At NYIFF last month, following the screening of Alexandra Eaton’s documentary Bombay Movie, there was a Q & A with her and actor Arjun Mathur, one of the stars of Barah Aana, the making of which is at the center of Bombay Movie.
Q: How did you come to make this film?
Alex Eaton: I was in Bombay with a video camera, and I don’t speak Hindi so I couldn’t really have a job on the set of Barah Aana, and I met Giulia (Achilli) and we hit it off right away. I could see that the filmmakers were so earnest and they believed in the story so much. The city was so ruthless that I knew whatever ended up happening to them, it was gonna make a great story.
Q: How long were you there with them?
AE: About a year.
Q (to Arjun Mathur): How does it feel to watch this film?
Arjun Mathur: It’s amazing. I had no idea what Alex was doing. It’s fantastic. I had completely forgotten that bit about us fighting with the manager at that theater. It’s heartening to see that the kind of films you want to make and to get people to watch them… I’m glad that people can get an insight into that.
Q (to Alex Eaton): You haven’t shown it to Raja (Menon) yet?
AE: No. He’s been really super-supportive of the whole process. I’ve been asking him for clips up to the last minute. I’m gonna send Arjun home with a DVD.
Q (to Alex Eaton): Any memories of making the film?
AE: One of the things that was really interesting is there’s no way for these filmmakers to get data, and they literally have to go around from theater to theater to look and see how many people are there, just to have some kind of inkling of how well it’s doing.
Q (to Arjun Mathur): When you tell people that you were in a film called Barah Aana, how do they react?
AM: You know, strangely, this is the film that I get talked to about the most, of everything I’ve done, and it feels fantastic because I don’t expect it at all.
Q (to Alex Eaton): How did Giulia and Raja and Raj (Yerasi) connect? (because that’s not something that’s in the film)
AE: That’s actually a good story. They (Giulia and Raja) met at a conference called Italy Meets Bollywood and I think Giulia was at a table in the Italy section, Raja was at a table at the India section and they somehow found each other at the water cooler and started talking about this idea and Giulia was instantly into it. Raj (Yerasi) had come over from the US to get involved in film and they met at a party in Bombay.
Q (to Alex): Raja’s obviously not starving, if you look at the flat, the location, so what else does he do? Does he do ad films?
AE: Yes, he does a lot of commercials.
Q (to Alex): With technology now, it would be possible to pay for your film and download it, but then you also have the risk of piracy. The thing that always strikes me at these festivals is you see all these films, you write about them, you talk about them to your friends, all over the place and they should be able to access these films, even if they can’t come to the festival. But in terms of economics, how does that factor into things? Is the big screen release still the thing that everyone wants more than anything in the world?
AE: Well, I don’t know about everybody else…. But I think that online is a great, great venue, especially for a film like this which is pretty low-budget and also has an audience that can, potentially, span the globe. I hardly go to movie theaters honestly, so I’m a huge advocate of digital and downloading. The piracy question is not something I’m particularly afraid of. I think you gain much more exposure by putting it out there, and if a couple of people steal it, then I hope they have a nice party watching it.
Q (to Alex): What’s next with this film?
AE: Well, we just finished it last Thursday, so I haven’t had a lot of time to think about that, but we’ll definitely be trying to play it as many times as possible and bring it to Bombay.
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You can read my thoughts on Bombay Movie here.