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“I am inherently attracted to comedy”

Ken Scott in conversation with Padma Iyer talks about his directorial The Extraordinary Journey Of The Fakir, working with Dhanush, the challenges of adapting a book into a film and more

Is this your first visit to India?

I came here for pre-production and went back to shoot the movie. But, before that, I had never been to India.

Most of the films you have done are comedy. What is it about the genre that attracts you?

It is something that comes very naturally in the way I create and express myself, I think. I have a tendency to go towards comedy. But I have had the chance to do a few projects that were not comedy. I wrote a sports drama. But comedy is inherently what I am attracted to.

You are inherently a writer who is also a director, but this is a film you have not written. So what was it like to make this film?

I did collaborate on the script. The producer called me up and told me about the book and that we had an actor who was interested, and that we had a script. They were okay for me to dive into the script as they knew I was a writer as well. The script has been written by Romain Puertolas, the author of the book. He was very open to saying, let’s make the best movie possible. He was very free in the creation of the script of the movie.

It was also fun working with Romain. He is so creative and I love the book. The story in the book is so heartfelt, it has so many unexpected twists, and that is what we wanted to keep in the movie. In the book, there are so many ideas and I guess in the creation part sometimes even one line would  become 10 minutes in the movie because that one line was such a great idea that we wanted to expand it. So I guess that was the process and it was a lot of fun and it was a great story to work on.

When a book is adapted into a movie, those who watch the movie generally believe that the book was better. Why do you think that happens? And do you think it would be different for this film?

People read the book and they have their version of what the story should look like. When they see the movie and if it is different from what they envisioned, and the filmmaker has not filled in the blanks the way they did, then they feel that the film is not as they had imagined. People are passionate about those stories but sometimes, to give just one example, the Harry Potter books… the films are great and they have succeeded in being as good as the books.

What are the challenges of adapting a book into a film?

With a book, certain things are eliminated, in the sense that you can write anything and count on the imagination of the reader. But while making a film, there are some limits like budgets, shooting time and screen time because you have just two hours to tell a story. So those are the limits of adapting a book to a movie that you have to deal with.

The producers of the film are Indian and the leading man is an Indian actor. You also have actors and technicians from all over the world and you have shot all over the place. How was the experience of working with such a huge set-up?

It was great and I couldn’t be happier. I would like to share an anecdote about when I went to film school. One of the teachers said if you want to achieve success in filmmaking, you have to make movie about what you know. At the time, I felt he was wrong. I thought, you can make one movie about what you know but what are you going to do after that? I always felt that you shouldn’t be invisible about what you want to know or what you want to discover passionately

They gave me the book, so I wanted to discover exactly what it was like to make a movie in India with an actor like Dhanush and try to understand all this work that we created. For me, it was great. I am from Canada. This is so, so far from my world and I guess the movie is about immigration and so in a strange way, the whole production, the people coming from the different parts of the world and doing something we believe in...

The main theme of the movie was reflected in the production because we all worked together and learnt what we had done; we all discovered how each country makes movies; we talked about it and then we learned from each other and we made a movie. And that’s reflected in the main theme of the movie.

Dhanush has many facets. He is not just an actor, but also a director, a writer and a producer. Do you think this has added to what he brought to the film?

I think acting, writing, directing are all the same thing at the base level. It is telling a story. If you have done it before, you know how to do things better. So if he succeeds in directing, it means he is really working on his story telling craft, and if he succeeds in that, it makes him a better actor. 

What are your expectations from the Indian audience in terms of what they will take back from the film?

Hopefully, they will enjoy the movie. I work in comedy. I like to entertain people, I want them to come out of the movie smiling and feel that it is a good movie. Hopefully, they will be entertained, hopefully they will be smiling, hopefully people will laugh but hopefully they will also see the theme of the movie. Hopefully, they will perceive the theme that how important the plight of immigrants is today. This movie is not preachy in any way. It’s not political either, but it does make you think on a very basic level, in a very simple way.

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