Amit Gupta, writer and director, winner of the Royal Court Theatre Young Writers’ Competition for his play Touch, nominated for three BAFTAs for his first feature Resistance, wants everyone to know that he is a lifelong Amitabh Bachchan fan. So much so that at the age of five, he changed his name from Ravi to Amit.
As a kid growing up in Leicester, he watched all the Bollywood films in the cinema down the road “because that was a way of connecting us to India, that was the way our family kept our culture alive.” Bachchan came to the cinema for a screening of Sholay and he became Gupta’s “idol growing up”.
Gupta’s latest film, One Crazy Thing, premiered at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, recently. It was shot on a micro-budget, written in three weeks and filmed in 17 days. It’s about a television actor whose ex-girlfriend leaks their sex tape on the internet – which ruins his life, especially with his fans and family. The film was inspired by the Monica Lewinsky story, about how one fateful thing that was never supposed to be public defines a life.
Working on a shoestring budget was energising for 41-year-old Gupta. “I’m not saying I’m going to do this every time, but there is something very invigorating about just diving into it. But still, though you write with freedom, that freedom is facilitated by fear of not finishing on time. I ran out of time on some locations and had to think of re-cutting things.”
Next up for Gupta is his play, Western – one in a series of four dealing with drone strikes, which will tour the US and be produced by Jemima Khan. He’s currently studying contemporary art, and is a devoted father of two young children. In his downtime, he boxes every week, takes photographs religiously (he always carries a camera in his bag).
So how did an Indian boy from Leicester whose family ran an Indian restaurant and who had no ties to showbiz become so successful? “I’m quite driven. I’m ambitious and I work hard. I didn’t give up. And I married a great person. My father died when I was very young. And my mum brought us up, running a restaurant, raising and educating five children. She’s an inspiration. She told me there was nothing I couldn’t do. And that’s what children need to hear. Even if it’s in a reserved way, the way Indian people can be, you start believing it. People like me don’t become filmmakers. But because of that they do.”