Brett Ratner who remixed Kites for U.S. audiences, on Bollywood’s potential in the United States.
Can you tell me why you felt the need to do a re-edit of Kites?
Kites is not a typical Bollywood movie in my opinion. They shot it in United States. It was a western type of Indian movie. They didn’t go as far as they could. Culturally they just didn’t do things differently. I didn’t change the story. I didn’t change the integrity of the film. I changed the music. The music I thought was excellent, but it didn’t translate.
Another thing that is different is that Indian movies don’t have as much sound as ours. I don’t know if you have noticed that. They don’t use as many sound effects. I made it feel like a big action love story with sound design that is more American style and I changed the voices of the actors.
This to me is intriguing. There is somewhere at the back of your mind an idea that there is something uniquely American or uniquely Hollywood in a film.
I am intrigued by the fact that we translate film from one culture to another instead of asking the audience to adapt to another culture.
The problem is this film in particular is just a love story, not necessarily about the Indian culture. What I am saying is culturally there are some things that just don’t translate. It’s something that you can’t explain. My movie Rush Hour, for instance, if you show it in Japan they laugh at everything that they didn’t laugh at in America — you understand? I show the movie in Italy. They don’t laugh at all. You show in France they laugh only at the silly things. It’s hard to explain how audiences are going to react. I am talking of the specific things that happen in Indian movies that you cannot do in American movies. You can’t all of a sudden break into a dance. You can’t break into a dance in a movie if it is not a musical.
Is the editing any different in your version of Kites?
I cut the movie from 2 hrs 20 minutes to 90 minutes. The story is the same. Kites exists as it is. The Indian version has not been changed. In fact they liked some of the stuff I did so much that they changed some of the Indian version. But I didn’t do it. They did it. They just copied what I did, because the director liked it so much.
If you give the same footage to 10 different directors they are going to make 10 different movies. The thing is that I kept the integrity and I respected the film that they made. If I didn’t like the original Kites I wouldn’t have done this. But I liked it so much that I thought that it was important to respect what they did. When they saw my version of the movie they were jumping up with excitement.
Do you think this is a trend that it is something people would want to do in the future?
Why are American movies popular? Is it because of the some sort of “universal language” they develop?
It’s the language and also the way we make our movies. Kites is probably the biggest budget Indian movie. We make our movies with $200 million plus. The spectacle of American movie is what fascinates everyone. I am sure when Star Wars came out, there was nothing like that in any other country of the world. It brought American Hollywood cinema to the world. It’s just that we make very impressive films.
Is it possible that we would lose the uniqueness of films and they would all look alike everywhere in the world?
Never. I think local movies will always be there. What is fascinating is that local movies in countries are starting to work more in the United States. That’s what is exciting. 3 Idiots got $7 million in the U. S. That is huge. That is the future. That is so exciting because of the open mindedness in the business. Local filmmakers never dreamed that this movie would be a success in the United States.
Organically what is going to happen is that if you look in the Jackie Chan movies before Rush Hour, those movies didn’t make more than $5 million at the box office in the United States. Then I put him in Rush Hour, which is an American movie but that has Chinese culture in it, and it makes $250 million worldwide. So there is no doubt in my mind that you can take an Indian star and an American star and put them in a movie together and shoot in India or shoot in America or shoot anywhere in the world and it can be a huge international hit and that is where it is going in the future. Look at the pattern of what happened with Jackie Chan. He never had a movie gross more than $30 million in the United States. We made $30 million in the first weekend. So why was that? Because his Chinese movies were being seen on a circuit in the United States. It was cult following, but it opened the doors for much bigger opportunities.