As we celebrate Martin Scorsese’s 80th birthday on November 17, we take a look at the filmmaking ace’s years-long association with Indian films. (Also read: G. Aravindan’s Kummatty Is the Only Movie You Must See This Children’s Day, Even Martin Scorsese Recommends It)
Xtreme City with Shah Rukh Khan
It was once revealed that Martin Scorsese had plans to cast Shah Rukh Khan and Leonardo DiCaprio together for a movie called Xtreme City, but somehow that project never saw the light of day. Screenwriter Paul Schrader should also be there.
In an interview with Open The Magazine in 2013, Paul said it was SRK who didn’t want to do it. “I just felt like he would never feel comfortable doing an international film that he didn’t control. You know that everything SRK does, he’s in total control? If he were doing something like that on an international level, he wouldn’t have that control. I think in the end he wasn’t comfortable with not being 100% in control,” he said.
His admiration for Satyajit Ray
Martin Scorsese has spoken on numerous occasions about his admiration for Satyajit Ray and how profoundly the director’s films have influenced him. “For us here in the West, the Apu trilogy – Pather Panchali (1955), Aparajito (1956) and Apur Sansar (1959) – was a milestone,” he said. In an interview with The Indian Express, Scorsese added: “In the relatively short history of cinema, Satyajit Ray is one of those names we all need to know, whose films we all need to see. And to come back, as I do quite often.” In an interview with the Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies, the Goodfellas director said of the honorary Oscar winner, “I find that whenever I need energy or new inspiration, I come back , returning to his films.” It is also believed that it was none other than Martin Scorsese who suggested Satyajit Ray’s name for the Academy Honorary Award, which he received in 1992.
His Contribution to the Restoration of Indian Films
Over the years, the Oscar-winning director’s World Cinema Foundation, which aims to preserve neglected films from around the world, has shown a keen interest in saving Indian classics from ultimate loss. One of them is the 1948 film Kalpana directed by Uday Shankar. Scorsese also recently helped restore veteran Malayalam director G. Aravindan’s Kummatty when he posted stills from the film to his Instagram page, calling it a “must see, especially as it has largely been unavailable outside of India.” Martin Scorsese was also instrumental in the restoration of Satyajit Ray’s 1977 film Satranj Ke Khiladi, which was an adaptation of Munshi Premchand’s short story. In a list of 50 films Martin Scorsese wants you to see published by Indiewire, Shatranj ke Khiladi ranks alongside Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane and Jean Luc-Godard’s Contempt. Speaking of the film, the director says, “Very few directors have been brave enough to even attempt to show the genesis. This film is about a moment of incredible transformation in Indian history and is told from a comic perspective that is a hallmark of Ray’s work.”
His words for the youngest Indian filmmakers
In recent years, the filmmaker behind Goodfellas, Casino, The Departed, The Wolf of Wall Street and The Irishman has also praised the work of director Anurag Kashyap. Anurag Kashyap, who has admitted Scorsese has always been a huge influence on his films, shared how the American director viewed his films and shared an email that said: “I have Dev D and Gangs Of Wasseypur very much and found it exciting and inspiring.” Scorsese also saw Neeraj Ghaywan’s directorial debut Masaan and emailed back saying, “I finally got to screen your film, Masaan, and wanted to congratulate you on a powerful debut film . Beautifully made, subtly woven and ultimately very moving. Thanks for sharing it with me. Happy birthday, Marty.” Masaan was Vicky Kaushal’s acting debut and was screened in the Un Certain Regard section of the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.
Scorsese will return with his next film, Killers of the Flower Moon, an adaptation of David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jesse Plemons and Lily Gladstone, the film is set to have its world premiere at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival in May.