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Le Corbusier in India

‘I want to change the image of India’

Manu Rewal interviewed by Sambhavika Sharma, February 6, 2002.

Why did you chose Le Corbusier and his architectural work as a subject for your documentary?
My appetite for the subject had been whetted by a previous film I had made on the city of Chandigarh, as part of a series of films on architecture. I had touched upon Le Corbusier’s contributions, but I felt the need to try and make a more ambitious film.

I sensed that Le Corbusier’s adventure in India held the promise of a rich and complex film, as these were the works of one of the important architects of the twentieth century.

Although some films have been made on Chandigarh in the past, mostly by Europeans, his story has never been covered the way I intended it to be. My intention was not only to tell the story of Le Corbusier’s interactions with India, but also to analyse the architecture of the city and the buildings of Chandigarh and his lesser known, but no less significant, works in Ahmedabad.

The idea was to meet as many of Le Corbusier’s assistants and associates who are still alive and also to meet contemporary architectural historians and critics in order to get different perspectives on these works. I was not at all interested in doing a purely laudatory film in which one praises a great man’s works. . It seemed much more interesting to try and see what worked and what didn’t in Le Corbusier and his team’s bold and innovative experiments.

And how was the whole experience ?
It was a tough but great experience. As I started research in India, I contacted various partners for the project. Unfortunately, Doordarshan, which had initially given me a positive response, backed out when they realized the project needed more financial backing than they realized. They even rejected the concept of co-production with a French company. Somehow I managed to convince another production company to complete the project. Although it should not have taken me more than six months, it took me a full three years. But my film has been sent to various film festivals and has won the Muestra intemacional de Patrimonio Arquitectonico (MIPA) jury award as well as the Architecture award at the UNESCO film festival on art and education in December 2001.

What kind of an audience do you have in mind for your documentaries ?
One can only try and make the film in such a way that it interests people. I had something like this in mind when I started off with the project. I wanted to remove all jargon so that maximum people could have access to it. I also wanted to give a different image of India than the one usually presented in the western media. Maharajas, poverty, and religion are still the dominant images linked to India. I want to change this image of India.

Why is it that almost all documentary films that you have made are about architecture ?
The first documentary I worked on was for my father, who is an architect. After that, I slowly got interested in the subject and I just carried on with it. I was always keen on making a fiction film but never got the opportunity. Now I am planning one. It is in fact, quite difficult to make a fiction movie essentially because of the lack of financial backing, especially if you happen to stay in Delhi since it is not where the film industry is located in India.


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Other Reviews
Interviewed by Amitabh Revi and Nidhi Razdan on Star TV, July 22, 2001
Interviewed by K.T. Ravindran in Architecture + Design, March-April 2002




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