American-Iranian director Ramin Bahrani was struck by the realism and humanism in the works of Satyajit Ray, and says he continues to reflect upon the Maestros cinematic craft and imbibe some of the hues on his canvas.
The director also appreciates the current wave of Independent cinema in India, and feels it reflects something that was missing from cinema in our country for a long time.
"I have a vivid memory. In college in the 1990s, (author) Aravind (Adiga), I and one of our friends, we would walk to the Lincoln Plaza Cinema. Because that summer, Martin Scorsese had restored and was releasing nine of Satyajit Ray's films. So, every two weeks we would walk all the way and see the film, and then we would walk all the way back talking about it," Bahrani told IANS, while opening up about the influence of Ray on his work.
"I was just struck by the humanism in his films, the focus on simple stories, character-based stories. It was a kind of a fresh revelation to see them at that time. I continue to draw upon his work. And now, I am really digging the new Hindi cinema in Indie (space). It is pretty awesome," he added.
As a filmmaker, he likes to tell stories from an outsider's perspective, and that is something he spotted in Indian cinema.
"You can have an outsider perspective within your own country. I've tried to do that with my films in the (United) States, where I have tried to pick subjects that aren't typically noticed, and I see that (happening) in new independent cinema in India, which I find amazing," Bahrani said.
He continued: "The burgeoning new indie cinema here is awesome. I had not seen anything like that in Indian cinema for a long time. So, I think there's really talented work being done that is fresh and made from a new perspective, because those Indian directors are trying to find a new way to see their own country."
After "Man Push Cart", "Chop Shop", "Plastic Bag", "At Any Price" and "Fahrenheit 451", he turned his camera to capture a slice of life rooted in India with "The White Tiger", an adaptation of a book by his friend Adiga.
He had read the early drafts of the book even before it was published, and was glad to be the one adapting it onscreen.
"I had read the rough drafts of the book before it was published and then I read the book so many times. I remember the first time he showed me some rough chapters, I thought, 'how can this not be published? It's so funny, insightful and engaging. And, so many years later, I got lucky and connected to ("The White Tiger" producer) Mukul Deora. We clicked creatively," he shared while looking back at the start of the journey of the film.
"The White Tiger" stars Adarsh Gourav, with Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Rajkummar Rao, Mahesh Manjrekar and Vijay Maurya in pivotal roles. It deals with class divide and the dark realities of Indian society and is currently streaming on Netflix.