Explosions in space, fatalism and injustice, screwy flashbacks, sequels to "28 Days Later" and "Trainspotting," among other controversies. Man, this turned out to be a long interview.
PK: I'm struck by two images. At the beginning of “28 Days Later" you have London
completely abandoned. And at the beginning of this film you have series of
shots of Dharavi, which I guess is one of the most densely populated parts of
DB: Well Dharavi might be the biggest slum in the world, as
many as 2 million people live in Dharavi and it’s a very small area. So it has
that intensity of occupancy, and you're not allowed to film from the sky. It
was very difficult to get permission to film because they're paranoid about
national security there. But when you fly in, on the international flights, you
can see the extent - you can see these images, so we tried to recreate
that. We did manage to get up in a helicopter and get some shots that we
shouldn't have taken.
PK: Was it easier to make that shot than the shot of London with nobody in it?
DB: It was more fun - well - the London
shot was more fun because emptying London
is obviously a great challenge
PK: And a good idea.
DB: It’s a good idea and a great challenge and we sort of
got away with it. We did it just before 9/11, you'd never be able to do it now.
Then we had the bombings, the 7/7 things. You'd never get away with it now,
they wouldn't allow you to do half the stuff we did. but we tipped over a bus
in White Hall, which is like the main governmental street, where the prime
minister lives - tipped this bus over on its side and it’s just spilling oil
onto the side of the street
PK: Were you considering making the sequel of that? Do you
think you might do the thirda sequel?
DB: Well no, I couldn't do the sequel because I was doing “Sunshine.”
And since I took like 3 years to make that
I didn't have a whole lot to do with it, but I did do some second unit for them
and I did a bit of work on the script, threw them a few ideas, bit’s and pieces
PK: There is a sequel alluded to, at the end of the -
DB: Yeah, there is an idea for it, but it doesn't come out
at that - it’s a big jump forward really, it’s a leap.
PK: “28 Years Later”?
DB: Not quite that, but it’s a leap, a leap.
PK: “28 Minutes Later”?
DB: If we can do it, it'll be good.
PK: You'd like to direct it?
DB: Yeah, definitely. I'd love to. I watched the second one
because I hadn't had a lot to do with it. I was able to watch it like an
audience on its premiere. I couldn't believe how enjoyable it was for the
audience - you felt genuine enjoyment for the kind of ride you were on. It
makes you appreciate it more than when you make it. You feel anxious about them
when you make them, but you don't appreciate them in an easy way - in a simple
way, in an easy way. You always appreciate them in a complex way.
PK: Will there be a sequel to “Sunshine?”
DB: No I don't think there will be a sequel to
“Sunshine.” I'm certainly not going back
into space, it’s a pretty hard work in space, certainly harder than Mumbai.
PK: Makes you appreciate Stanley Kubrick’s work.
DB: It just makes you realize why it took him so long to
make it. Because it’s impossible to do and the problem is his fault
partly, because the audience is watching - you can feel them watching in
a way super critical, if you put the slightest thing wrong about what can
happen in space, they're like noooo. It’s really rigid.
PK: It always bugs me in films set in outer space, where you
can hear an explosion or other noise. That’s
why in “2001” that airlock scene is so impressive.
DB: Yes, that’s certainly one of the things that people have
mentioned to me.
PK: I’ve also heard you're doing a sequel to
DB: Yeah, there is a sequel to it which is this book, “Porno,”
which Irvine [Welsh] wrote as kind of a sequel to it, but our idea
for it, is like when old actors, the same actors are playing the same
characters, are noticeably older, but they look different and without
prosthetics and makeup and stuff like that. They look like 20 years has passed
- because then you get that feeling of - because really they're in they're
early twenties in the early part of the film and they're sort of in a place
when you can do anything with your body and get away with it and then it'd be
really interesting to see them in their forties, when the bodies begin to creak
and they just begin to unwind and they have those issues as well about what
they're going to do with their lives, kids and all of that kind of stuff.
Could be an incredibly boring film, unlike the first one. The problem right now
is that they just don't look old enough.
PK: You won an audience award in Toronto and people are saying this is going to
be the next “Juno” or “Little Miss Sunshine” in terms of indie success. Are
you surprised by how well it has been doing?
DB: I did think it might work in Britain,
in part because we have a good sense of India, in part because of the
colonial past, large Indian population, highly visible. Dev Patel - who plays
the older Jamal - he is from a TV show in the UK,
which is a cult show, and he definitely has a presence, so we thought it could
work in Britain.
