'Stella' looks beyond stereotypical India: Dileep Mehta

'Stella' looks beyond stereotypical India: Dileep Mehta

Dileep, brother of acclaimed filmmaker Deepa Mehta, has previously directed a documentary 'The Forgottan Women' on the widows of Varanasi, inspired by his sister's Oscar-nominated film 'Water'.

But in his debut feature film, Dileep wanted to depict the mindset of Indian middleclass minus the typical hangups that have twisted the country's image outside.
"My film is a comedy but deals with a very serious issue. I wanted to make a film that had no slums, no maharaja no kamasutra and no incense, the typical hangups. Interestingly, the maximum number of people who are watching the film even in areas where there is Indian diaspora are foreigners who thanked me for showing another side of India," Dileep told PTI in an interview.

Starring Seema Biswas, Lisa Ray, Don McKellar and Shriya Saran, 'Cooking with Stella' explores the relationship between an Indian cook played by Biswas and her master Michael (Don McKellar) who moves to the capital with her diplomat wife.

"Through the film I have examined the relationship with those who work for us, its 2010 but we still have the concept of having servants. I used comedy as a vehicle because it is palatable. The film shows the disparity between the haves and haves-nots," Dileep said.
The film has been shot on location mostly in the Canadian Embassy in Delhi and sees Don as a househusband and a chef who wants to learn Indian cooking from Stella, who has different shades to her personality.

"I am a big fan of Seema. She was dying to do a comedy. She was just perfect to play Stella. She is not a thief, she steals stuff and is tried but maybe she is not paid enough," insists Dileep.

Dileep, who covered the 1984 Bhopal Gas tragedy, co-wrote the script of the film with Deepa.

"It's not in my discipline to follow her, I am a big fan of her work and I am fortunate to have her on my side and we co-wrote the script, she was in Toronto and I was writing in Delhi," he said.

"The first day of the shooting someone suddenly said cut. Everyone stopped including me. It was Deepa, she turned red. Things could have taken an ugly turn but we all started laughing," Dileep added.

The movie will open the 8th Indian Film Festival Los Angeles on April 20 and after gaining accolades at the Toronto International Film Festival in September last year.
Dileep is confident that the movie will be liked by the huge middle class in India.

"It's not a Bollywood film, no one here makes a film on servants. We are talking to major distributors now, we have a middle class of 300 million people, so why not make a film for them. I am hopeful this film will do brilliantly in India," he said.
Dileep also showered praises on actress Lisa Ray who despite battling cancer never showed any signs of being unwell on the sets.

"Lisa is a friend and a very strong human being who is very professional actor with no starry attitude. She never indicated that she was unwell. I say to myself I wish I was as courageous as she is. She has opened to the world about her disease. I have total admiration for her," Dileep said.

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