To sit down and talk about movies is always refreshing. To sit down and talk about the same topic with a renowned film critic, journalist and writer is an enriching experience. BizAsiaLive.com were fortunate to get this opportunity when we recently met with Anupama Chopra who was in town chaperoning her 15 year old daughter, Zuni Chopra, for the launch of her debut novel in the UK. The film extraordinaire shared her personal thoughts on family, social media and her favourite person to interview with us.
Welcome Anupama, we are privileged to be in the presence of a distinguished journalist! You come from a family of writers and you have achieved great success in these areas yourself. How does it now feel to see your daughter going down a similar path and is there a sense of wanting to constantly provide advice?
It is a great feeling of pride. However I’ve never said to her to do this or to do that. The only thing that I’ve really kind of nagged about is the kind of rigour that you must put into anything you do. You have to own it, it doesn’t come easy. I feel like sure I write books myself, I know people at Penguin, I can make the contacts but beyond that if you’re not good enough, I’m not going to be able to do anything. It comes down to talent and hard work. Of course Zuni is in a position of privilege and has opportunities that other children may not have but if you’re not going to take those opportunities and run with them, there isn’t much more I can do, so I think that’s the one thing I constantly go on about. I’m far more nervous about my son who wants to be a professional cricket place. Zuni’s choice is a world I know, cricket is a world I don’t get so that’s really stressful because I don’t even know what the rules are!
You wear several different hats, film critic, journalist, writer as well as new ventures – how do you juggle all the different balls?
They are all so inter-related. I’m also now the director of the Mumbai Film Festival so it’s one more hat to wear but the areas all just feed into each other. I think all of it teaches me different things. As a director of a film festival I’m chasing talent, I’m like a producer really, raising money, and it is things I have never done before. I’ve no expertise to do it so you’re really struggling to make it happen. It’s the same for Film Companion which is the digital film platform that I run. Yes I’ve used the things I learned from television but I’ve gone into medium where the rule book is literally re-set every day and nobody really knows what works and what doesn’t. So you do what instinctively comes to you so it’s very challenging but very exciting.
As an individual who started off as a traditional journalist, how do you feel about the rise of social media where everyone seems to be a reporter?
I really love social media, I’ve enjoyed it and have been on Twitter for a long time. I have recently got on Instagram and have a public page on Facebook. What I love about it is the fact that it’s interactive, at one point we were just talking to an audience but we never heard what they had to say about my reviews or anything, so now I know what they feel.
Any negative effects?
I think what I don’t really enjoy is how polarising it has become and how people use social media. It’s almost a license to just be awful and be rude and cruel when there is no need. I mean honestly, at the end of the day it’s a movie, and if you don’t like what I say you can just tell me ‘I don’t agree with your review’ but I’ve literally had people threaten me, with death threats and awful nasty stuff. Really I just think what do you add to the world when you say those things to somebody because they don’t have the same opinion as you about a film. People almost have a license to hide and I find that quite disturbing. So I’ve been on it now long enough not to pay attention but I know some people have been hounded on social media as the trolling was so brutal and I think that’s just so sad. I mean do we not even have a world where we can just talk to each other with some level of grace.
How have you protected your family, and now your daughter from this?
I am equally consumed by social media and you have to tell yourself this is not real life. It is so addictive but I’m grateful she’s not on social media. There are handles but it’s pretty much for the book, personally she doesn’t feel any need to be on it which is a good thing. You should use it to the level at which you are comfortable. One of the things I really struggle with is because I’m an old school journalist that didn’t grow up with social media is where does privacy begin? For many people there is no such thing anymore which is fine I’m not judgemental about it, it’s just I’m not there. I still feel things like family, your home are very private things but it is something I struggle with.
In all your years working in the industry you have interviewed and met a lot of people – who has been your favourite person to interview?
Shah Rukh – no other choice!
And the person who has left you stumped?
I met M Night Shyamalan a few years ago and I had done a lot of research on him, his films from reports that were in the reputable trade magazines at the time. I had posed a long question quoting these magazines and he just paused me halfway through and said everything you’ve just said is untrue! I was like ‘oh’ and that did stump me for a few minutes.
Finally, with your daughter’s book now out and receiving a great response, could you let us into what is your favourite book?
That’s a tough question, it’s like asking me my favourite film! I think it changes depending what mood I’m in. I’ve just read ‘Sense of an Ending’ by Julian Barnes because I want to see Ritesh Batra’s film version of it. I really love that book – right now that’s the one that moved me the most.
BizAsiaLive.com wishes both mother and daughter great success in all their ventures.