Hollywood director Ang Lee, who was recently in the city to promote his upcoming film, admitted to being in awe of the country. “I think it would take several lifetimes to completely grasp the essence of India. There’s simply so much to learn and know about it,” he says, as we indulge the Oscar-winner in a tete-a-tete about his film Life of Pi and also get him to share his Indian experiences. Excerpts:
The last time you were in India, you were busy shooting and this time you are busy with promotional events…
I wish I had some more time to really explore the country, but I think that will have to wait. I would love to come with my family the next time. Hopefully, it will be for more than just work. The country overwhelms you, with the warmth, the culture and its beauty. I would love to experience all of that again.
What’s the biggest challenge of making a film that’s deeply rooted in a culture which is relatively new to you?
I didn’t look at it as a challenge, but a beautiful aspect of filmmaking. I think the best part of the Indian culture is the way it makes you feel like an insider, though there’s simply so much to know about it that I still consider myself an outsider. The culture here is deep-rooted, but the appeal and connect is universal — pretty much how I would say Life of Pi is.
Your film talks much about philosophy. How much does it resonate with you?
Each film has been an inward journey for me, as I live what every character of films goes through. In fact, the journey that I get to take with each character is what I love about making films. This one is multiplied many times over, as it goes beyond what’s being shown. The idea is to use strong visual elements outside to take you deeper within your own self. Like the book, I didn’t want my film to teach anything, just make you think.
Do you think that your film will help Indians break away from the stereotype that is often portrayed in Hollywood?
I don’t think they need my film to do that at all. Indian actors and films are carving a niche on their own. They are making a stronger impact in the West with each passing year.
How was it working with Indian actors — Tabu, Irrfan Khan, Suraj Sharma and Adil Hussain?
Each one of them has brought the characters alive just the way I had envisioned them. I think India is a mine of talent and each time you dig, you can come up with a gem. I found my gems in my cast.
Do you feel the pressure of living up to your Oscar-winning image with each film?
No, otherwise I would not be able to make films at all. Each time I start a film, I leave my Oscars behind with the film that they belong to. The sincerity in story-telling is never compromised on and it is something that I cherish more than any award.