British moviemaker Michael Winterbottom's under production The Wedding Guest has Dev Patel and Radhika Apte in the lead. A just released trailer of the film shows a hoodlum, played by Patel. kidnapping a bride, Samira (essayed Radhika Apte), and travelling to India. Cops are hot on their trail, and the clip has Samira saying that she does not want to get married. And when she asks her kidnapper whether she can trust him, he has a firm no for an answer. We know the man is Patel and a kidnapper but nothing beyond this is revealed.
The Wedding Guest, co-staring Jim Sarbh, will start screening in America on March 1. Nobody knows when it will arrive in India.
(Strangely some movies never come to India, and shockingly so. Ken Scott's The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir with Dhanush in the lead is one example. It played in the Middle East and the Far East, but flew over India! And this had someone as popular as Dhanush!)
Winterbottom seems to be obsessed with the Indian subcontinent. After two eminently forgettable films shot there – A Mighty Heart in 2007 with Angelina Jolie and Irrfan Khan on the murder of the Wall Street journalist, Daniel Pearl, set in Pakistan, and Trishna with Frieda Pinto based on Thomas Hardy's Tess and located in Rajasthan – Winterbottom is still not fighting shy of yet another attempt on a subcontinental setting.
Both A Mighty Heart (where the only redeeming feature was Irrfan, playing a Pakistani policeman) and Trishna were disappointing. Trishna seemed so amateurish, and Winterbottom's attempt to adapt Hardy to the Indian milieu just flopped.
Compare Trishna with Vishal Bharadwaj's adaptation of Shakespeare in Omkara (transporting Othello to the badlands of Uttar Pradesh) or Maqbool (Macbeth travels to Mumbai's underworld) or Haider (Hamlet plods on the snows of Kashmir), and they were fantastic. And they were fantastic also because Bharadwaj knew the culture and the land. He was familiar with Uttar Pradesh and Mumbai and Kashmir. Mr Winterbottom is not. Or so it seems.
The British auteur's views and perception of the subcontinent are touristy, and this was painfully apparent in Trishna with Rajasthan serving as a mere embellishment for his work. His core strength, I think, is Europe. Some of his best works emerged from there.
Take, for instance, Winterbottom's 1997 Welcome to Sarajevo, which I think is his very best work. A British war movie, it was adapted from a book, Natasha's Story, by Michael Nicholson. It is a gripping with a documentary feel and follows two journalists – a reporter and a photographer – as they chase stories in 1992 Sarajevo, the besieged capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and come face to face with painful suffering, including among orphan children, the innocent victims of a bloody war.
Again, Winterbottom's 2007 Genoa has Colin Firth essaying a widower, who moves his two daughters to Italy, where one of them begins to explore her sexuality. A powerfully moving story about the dilemma of a father who has very little clue about how to deal with teenage girls.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is an author, commentator and movie critic)