Ravi Kapoor, director of Miss India America, a film described as ‘a comedy where Election and Legally Blondemeets the world of Indian- American beauty pageants’, discusses winning and losing and the making of the film:
How did the film start? Anjali Bhimani is in your film
and she is very talented. Congratulations for the entire
Yes, she is brilliant. She is an amazing actor,
It began when Meera Simhan, the co-writer and
my wife, and I wanted to write a film about ambition, and the theme about wedding and achievement within the South Asian community and the
world at large.
We thought of how to explore the theme. Meera
had some experience with beauty pageants. Meera
also has a solo show called Miss India America.
We worked on a number of these pageants as
well. In the end, we never really felt that this was
a beauty pageant movie, necessarily.
It’s more of a coming of age story: about a girl
who is learning to lose and being okay with that
as well; recognizing that there is a lot to gain from
not always winning. That was our main thrust of
the story. The beauty pageant is just one area
where she discovers those things.
You have said that this is a film not just for
South Asians but for wider audiences.
I think it is authentic to our world. I think that
we’ve made something that speaks true to a lot of
communities and the world at large. We are not
exploring identity as such; we’re exploring a big-
ger theme of how do you have a more fulfilled life, how do
you find a wider range of fulfillment in your life beyond
just achieving things, how do you have a balanced life
which obviously, I think, is a universal theme.
It is not just a South Asian theme. We happened to
study this within the South Asian community. But again
by being authentic, hopefully it becomes viable to many,
It is a comedy. And comedies I think are always great
ways of communicating to a large number of people. We
definitely wanted to create a very sensible movie and a
movie that a lot of people would enjoy and connect with.
Your cast is so good.
I think we have an incredible cast. I think five years ago,
we may not have been able to find the South Asian talent
to fill all those roles. Now there has been such an incredi-
ble explosion of young South Asian talent and also the
more seasoned actors have kind of come of age (bringing)
their experience to the more mature roles in the film.
You have done work on TV and for the mainstream.
What have you brought from your own experi-
ence to this film?
My experience as a story teller, both as an actor
as well as a writer/director... I’ve been doing it
for a while. I think it’s a matter of (thekindof)
guidance that I’ve been able to give to the actors.
I can empathize with the actors and what the
process is for them. So, I think I was able to help
them craft their best performances and they are
I think so much depends on the casting process.
And we cast this film so well. So as a director you
don’t have to do that much. In some ways, I can’t
even take too much credit for these amazing performances in the film. Everybody came with the
right aim and did a wonderful movie. And then,
ultimately, everything jumped off from the script.
And I think Meera and I wrote a wonderful
script. It was a script that seemed to appeal to a
lot of actors. A lot of actors wanted to be in the
film. They wanted to play these roles and they
wanted to tell the story because we had an excellent script. I think everything begins with the
story, everything begins with the script. If you
don’t have that to begin with, then I think it’s very
hard to make something that works. n
Ravi Kapoor in conversation with Arthur J Pais/India Abroad
on making a film that explores how to have a more fulfilled life.
‘It’s more of a coming of age story’
PHO TOGRAPHS WW W. FACEBOOK. COM/MISS-INDIA-AMERICA
Ravi Kapoor shares a moment with his wife and co-writer Meera Simhan.
CINEMA WITH A SOUL/NYIFF
M7 THE MAGAZINE