March 18, 2010

ON THE COUCH WITH KOEL- Cameron-ing on the Couch

He says A-vaa-tah. We say Avtar. Potato/potahto. Would you really get into semantics when the biggest director in the world decides that you are the only interview he will do, on his first ever trip to India? Well, if your name begins with K and ends with L and you carry a furry red thing around, you would. So my opening question to Mr Cameron or Jim as he likes to be called (at least by me) - what does Avatar mean to you?

Doesn't come as a surprise when he knows more about the Hindu incarnation of divine beings than I do. The philosophy of the ancient, non-dogmatic religion has captured the imagination of most creative people. Perhaps, because Hinduism is the only religion open to self interpretation, much like Jim's film. What does surprise though, is that he debated giving the gangly blue creatures multiple limbs. Imagine the Na'vi people looking like Vishnu or Shiva!

If there's one person who could have pulled it off effectively, it is this legendary filmmaking inventor. The auteur is the perfect blend of art and science. He has evolved and invented technology to give us an experience we feel utterly lost and comfortable with at the same time. He has eliminated the actor in tangible form on screen by giving them "a more pure acting art form than in front of the camera." He admits they have to be more disciplined and focused because there's not much there around you. But, "as long as the actors have each other they are going to be emotionally present."

Which is why Jim calls it performance capture and not motion capture, "actors don't do motions they do E- motion... you should know", he says, "having acted for TV and film yourself." I am floored. The celebrated Cameron has googled me. In the 8 and a half minutes he has free on this 'couldn't you have stayed for at least 72 hours' trip to India, he has done research on me. Yes, infinitesimal me. This is what makes him a formidable force - he always knows what he's up against. It also makes the dialogue between us decided and poignant. Liberated by our knowledge of the other (however quickly amassed) the conversation coasts.

He boasts that Hurt Locker would never have been made had he not coaxed his ex-wife Kathryn into it. My turn- she makes testosterone films and he, chick flicks. He guffaws, saying they've swapped jobs. Powerful women do it for him on and off screen, is this his fifth marriage? James comes right in with "no, it's my last one." How much does he know about Bollywood? Not much but he knows of SRK and Aamir and then wonders if 'Khan' is a designation or a name, since all the big movie stars in India have it. I play messenger and tell him SRK has asked for a signed Terminator 2 poster. Cameron agrees if Shah Rukh will sign a MNIK one for him. Must remember to pass the message.

A freewheeling exchange on the couch with one of the finest minds, feels like I'm in Pandora - a magical, fantastical place filled with deathly danger if you stop using your head or ignore your heart. The enchanted time is up and he leaves me with the most ridiculous dialogue he says he's written, "I'll be back."

For an insight into this genius' mind and soul tune in to James Cameron's only Indian interview this Saturday, March 20, 7 pm and Sunday, March 21, 1 pm on Headlines Today.



Pardesi said...

I did not think I would say this of Cameron, as I have hated Titanic and did not think much of Cameron's work, until Avatar. But he seems like a smart, intelligent and sensitive man. Full marks to him for taking his India trip so seriously.

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