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October 20, 1997


'If you were Meryl Streep I wouldn't have to show any part of your body'

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Returning to LA, Jag directed Last Call, Tropical Heat, Wild Cactus and some more steamy films for Ashok Amritraj. "But I wasn't getting the kind of money my films were making. I don't hold anything against Ashok for that. After all, he was doing his job as the producer. He was risking his money he was investing. He was the one taking the risk."

If that wasn't enough, Jag had by then been stereotyped with the genre he made famous.

"I have never shot a woman in a degrading position or in a demeaning manner. I will never show rape scenes. My films always show consenting adults." he says.

"I have never told my actresses that I am depicting art on the screen. So its okay to expose for me, but not for another director. I never say the script demands the nude scene. Nor am I a man who gets his jollies by looking at a woman's breasts. It's plain business on the sets and there are no pretensions of any sort. I mean if you were Meryl Streep I wouldn't have to show any part of your body, but you are not her." He adds as an afterthought, "But even she exposed in Bridges of Madison County."

"I do want to change," he protests. "But my audience expected my films to have sex in them. I am sick and tired of shooting sex. I mean in how many ways can you shoot sex? But then I thought this is the genre I am known for, this is the genre that has created me." The audiences, he says, feel cheated if there is no sex in his films. "I think I will have to change my name and make a film with no sex," he laughs.

Mundhra had another struggle convincing people about his ability to handle a big budget film, because till then he had been making films on a tight budget. But convince them he did.

In 1994, he formed his company, Everest Pictures. Its first film, Improper Conduct, was about sexual harassment, and happened before Disclosure. It got a lot of good reviews, and was released in theatres and did very well. In the next three years he made Irresistible Impulse and Tainted Love. Monsoon is now set for release.

He hopes that with Monsoon, he will create a special niche for an Indian connection. He is also working on The Third Eye, about an American who is made a patsy in a Jaisalmer robbery.

Mundhra also plans to ease out of the erotic thriller market.

"Today, the erotic thriller market is on the decline, the quality of films has gone down, because too many people have flooded the market with shoddily made films."

Why does he shoot with American actors if he wants to gather Indian audiences?

Because without Americans, it would be seen as an Indian film. "You need an American face to give it a look of an American film," he says, adding that he wants to make non-arty films about exotic India, with exotic locales and exotic characters.

"It took me ten years just to prove that a Ph D holder can also make films, then I had to prove that an Indian can make American films, now I have to prove I can make films beyond erotic thrillers..."

He says he makes three versions of his films, "one shot below the waist, another below the chest and the third using shoulder length shots. Every scene looks the same, the lighting is the same, just the focus of the camera changes."

This way, he says, he can profitably target different segments of the market.

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