But to be honest - here - I couldn't quite see how it could work knowing how
difficult it is to release films here. But then of course what you forget is
the underdog story and how much a part of the psyche that is here. The idea
that someone has a dream and they don't have a lot going for them but they have
this dream and it fuels everything and they chase it. The values that
people have here - it has to be allowed to come through sometimes, it’s
really important, I think thats why the film works. I do these Q&As,
people talk about it and people say - I nearly walked out when the kid was
blinded, people say that, and yet they clearly forgive it by the end of the
story, they're caught up in it and forgive it by the end.The redemption really,
it goes back to that at the end, it shows you that [blinded] kid smelling the banknotes
[years after the incident], it’s not like it avoids letting you know what it’s
like there, what things go on there, it kind of reminds you of them at the end,
but still people forgive, and that I think that is like India because you do
forgive it, some of it is unforgivable and yet you do forgive it, you do think,
wow, what a place. That was my take on it at least, you do think, what a place.
PK: Some people say
if you forgive it you’re going to allow the injustice to continue, if you
accept injustice as your destiny your destiny falls into the hands of the
people with the power.
DB: Yeah, I felt that and that would have been my take before
I had gone, definitely, that kind of fatalism is a passive - it’s a mechanism
by which the rich control the poor. But
I think that’s too simplistic definition of it, I really do, having been there.
Not everywhere; I was only in Mumbai, and I do believe it is an accurate-ish
picture of the city, of bits of the city. There’s a great book about it called “Maximum City” by
Suketu Mehta, which is about Bombay.
PK: You took a lot of
liberties wirth the book this was based on, “Q&A” by
DB: The novel is very
rigid; it’s like a series of short stories, it’s question - answer - question -
answer, and that would have never worked in a film. You’d bore of that. That was one of the skillful things that
Simon [Beaufoy, the screenwriter] did, he made time fluid really, back and
forward, so you could leak stuff early that would get answered later or deny
people access to things that he is apparently able to answer. I remember when I
read the script I felt intelligent and it’s not often that scripts make you
feel intelligent; it’s quite a rare quality to impose intelligence on you,
PK: You never let a screenwriter know that though?
DB: No he’s a good guy actually, he’s had a tough time
actually since “Full Monty,” he’s had
quite a rough ride since then
PK: He couldn’t make
money on the Broadway show or anything?
DB: He got - he gave
away supposedly all his points in it, before it came out. It’s one of those
kind of like oh my god stories that is typical in the films in Britain. He was
after some extra money or something for a mortgage or house extension or
something like that and they said okay we’ll give you this, but we’ll take your
PK: You gave him a good deal?
DB: On this one, yeah.
PK: You mentioned the
fluidity of the time; one thing that really bugs me in movies, other than
having noise in space, is flashbacks when they are used in a clumsy way, when
they begin with one person’s point of view and end up with nobody’s point of
view. Did you have a particular scheme when you worked yours out?
DB: Well I certainly
knew on this one, I certainly wasn’t going to do huge backwards and forwards,
you know - the way they do them these days and I wanted it to try and get it so
that by the end you could literally go back in time in one line and then go
forward in time and there’s a line where she picks up the phone on the show and
he says “Whats your name!” and you just cock to her going as a kid “my name is
Latika” and I love that fact that you could - because Simon had set up this
time free time thing, if you got it right you could go anywhere really and it
makes things like the slum chase and things like that, it makes it feel like it’s
happening now even though it happened ten years ago, but it makes you feel like
you’re expereincing it all now, that’s what we were after, the immediacy of it.
PK: Music helps a lot too.
DB: The music guy is
mega famous there, A.R. Rahman, he
is a god, he is one of their gods, they worship him ,the people, he is one of
the largest signed artists in the world, nobody’s heard of him and yet he’s
sold more records than the Beatles or something. Every CD he put out sold a hundred million
copies. Of course they don’t pay very much per CD, but it does register as a
sale. He was wonderful, a lovely man, again, he’s got that thing, sooo
powerful, and yet his obligation is to give it back if he can, so he started up
this school, a music academy observatory kind of thing, incredibly modest man,
genuinely so, not superficially modest, genuinely modest man.
PK: I think you came
up with a perfect way of keeping people seated through the entire end credits,
which is to have a Bollywood musical production number
DB: It’s nice to make
em wait for the credits. 'Cause you can feel them all about to go and they - oh!
PK: Did Bollywood
have an impact on how you made the movie?
DB: I’d seen a bit of
Bollywood before I went and I saw quite a bit of it when I was there, but it
wasn’t so much that except that song and dance, especially dance, is part of
the fabric of life, it’s like, for me, if you came to Britain and made a film
and didn’t include anything about football - well soccer - I would feel it was
fake. Or it’d be like coming to America
and there’d be no motor cars in your film, it’d be fake? You got to have, if you spend eight months there, you got
to dance at some point, so it was just where to put it because it was not
related to the questions and answers. There was a music question but it had to
do with the singing of traditional Indian songs. I couldn’t put it in the film so
I put it at the end of the film.