Leon Forde talks to Amit Kumar about his feature debut Monsoon Shootout, which screens in Cannes as a Midnight Screening.
A Midnight Screening at Cannes, the Hindi-language Monsoon Shootout tells the story of a rookie cop in Mumbai who faces a life-altering decision on his first assignment.
The film is the feature debut of Amit Kumar, whose credits include short film The Bypass. Kumar worked as associate director to Asif Kapadia on The Warrior and to Florian Gallenberger on Shadows Of Time, and was also the second unit director on Kapadia’s Far North and Gallenberger’s John Rabe.
Monsoon Shootout is a UK-Indian-Netherlands co-production. Initially developed by the UK Film Council it is produced byYaffle Films and Sikhya Entertainment and co-produced by Pardesi Films, Anurag Kashyap Films and DAR Motion Pictures, in association with Arte France. Asif Kapadia is an executive producer, while Fortissimo handles world sales.
This is your first feature as a director. How did it come together?
When I was working on Asif on The Warrior back in 2001 we were travelling together all over the country and I would pitch him all my ideas and I had these two ideas, The Bypass and Monsoon Shootout. So later when he was back in London and I was in India, he suggested that I send him an idea for Cinema Extreme, which was run by the UK Film Council and Film4. I was really excited by the idea of Monsoon Shootout and I said I wanted to make that one, and he said trust me, The Bypass will be really good for Cinema Extreme. [The Bypass premiered at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in 2003, where Kumar also pitched Monsoon Shootout and began developing the project with the UK Film Council].
Monsoon Shootout explores the potential outcomes of the moment when a cop has to decide whether to shoot or not. What kind of things influenced you?
I studied at the national film school in Pune in India and when I joined there one of the first short films I saw was [Robert Enrico’s Oscar-winning] An Occurence At Owl Creek Bridge. I was so excited by the idea of one second in real life which has been expanded…
It was a combination of two or three things. This was there at the back of my mind, the other was that I inherently agonise over taking decisions. Somewhere I guess there is that element of myself in this.
Also when I was at film school one of the films that I was thinking of making for my graduation film would have been about a young guy who comes to the city and gets caught up in crime and he’s asked to kill somebody and he stands in the rain and he can’t bring himself to do it because of his morals. Somewhere along the line all these things got combined.
What did you take from working with Asif Kapadia and Florian Gallenberger?
The Warrior was an eye-opener to me, just the way he handled actors, the way we were casting non-actors and [going to] every length possible to shoot at real locations. I think that started giving me a formative grounding of the kind of films I wanted to do. Working with Florian was also good because by then I had had a little primer with Asif and I was already tuned into certain kinds of sensibilities and I think it just really helped me hone my skills as a director.
Independent Indian cinema is gaining a lot of attention. Are you seeing a lot more interest from overseas?
Not just internationally, but even within India there’s a lot more interest now. That’s because there have been a couple of films which would not really fit the mainstream commercial movie category which have done well commercially. So suddenly a lot of people have started taking the gamble a bit more in India.
What is good is that now these films are playing in festivals around the world potential partners abroad can see there’s talent and storytelling that exists in India and there’s a real opportunity for the two to meet.