What is your earliest memory of cinema?
My dad got one of the first VCRs in Bombay and it was a great novelty. My parents were very strict about what we could watch on it. I was obsessed with The Jungle Book, and knew all the dialogues and songs by heart. I secretly fantasised living like Mowgli with all the animals in the forest. Another favourite was my dad’s film, Amar Akbar Anthony, which I think was great fun to watch.
Would it be correct to assume that your father, Vinod Khanna, has influenced your career choices?
Actually I didn’t grow up with my father. My parents split up very early in our childhood and my dad’s career and work was something I didn’t have much access to. So unlike a lot of my contemporaries, I didn’t grow up on or around sets. I don’t know if there was a direct impact but perhaps subliminally. I thought it might be a fun occupation and I always enjoyed films and theatre, so there was a natural drift.
Name one project that satisfied you the most and another that left you deeply unsatisfied.
My most satisfying project would be my first film Earth. First films are like your first love, they are special. It is difficult to recreate this special feeling in subsequent projects. And also because Earth had a wonderful script, a high quality production and the most amazing cast and crew. I always set other projects next to it and used Earth as a benchmark. In terms of projects that left me unsatisfied, I’d have to say that most do. I enjoy the whole process of making films but it’s got an end date to it, which feels like the end of a short intense relationship. But that is probably what keeps us looking for the next project that will stimulate us the way the previous one did.
What expectations do you have from theatre and cinema?
I have always been fascinated by both. No two days are the same if you are experimenting with these two mediums. You get to be in situations you might not encounter in real life. I love the fact that you get to create something out of nothing.
What took Fireflies so long to acquire a release?
Fireflies is an independent film in the purest sense. It was produced by its director, which is a rare occurrence. He went ahead and made the film without any distribution deal in place, which is very brave, and the film is not run of the mill. Fireflies isn’t the kind of film we see very often, so I am surprised that it took such a short span of time to be released! It takes a very progressive distribution house or studio to pick up such a project, and Panorama deserves a pat on the back for this.
In a previous interview to TEHELKA, talking about Fireflies, Monica Dogra lamented that intelligent non-commercial cinema does not have many takers in India. Do you agree?
Yes, I do agree. I sort of compare it with cuisines. North Indian/Mughlai cuisine is dominant and does well in the market but that doesn’t mean that something as esoteric like Japanese cuisine shouldn’t exist because there will be people who enjoy that as well. Big budget, commercial, song-dance Bollywood films that we all know and love are popular but small independent films, perhaps made in different languages, with different storylines and budgets, should also be there as a choice for those who have an interest in it. And as artists, we can only grow when we try different things.