As we celebrate Martin Scorsese’s 80th birthday on November 17, let us take a look at the ace filmmaker’s connection with Indian films over the years. (Also read: G. Aravindan’s Kummatty is the one film you need to watch 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 film called Xtreme City, yet somehow that project never saw the light of day. Even screenwriter Paul Schrader was supposed to be a part of it.
In a 2013 interview with Open The Magazine, Paul said that it was SRK who didn’t want to do it. “Just got the feeling that he was never going to be comfortable doing an international film that he didn’t control. You know that everything SRK does, he has total control over? So if he did something like this at an international level, he wouldn’t have that control. I think in the end he wasn’t that comfortable not being a hundred per cent in control,” he said.
His admiration for Satyajit Ray
Martin Scorsese has talked about his admiration for Satyajit Ray on numerous occasions, citing how the director’s films have had a profound impact on him. “For those of 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 also added, “In the relatively short history of cinema, Satyajit Ray is one of the names that we all need to know, whose films we all need to see. And to revisit, as I do pretty frequently.” In an interview with the Smithsonian Centre for Education and Museum Studies, the Goodfellas director said of the Honorary Academy Award winner, “I find that whenever I need to be energised or re-inspired, I go back to his films.” It is also believed that it was none other than Martin Scorsese who had suggested Satyajit Ray’s name for the Academy Honorary Award, which he received in 1992.
His contribution to restoring Indian films
Over the years, the Academy Award winning director’s World Cinema Foundation, which aims to preserve neglected films from all over the world has shown a keen interest in saving Indian classics from being lost forever. One of them is the 1948 film Kalpana, directed by Uday Shankar. Scorsese also recently helped restore veteran Malayalam director G. Aravindan’s Kummatty, as he shared stills from the film on his Instagram page, calling it, “a must-see, especially since it has been largely unavailable outside of India until now.” Martin Scorsese was also hugely instrumental in restoring Satyajit Ray’s 1977 film Satranj Ke Khiladi, that was adapted from the short story by Munshi Premchand. In a list published by Indiewire listing 50 films Martin Scorsese wants you to see, Shatranj ke Khiladi finds a place alongside Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane and Jean Luc- Godard’s Contempt. About the film, the director says, “Very few directors have been brave enough to even attempt to show history in the making. This film deals with a moment of incredible change in Indian history and is told from a comical view that is a hallmark of Ray’s work.”
His words for recent Indian filmmakers
In recent years, the filmmaker behind Goodfellas, Casino, The Departed, The Wolf of Wall Street and The Irishman also praised director Anurag Kashyap’s works. Anurag Kashyap who has admitted that Scorsese has always been a huge influence on his films, had shared how the American director had watched his films and shared an email that said, “I thoroughly enjoyed Dev D and Gangs Of Wasseypur and found them exciting and inspiring.” Scorsese also saw Neeraj Ghaywan’s directorial debut Masaan and wrote back an email saying, “I was finally able to screen your film, Masaan, and wanted to congratulate you on a powerful debut feature. Beautifully made, subtly woven and ultimately very moving. Thank you for sharing it with me. All my best, Marty.” Masaan marked the acting debut of Vicky Kaushal and screened at the Un Certain Regard section at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.
Scorsese will be returning with his next film Killers of the Flower Moon, an adaptation of Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann. It stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Jesse Plemons and Lily Gladstone and is set to make its world premiere at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival in May.