SOMETHING ABOUT CANADA: An interview with Deepa Mehta

Deepa Mehta In Profile by Nettie Wild, National Film Board of Canada

In this short NFB interview with Canadian Director Deepa Mehta she comments that there is something about Canada, the physical and emotional space that gives the Indian born director “room to breathe.”

“Canada has its own values, which are very different from the values I grew up with and I like that conflict as well.”

Deepa speaks on how she uses the Natya Shastra, an ancient Indian instructional text for artists and performers, as the base for her actors’ character development process.

A grid of the 9 “pure” emotions is drawn with chalk on the floor, silence being the centre that anchors all the emotions together.

 “Then it’s very easy for the actors to actually walk through with their lines and interpret it through every different emotion and maybe put one foot in bravery and one foot in cowardice and how would you say your line then? One in hatred and one in love? Or one without saying anything?”

When watching her films you can see how this process allows her cast to add incredible depth to the characters.

“Heaven on Earth”, Deepa’s film on the subject of spousal abuse, is one where the characters utilize the emotion of silence to add an intensity that dialogue would not have been able to achieve. Through frustrated, awkward and often palatable silence something deafening is heard.

“All art is political. We all know that and it should be but it has to be about a story; it has to be about real people within that story that are maybe dealing with an issue.  It has to be honed in and represented by something that is living, breathing, that talks,that stops, that decides to sit in a corner and weep. Issues are boring. Feelings are important.”