Age and occupation: 33, Filmmaker
How long have you lived here? 7 years
Where did you come from? Assam (like the tea), India, via the Middle East and the U.K.
Where do you live now? East Village
The Dirty Three:
1. As a finalist in the Project Greenlight directing contest, do you get special access to the inner thoughts of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck? Do you find yourself walking down the street sometimes and wondering "what would Bennifer do?" when faced with some sort of moral dilemma or challenge? If you were given the opportunity for your film to win simply by virtue of your winning one hand of poker against the famed Affleck, would you take your chances by keeping an ace up your sleeve (or cheating in some other unsavory way)?
No (Thank God!), no, and no (Bring it on, Ben!)
2A. The short film you made about a cab driver and his relationship with his son, "OFF DUTY," has a distinctly populist/political feel to it. Do you feel that your film ideas are political? Are you trying to achieve anything with them in terms of social change, etc.?
I think your audience defines your film, no matter how you may feel about it. It's such a subjective medium. I am, however, conscious of not offending my own political sensibilities and remaining true to myself when telling a story. Recently, Off Duty was invited to the Toronto International Film Festival and will have its largest audience to date there. I still get the jitters at screenings of my films for the simple fact that so much rests on a roomful of strangers.
2B. As a filmmaker, who are you most influenced by?
I go through different phases. Lately, I've been interested in Vittorio De Sica's work (The Bicycle Thief, Umberto D., Miracle in Milan), as well as Luchino Visconti (The Damned, Death in Venice). I love films that are visually powerful, in addition to having an engaging story and characters. It's nice to go back and see how some of the masters did it. Of course, "Spiderman 2" and "The Manchurian Candidate" remake are on my list, too.
3. What are some of the more creative and annoying things that people have said in response to your name? Is it mostly Yogi-Bear-hey-Boo-Boo, or do you also get a lot of bandage jokes?
Yup. I get a lot of both. But, the most creative joke came from a Scotsman who said, "Bu Bu Ka Ka ti? What, did your parents have a stutter?" It's by far the most original, and my favorite one. To be honest, the jokes don't irritate me at all. The name usually makes people remember me, which can be a plus, sometimes.
Please share a personal (and hopefully interesting) NYC taxi story.
The first day I moved to New York, I had two New York martinis on an empty stomach and got kicked out of two New York taxicabs in a row, making the commute to my new home a real bitch. Needless to say, neither event has seen a second occurrence.
What era, day or event in New York's history would you like to re-live?
The 70's. I'd love to turn the camera on the city then and be a part of the filmmaking renaissance at that time.
Given unlimited resources and the ability to purchase any living space in the city, where would you most like to live (this can be a specific intersection, a specific building or even a specific apartment)?
A townhouse on the north side of 12th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues.
What was your worst living situation in New York?
As a student, staying in the living room of an open loft space with an old lady and her crazy cat, which sat and stared at me all through the night, every night.
If you could pass any municipal law, what would it be and why?
No cigar smoke allowed in any public indoor or outdoor space (cigarettes I can deal with). Besides, aren't cigars meant to be smoked with a nice Cognac in the privacy of one's own home, some time after 8 pm in the evening?
Describe that low, low moment when you thought you just might have to leave NYC for good.
That low moment, luckily, hasn't arrived, or maybe I'm just an optimist. It was close on 9/11/01, but I didn't feel like I had to leave the city permanently. The only way I'd leave the city is if my career as a filmmaker absolutely required it, like some amazing deal with an amazing studio to make an amazing number of amazing movies. Otherwise, I plan on living my life right here.
If you were banished from the city, where would you most want to spend your exile?
Just after midnight on a Saturday - what are you doing?
I'm in a cab, sleeping, or watching a movie.
What's the most expensive thing in your wardrobe?
Who do you consider to be the greatest New Yorker of all-time?
Probably Dr. Jonas Salk, who developed the vaccine for polio.
Excepting your significant other (and assuming they wouldnt mind), which New Yorker would you most like to make out with in the bathroom at CBGBs?
Who in the city most deserves to be publicly flogged/kicked in the balls/bitch-slapped?
At the moment, Ed Koch. I hate those "make nice" commercials.
What was your best dining experience in NYC?
Dinner at 11 Madison, and Martha Stewart was there, pre-courtroom drama.
Best place in the city for a first date?
A movie at a cozy theater, like The Quad or The Paris Theater. If the date doesn't work out, at least your entertainment is covered.
Best place to break up with someone?
On the street, preferably at a large intersection. Couples in New York are always breaking up on the street and it's such high New York City drama. The city just wouldn't be the same without it.
What about the city makes you most happy?
The ethnic diversity.
If you could change one thing about New York, what would it be?
Lower Housing costs, so I can continue to live here, and contribute to the ethnic diversity.
The End of The World is finally happening. What are you going to do with your last 24 hours in NYC?
Avoid watching the blow-by-blow media coverage about the world ending, ride my bike around the city and have three great meals, assuming the best chefs will still be working that day.
- Interview by David S. Hirschman