Riding the crest of creativity
Australian director Baz Luhrmann talks to anuj kumar on his charitable mission in India and working on The Great Gatsby
Acclaimed Oscar-nominated Australian director Baz Luhrmann is on a creative trip of a different type. Known for films such as Moulin Rouge, Romeo and Juliet and Australia, Luhrmann's fascination for India goes back to the days when he adapted ‘Chhamma Chhamma' for Moulin Rouge. Now, together with artist Vincent Fantauzzo, he is on a charitable mission in India at the behest of Le Sutra, an art hotel, and Royal Enfield. The two painted a 14 ft by 5 ft dance-themed mural at the hotel and then embarked on a classic tour on Enfield bikes across Rajasthan taking pictures of people and palaces. The pictures were on display in Mumbai and the proceeds will go to Deeds, an organisation working for the hearing-impaired.
Talking about his experience in India, Luhrmann says words such as ‘great' have lost their meaning, and that is why it is important to engage in a creative pursuit to express what a sentence can't. “Art is generally meant for special people made by special people. I liked the concept of bringing it to a hotel, but more than that I found the concept of putting the mural on the outer wall of the hotel spiritually uplifting, as it engages the public.” He is now working on The Great Gatsby and says it is an attempt to hold a mirror to society, only the mirror is set in a different era!
Excerpts from an interview:
As a cultural ambassador, what do you think of the attacks on Indians in Australia?
It is appalling and the word is not enough to express our feelings. It is one of the reasons I am here. Governments work at their own pace and protocol, but there is no such restriction for cultural ambassadors. I want to make it clear that the majority of Australians are against these attacks. But, I have not been able to figure out why only Indians are being targeted.
A section of the Indian media feels that Australians are jealous of the economic progress of India…
Then, why are the Chinese not being attacked? There are different types of Indian students in Australia. Some are brilliant; some are well off, while others are not all that good. Some of them work and live in supposedly dangerous areas, places where even Australians avoid going….but these are just theories. We still don't know the right answer.
When did you first come to India, and how do you see it changing?
I first came 15 years ago with my wife for the stage production of ‘A Midsummer Night's Dream'. Every time I come to India, it takes me two days to get used to the setting. The place has so much energy that the only way to enjoy is to surrender yourself. I feel the country is getting younger and brimming with fresh ideas.
What do you make of new-age Bollywood?
Fifteen years ago, I found Bollywood films quite like Shakespearean plays — they have comedy, tragedy and drama set to music. It inspired me and many others. Now, I believe the new crop is working towards world recognition. It is good, but the roots should not be compromised.
Are you contemplating some plot set in India?
I would love to. I have met A.R. Rahman and the Bachchan family. We share the same sensibility. The good thing is Indian actors have tremendous command over English; so, one can have detailed conversations. I've always worked with great musicians and would love to collaborate with Rahman. All my films have a connection with my personal life, and now after this road journey, I have quite a few interesting episodes with me, but I don't want to reveal my plans. For now, I am going to be busy with The Great Gatsby, and have acquired the rights of the F. Scott Fitzgerald book. I hope I will be able to recreate the pre-Depression era.
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