I love the incredible chaos of India: John Madden

India, says John, is vital to the plot of the film

John Madden, the director of the soon-to-be-released Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel makes no bones admitting that he was surprised at how well the film’s prequel did. In India once again to promote the film, John wants to go about it more meticulously this time rather than rely on word-of-mouth publicity like they did the last time. “The story of a bunch of old people in India is not the best to sell, but I guess what worked is that one didn’t expect people at that stage in their lives to be protagonists of a film, and of a film that looks at their lives with humour in particular,” he says.

It’s not the first time that the success of his film has surprised him. Shakespeare in Love that won the Oscars for the best picture in 1998 was an equally pleasant surprise too. “Why would someone want to watch a film with the word ‘Shakespeare’ in it, is the first reaction I got from most American studios that we approached. The company that finally backed the project begged me to change the name of the film too, but I didn’t. I myself anticipated those who like theatre and Shakespeare’s works in particular to watch the film, but the audience turned out to be wider than that,” he admits.

But sequels can be tricky. You want to maintain the essence of the film and still not make it seem like a big déja vu. Says the director, “I didn’t want it to be a pale imitation of the first one especially because like it or not, we now have a yardstick. People are bound to watch it and say ‘it wasn’t as good as the original or it was better than the original’. But thankfully the progression was rather organic and the actors didn’t need any convincing either to be honest.”

John who has shot both the films in India (Rajasthan) is acutely aware of he’s only showing a small part of the country. He doesn’t worry about not showing a comprehensive picture of the country because that would be a bizarre idea. “I don’t intend to do that, no film should ideally intend to do that. India is a huge country and my film (by default) shows India through the eyes of a few British people but what is important is that you stay true to the people and don’t enforce any cultural stereotypes,” he says.

India, says John, is vital to the plot of the film and that it wouldn’t have been the same without it as the background. “I love the incredible chaos that people respond to and how they go about living their lives despite the chaos in their own bubble. Jaipur in particular is a wonderful mix of an agrarian culture and modern lifestyle and the mix can be very interesting and hilarious at the same time,” he says with a laugh.

Given that the film features Hollywood heavy weights such as Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith and Richard Gere and that actors across the globe are known to want to hog the limelight, we ask John if the situation ever turned sticky. “Now that’s a stereotype,” he says getting back at us with the earlier comment adding, “In my view and experience of doing feature films for the past many years, actors are often very liberated to know that a certain actor who is really good is also part of the film, because that raises everybody’s game. Often they’re also relaxed because they can step back and relax assured that the film will look good.”

John admits that the process of post-production has evolved over the years and he has embraced it entirely. “If you’re not a famous franchise such as a superhero or a comic character, then you have to step out and make a case for yourself. The first film did well because of its word of mouth publicity, but I am glad I could make time to promote it myself in India this time around. The film needs a bit of extra oxygen and as a director, it is my job to make sure that it gets it. If I expect my actors to do it, I will certainly do it myself.”

( Source : deccan chronicle )
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