UnIndian: An Australian film with an Indian theme

UnIndian: An Australian film with an Indian theme

25Anupam Sharma’s directorial debut, is one of the biggest movie projects between India and Australia. The film showcases modern day Australia to the world; UnIndian, the much anticipated Australian film with an Indian theme having many veteran actors and our very lovable, Bret Lee, is going to be a joyride, for film aficionados and cinema admirers. UnIndian is all set to hit theatres on October15.
Indus Age caught up with the director of UnIndian, Anupam Sharma for an interview where he talked about his film, about his cast, his best memories from the shoot and much more.

What is your film UNindian all about?

UNindian is a comedy, it’s a tongue-in-cheek comedy. It looks at the tags which Indians, the second biggest population in the world, probably one of the biggest diasporas in the world, give each other, un-Indian, non-Indian, South Indian, North Indian, West Indian. So it looks at that and the way UNindian came about is because it has an echo in un-Australian, let me say how un-Australian you are. So we combined the two and called it UNindian.

It’s a story about Indian diaspora. It’s a story about strong Indian roots. It’s a story about trying to carry on with some of the rituals which exist there. It’s a story about generations trying to make sure that the following generations follow the India they have constructed. It’s about a diasporic time capsule. At the end of the day, it is about love. It is about Meera’s love for Will, Will’s love for Meera, and it is also about Smitha, a girl who has lost her father, who doesn’t want to lose her mother to another relationship, but when she does find Will as an acceptable boyfriend to her mum she fears losing him again. So the film, to give it an Indian analogy, is like a masala: it has got a bit of sweet, a bit of sour, it’s got a lot of spice, a lot of heart; all with a classic cinematic happy ending.

How did you convince Brett Lee, former cricketer, to be the lead in your first feature film?
Convincing Brett Lee to be the lead in my first feature film was a very easy task because we had a good script; because I had worked with Brett for over the last 13 years, 12 years; because it was a script which was close to Brett’s heart in the sense that the main character which we requested him to play, that of Will Henderson, was quite close to Brett and that was partly by chance and partly by design. Once we knew that Brett was interested we did a quick pass on the script because the character of Will Henderson our lead character is quite close to Brett Lee, you know, charming, happy-go-lucky, always smiling, not a negative bone or spirit in his body. And all those things combined, Brett said yes.

The Indian casting of three high profile actors out of India- Supriya Pathak, Akash Khurana and Gulshan Grover? How did you go about going and choosing the right people to play those roles and why were they all correct?

I would say I was totally relying on two giant casting directors from both the countries. From Indian we have Seher Latif who is an ACS. She has casted from Fast and Furious through to Best Exotic, you name it and from Australia we have Greg Apps whose love, whose keen eye for diverse faces in Australia is renowned.

So once we had the script locked and I approached Greg Apps here and Seher Latif in India, in particular, my brief was that of a standard director’s brief, “This is the mother, this is what I want and we looked at a number of options. Supriya Pathak was our first option and, again, I was lucky enough to find my first option. Akash Khurana is a sweetheart, he’s been kind of a mentor, I have known him for ages, his son is a very good friend of mine, and I just SMSed him and I said, “I’m doing my first film. It would be an honour if you could accept it”. He didn’t even ask for anything he said, “Tell me the dates, it’s done”.

You’re a director and a producer, and you’ve just completed your first feature. What was the greatest challenge?

The greatest challenge in this film was to execute all that I had learned in my two degrees and films, it was to follow all that I had preached and talked about and discussed in films while making sure that I have a story which is engaging and which engrosses the audience. It was to follow my personal principle of a Western body and an Indian soul, to make sure that the crew is taken care of properly. We at Temple, which is our production company, rarely allow crew to pay for their meals which is something very small and minor. When some of my Aussie production team claimed budget issues, I said, “No, that’s what I have practised and that’s what I have preached and that’s what will happen. Hospitality and taking care of the family of crew is paramount”.

Whether it was getting a bond company and a proper accountant on board and making sure the financial structures are so that no crew ever waits for their money, which is Temple practice. I believe that every crew member not just brings his or her skills onto a film; they also bring their energy, their vibe. So I wanted all positive energies, all fun energies. This is our 242nd project including TV commercials, festivals, music videos, feature films, documentaries etc. and 99.9% of our crews are always happy at the end of the day, and that’s what I want. I was lucky it happened that way….again.

So that was one of my biggest challenges, again, to have 200, 300 people and make sure that they are taken care of in the Temple traditions of everyone leaving happy and wanting to work again with us.

Out of the entire shoot, which is/are your favourite scene/s and why?

That’s a hard one. I can give different tones. One of the most exhausting days of shooting was the Holi scene with hundreds of extras where we had to capture everything in a day. One of the funniest scenes to shoot was the lovemaking scene we wanted a light atmosphere there, because both the actors, Brett Lee and Tannishtha Chatterjee (female lead), were pushing the boundaries with that scene. One of the most enjoyable scenes was the theatre scene where we couldn’t help laughing at ourselves. One of the most rewarding scenes was the chopper scenes which we shot with Brett because I could see where they could end up after post-production. So each day brought different stuff, each day had its own colour, and I wouldn’t give away any day.

(To be continued in our next edition….)

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