BBC’s well-known journalist and anchor of the show, Talking Movies Tom Brook, is in India and the person he is here to meet is India’s heartthrob, Shah Rukh Khan. We caught up with Brook during his visit, where he told us about touring Shah Rukh’s movie wardrobe during an interview with him 10 years ago, and also meeting with the new generation’s much-loved star, Varun Dhawan, on his current trip.
I’m here with a very special person who is here for another special person? Hello, Mr. Brook. Welcome to India. Please tell our viewers who’s this special person you are here for.
It is Shah Rukh Khan, who everybody in India knows.
Absolutely! But let’s start with you first. Twenty years of ‘Talking Movies’ and I have heard you have shot each and every episode. Are you superhuman? How do you do that? Don’t you take holidays or don’t you fall sick?
Well, it is, I suppose, quite an achievement. We began 20 years ago and at the very start of it, I used to do the show from Times Square. And that’s quite grueling in a way because there’s so many people there, a lot of distractions, and it would take us a long time to record the links for the show, but we did that. It was a weekly show and we did that every week for about five or six years, and then it became a monthly show and I have managed to actually present every episode. I’ve been very fortunate health-wise that nothing has kept me away. And there’s been a big commitment and I feel very good about that commitment that I have with the programme.
And we love to see you all the time. Can you remember three interviews that have been the closest to you?
Well, I think interviewing Tom Hanks has been an important event in my life because he is so affable, so easygoing, and you can be really lazy as an interviewer because he’s so articulate, and you can just give him a little nudge in a way and he comes out with very pithy comments. So that’s certainly been a highlight. I think, interviewing Meryl Streep on a record. I mean, she has to be one of the best actresses in the world. And let me add an Indian angle to that. I think interviewing Shah Rukh Khan has been a pleasure for me in the past. I’ve interviewed him three times over the last 10 years. And that’s been very special. Probably, the first time I interviewed him was about 10 years ago.
10 years ago... so from that interview, what is your memory of Shah Rukh Khan?
Well, he’s very charming. He definitely knows how to work with the media. He seems very authentic, is very candid. And he’s very polished in a way and he’s very engaging as a personality. And I mean, in all honesty, I liked him a lot. In previous interviews, I spoke to him about his film career, about the Indian film industry, about the future of Bollywood. And he was very open to question it and we had a good time. He is very witty. Well, one thing that was a bit strange, though, this wasn’t the last time I interviewed him. The time before that we did it in his home. Is that Mannat?
Yeah, right here. Yes, like two minutes away. And he insisted on taking me on a tour of his wardrobe. He has this huge room in his house where he has outfits from all the different roles he has done. So that was fascinating. Yeah. I’m not quite sure why he wants to do that. But I was very interested.
About your early memories. Do you remember the first time you saw a film and which film was it?
Well, I’m going to mention a film that nobody will know anything about. But when I was a child, I probably was like seven or eight years old, I saw a film called ‘Summer Holiday In The UK.’ And it starred Cliff Richard, who’s a pop singer. So that made an impression on me. But I think the film that is better known that I saw very early on was Mary Poppins. And I love that. And Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, that was very special and that made a big impact on me, in a way it led to me having a bit of a love affair with the movies, I think.
I believe you met Varun Dhawan this time and you interviewed him. How did that go?
Very good. He is an interesting person. I’m not familiar with his full body of work. There’s a new generation of leading men emerging in Bollywood and he is definitely one of them. And we wanted to talk to somebody like that to get a good taste of what’s going on in the film industry. But I like talking to him. He talked about how Bollywood is changing in a way, moving away from the kind of old standard someone... dancing format, dealing with certain issues in a way. And he was very humble in a way. He’s a big fan of ‘Talking Movies’ which I felt flattered by. So that was very nice.
Which film in the Indian film industry has moved you?
Well, two films I would mention. Since we’re dealing with Shah Rukh Khan, I like Dil Se.
And the reason why I like it is the sequence when Shah Rukh Khan is dancing on the roof of the train. That’s amazing. It’s a beautiful bit of cinema which I found very moving. The other film I like a lot and is probably predictable given I come from the west is the Lunch Box, which I saw three or four years ago, which I thought was a very special film and I did like that.
Any other actors in Bollywood who are in your list that you really want to interview?
I’d like to interview Amitabh Bachchan. I mean, he is like a movie God really.
And I did speak to him about 15 years ago when he came to New York. And what was interesting then is he could walk down the street in New York and no one would recognise him. I think that was very liberating for him. But you know, he definitely would be interesting to talk to. The other Indian filmmaker that I’m very keen on is Mira Nair and she, in terms of Indian cinema, made an impact on me when she made Salaam Bombay. I love that film.
Martin Scorsese recently said that Marvel movies are more like a theme park than a film. What do you think about this? And what is your take on this debate?
Well, I think what he’s getting at is that Marvel movies have had a negative effect on film narrative, on storytelling, and they’re more sensationalistic than intellectual, in terms of driving ideas forward. So I think that’s what he was getting at. And I think there is maybe a little bit of a backlash against Marvel. With Disney, it’s such a huge commercial force now in Hollywood, that I think some people are a little apprehensive about it, and the direction in which it’s going, but also how it’s affecting the storytelling. So I think that’s what he was getting at really.
And this I have to ask you, where does Indian cinema stand on a global platform?
Well, I think people when they know about the richness of Indian cinema, really do like it. But I do feel in a way, there is some kind of bias against Indian cinema. I can’t put my finger on why, but if you look at it in the history of the Oscars, Indian films have only been nominated in the foreign language category five times in the whole history of the Oscars and it doesn’t really make sense to me. I think part of the resistance is to do with the way in which Indian, say, Bollywood films are constructed. I think that’s hard for people in the Academy in Los Angeles to get their heads around. The other thing is the length of films. So I think people aren’t used to that in a way. So, I think that’s why there’s resistance but there is great respect for Indian filmmakers, Indian movie stars and I’d like it to develop really.
But do you think things are changing now like you said, like with Lunch box, or Photograph things are changing. The perception of people towards Hindi cinema, is it changing?
I think so. And I think it’s being helped by streaming in the way that you know, that’s making Indian cinema more accessible to people in the West, and they’re learning about Indian cinema. And the other thing is that Indian or Bollywood formats are being copied more by Western films. There’s a film called Yesterday, and that seems to have many of the elements of Indian Bollywood cinema in it. So I think that’s getting through to people.
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