What is your idea of happiness?
To feel the rush that could come from driving down a gorgeous stretch of road with the sun beating down on your face, or a rock concert you are at or a perfect take on the sets… Happiness comes naturally in the true, intense, unexpected sense of the word.
What is your greatest fear?
That I would lose the passion. I’ve always felt that we are wired to have a mad, maniacal passion for that one special thing. For me, it’s filmmaking.
The greatest fear is that you might just lose it and then what’s your purpose in life? What’s the point of waking up in the morning?
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Honestly, if I could just remember to wake up and smell the roses or the coffee. Basically, to just enjoy the moment instead of glossing over it and enjoying it at hindsight.
If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be? I wish we met more often. I meet them once a year and it’s too less that I don’t get to enjoy that.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Without a doubt, making Hyderabad Blues. It was very simple. There’s a lot of things that one actually feels about one self. That you are meant for a lot more, that you are capable of a lot more. And it wasn’t until I made Hyderabad Blues that I gave myself any sense of
validity. It was not the success, just the making of the film. All your life you are like, give me a chance I could do this and that but after Hyderabad Blues, I felt I had nothing more to prove to anyone or myself.
If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
Maybe as a rock. You would eliminate a lot of unnecessary thinking because of the tendency to do what you think is fit or fair or to analyze and over analyze everything. l think it is so much nicer to just stop thinking…
If you could choose what to come back as, what would it be?
Hugh Hefner would not be a bad idea.
What is your idea of misery?
To be physically incapacitated. I am a fairly active person and it’s the physical things that I do that give me my equilibrium and sanity.
Where would you like to live?
On a ranch in the US outside a big city with my own vegetable and fruit garden. Not way out in the boondocks but with access to the big city so that you have it when you need it.
What is your favourite occupation?
Filmmaking is the central most occupation that truly completes me… Two professions actually – One, doctors. It’s a profession I’m most fascinated by. Two, chef. If I were not a filmmaker, I think I could be a chef. I truly enjoy cooking. I think being a chef and being a doctor are at some level about the propagation of life…
What is your most marked characteristic?
That’s an easy one. It’s single-mindedness to the point of ridiculousness. I can have such tunnel vision that I can block out stuff, actually block out living for years, while I just focus on the task. That kind of single mindedness is stupid at times and that’s why I said I wish I could just remember to stop and smell the roses.
What is the quality you most like in the opposite sex?
Oh brother! I would like to go for sensuality. I know it seems superficial but sensuality can come in many ways. I know I could have said companionship, intelligence or honesty but I would rather pick this because women have the ability to be sensual in a million
different ways, doing the most mundane of things – whether it is reading a book, dicing vegetables, yawning, you name it…
What do you most appreciate in your friends?
Loyalty. Just knowing that you can count on them, no matter what the crap is.
Who are your favourite authors?
First, I would pick Stephen King and then George Orwell and JD Salinger
Who is your favourite hero of fiction?
Indiana Jones. Well, like I used his character in Aashayein, Indiana Jones represents adventure, the ability to take life to that next level.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (which introduced Indiana Jones) is the film that changed my life. It was that epiphanic moment that I decided to become a filmmaker. I am drawn to the rush and sense of adventure (don’t always have the guts to follow through) and therefore Indiana is a constant reminder… To take that step, physically and metaphorically, and embark on another adventure! If I could do it periodically it would be so amazing.
Who are your heroes in real life?
I would pick some contemporary ones. Richard Branson, George Clooney and Steve Soderberg. Branson is a true maverick that every step he takes is outside the box. He’s brash and has the guts to stick to his intuition. Clooney – because it’s interesting that after becoming one of the biggest movie star, he turned his attention to humanitarian efforts.
Only one in a billion can become a Gandhi. I could never reach that level but I can aspire to do what Clooney does. Make money, enjoy life and help the world. And Steve Soderberg because he’s a direct connect to my field. He has the guts to do everything…Successful, bizarre, off the wall, Oscar stuff and still he could shoot something on a Canon 5D
in half a day and make something out of it. I am in awe of someone like that.
What are your favourite names?
I think girls names evoke beautiful images… Salma Hayek, Madhubala… Wow. They bring a smile to your face when you just think of these names but there are too many to mention.
What is your present state of mind?
Reinvention. Way before, during my chemical engineering days, I read about a CEO… Every five years, he kind of almost restarts, he starts to do something radical and different and keeps his interests fresh… I take a lot of risks through my films… so there is some degree of reinvention but I’m trying to make it more than just films, in my personal life as well.
How would you like to die?
Without knowing. An accident or in your sleep. The knowledge of death is the worst thing. I don’t care when I go. But I just hope it’s Boom!
And Adios! And it’s done. Finished and over. It’s like seeing a 100 foot wave coming towards… One intense moment of awe and it’s over.
What is your favourite motto?
It’s something I’ve done for many years. “Either you do or you don’t.” The rest are just excuses and in betweens. It’s a saying that I put up at the start of every project. I genuinely believe in this.
(Nagesh Kukunoor is a fiercely independent filmmaker who continues to make films that defy convention and genre. His filmography includes the critically acclaimed Hyderabad Blues, Rockford, Bollywood Calling, Teen Deewarein, Iqbal, Dor, Aashayein and Mod)
This interview originally appeared here.