English was alien to him until he was 16; yet, he landed an Oscar nomination in 1979, directed pertinent Hindi films like Parinda and 1942: A Love Story, produced India’s cinematic goldmine 3 Idiots. And now, he’s ready for maiden Hollywood project Broken Horses. At 62, Vidhu Vinod Chopra feels like a debutant who has ‘proved his point’ that even a Bollywood filmmaker can make a Hollywood film.
It was five years ago that the idea of writing, directing and producing a Hollywood film struck him. In fact, he says Broken Horses was a case of his ‘passion overruling rationality’. Chopra said, “I come from a small village in Kashmir. I studied there and didn’t even know English till I was 16. All I was dreaming was to make one Bollywood movie before I die. But after that dream got fulfilled, either I could keep sitting on my laurels, or I could create new dreams.”
He chose the latter. When he was nominated in the Documentary Short Subject category of the Academy Awards for An Encounter with Faceswhich highlighted the plight of India’s destitute children — Chopra was tempted to go back to the US to make a film.
“Most of us know that Hollywood looks down upon Hindi cinema, and their attitude is that our cinema is loud and over the top, the thing is that we can also do what they can do, if not better. People like James Cameron and Alfonso Cuaron have been raving about my film. My point is proved — we can make Hollywood films too,” said Chopra.
Made on a budget of $20 million and backed by Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Entertainment, mystery thriller Broken Horses stars Maria Valverde, Thomas Jane, Anton Yelchin and Vincent D’Onofrio. He even faced prejudices while working with an American crew. But Chopra said, “The only way to overcome them is by way of your work.”
“When people read my script, all their defenses broke down because they felt it was brilliant. The bottom line is that finally, your work speaks for itself. And in the US, if you’re talented, you will definitely be respected,” added the creative mind.
Filming an English language project for the global audience came with its set of challenges. “It was not easy for me, at 62, to unlearn whatever I learnt for 40 years in India about cinema and to learn all over again and do something new. I feel I’m making my debut at 62,” he quipped.
Now geared to release his Hollywood baby globally on April 10, Chopra is also ready to work on other foreign projects. “There are Hollywood studios which are interested in talking to me after this movie. If there is another mountain to climb, I will climb it.”