoke to Aishwarya (Rai Bachchan) about it. Anybody who is Indian, I would go and talk to him. I would ask them, ‘Where are you from. I want to go to India. Where do I go’? Then Karen was coming and I was sad that I could not make it. I told her, ‘Look when you are there, see if there is a film festival I could attend. Maybe I could do something and so on. She spoke to Shivendra and he said, ‘Yeah, sure!’. So, we planned to travel here. Karen planned the trip and came up with the idea where we should go because India is a huge country.

Cinema has taken a leap from celluloid to digital and you have observed that closely. How do you see this change?

I think film is the true and original medium. If you look at all the great and beautiful movies, they are on film. Digital doesn’t look pretty. It’s not attractive to me. I don’t like the way I look — my skin looks terrible. It doesn’t have the same kind of shadows. It doesn’t have the same effect. And it is not the true art form. It is like changing a painting canvas to something that is fake in a way.

Shivendra Singh Dungarpur and his team have been working on film preservation and restoration and you have been supporting the cause…

When you go to a museum you see real paintings of Van Gogh and Monnet. That is how films should be preserved. I feel Ray’s and Ghatak’s films and all the other classics should be preserved well. That is important.

Speaking about change, you’ve also seen the emergence of social media and its impact on celebrities. Stars are literally engaging with fans and followers. Do you think it helped bridge the gap between an artiste and her audience? Or has it intruded into their privacy?

I think is it is a combination. When I first started acting, actors were very protective about their private life because they did not want people to know much about them. If you give people too much information, they think of you as that person, not as your character. In a way, all the serious actors used to protect their privacy because they wanted to protect their craft. They wanted people to see them as actors and not celebrities. But everything has changed. I know from other actors that they don’t really enjoy using Instagram. They feel like they have to do it. They feel like it is their job and feel the pressure of doing it. This I find fascinating.

Are you aware of the fact that many casting directors are selecting actors based on the number of Instagram followers?

Yes, and that’s why people are doing this. Because they think they have to do it in order to get jobs. People who wanted to protect their private lives have to do this as part of business now. I don’t know what the long-term effect is going to be. I do know that there are a few people who are not giving in and maintaining their privacy. But it’s rare. At the same time, I think if you are super comfortable with it, then it’s fine. I’m trying to figure out how to enjoy it. I’m not going to show people a photo of me brushing teeth. But if I feel like I have a purpose, or I can show something interesting, then I am comfortable. I would like to use it in a positive way, not to show how I brush my teeth. (Andie posts on issues like film preservation and environment on her Twitter handle). I do think it is a miraculous medium to spread positive things and spread it quickly.

Social media has also played a crucial role in the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement that essentially changed the basic fabric of the entertainment industry. Your thoughts?

I think there is definitely a big shift. We are understanding that we are more powerful when we work together. At first, there were some people who were not sure about the whole idea. They thought it is something temporary. But now they are realising that it is not that. You know what? I always go back to the fact that the US never had a female President. We act like we are so progressive but we are not. I think we have been dominated by men. You have more women leaders than we have. We haven’t had a female leader. That’s very telling. We are supposed be the most liberal country in the world. I remember, the first time Hillary (Clinton) was running, I heard a journalist say, ‘Are we ready for a female president’? And my heart was hurt. That was our reality, even in the supposedly most liberal country in the world. But now, we have started changing and have a stronger voice. And #MeToo has changed that. It is not only about speaking up but also be heard. You have to watch the movie, Bombshell. And I think it happens in all businesses.


Source: Times of India

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