A Ukrainian soldier in France speaks about writing and recovery

Ahead of the second anniversary of Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine, Ukrainian soldier and author Oleksandr “Teren” Budko spoke to FRANCE 24 about his path to recovery after losing both legs, his approach to writing and his patriotism.

On a recent evening at the Ukrainian Cultural Institute in France, Oleksandr “Teren” Budko stood with his interpreter before a large audience of Ukrainians and other nationalities. Blond and with a boyish face, the 27-year-old Ukrainian soldier was on the French leg of his European book tour for “Story of a Stubborn Man”. The autobiography interspersed with memories from the front lines recounts his road from civilian to soldier and then to battle-scarred veteran.

Budko began writing the book in October 2022, just two months after losing both legs after a shell landed near him in a trench during the counteroffensive for the city of Kharkiv. “I found inspiration for my writing on the front lines,” he said. Even before the injury, he had been publishing short texts accompanied by pictures of him and his buddies in combat gear as they worked to repel the Russian enemy.

Athletically built and wearing a quilted blue shirt and shorts that showed his prosthetics, Budko was as comfortable as a stand-up comedian in front of a crowd. “There is no truth in the leg,” he said, repeating a Ukrainian proverb that suggests a person who has walked a lot cannot tell the truth because they are tired.

Appreciation for a war hero

Yet he wanted to get as close to the truth as possible while writing his book. He wanted to capture the voices of his comrades and the sights and the sounds of what he experienced in eastern Ukraine. He would try to write, but then get stuck with month-long bouts of writer’s block. A trip to Florida, where he went to get fitted with sports prosthetics so he could participate in the Invictus Games, finally changed something in him. “I was there under the sun, I swam in the sea in Miami, I ate at McDonald’s – and this gave me the perfect circumstances to write this book,” he said.

Thousands of miles away from Ukraine, he revisited his prior experience as a Ukrainian soldier. His days were filled with rehabilitation but, at night, he would write. Like plunging into the nearly clear waters off the Atlantic coast, he immersed himself in his memories of fighting the war and typed them up on a computer.

“Some of the people I wrote about in the book are dead, and that’s why it was so hard to write the text,” said Budko. Luckily, many people in the book did survive, “including my comrade Artem”, he said, nodding toward a young man in a wheelchair sitting in the front row. The audience responded with lengthy applause in appreciation of the two young men for their sacrifice – and for coming home alive.

Memories from the war

Budko agreed to an interview the next day to talk about what led him to fight in the war and his memories from that time. After a visit to Paris‘s Carnavalet Museum, with its elaborate displays dedicated to the French Revolution and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, the young man in a black hoodie settled at a kebab restaurant on the Rue des Rosiers, an eclectic street in the Marais neighbourhood of central Paris. He was accompanied by his editor and a lively group of young Ukrainians who, judging by their level of excitement, appeared to be visiting the French capital for the first time.

Sitting with his back against the wall, a bit apart from the group, Budko suddenly seemed less like a comedian and more like a wise old man. “I wrote this book for civilians and for people who had never seen war, so they could understand what happens on the front lines,” he said. 

Through his interpreter, Budko said he was in Kyiv when the war began on February 24, 2022. “I signed up as a volunteer because I wanted to defend my country from the enemy and help it gain independence,” he said.

Although he had never held a weapon before in his life, he joined the Carpathian Sich 49th Infantry Battalion, a battalion of the Ukrainian Ground Forces established in May 2022. After some training and taking part in the defence of the capital Kyiv, Budko was deployed to northeastern Ukraine near Izium.

Most people in the battalion were volunteers who accepted the consequences of their choice, remembered Budko. “Of course Bakhmut and Avdiivka exist (two besieged cities known for scenes of the most ferocious violence of the war), but the life of a soldier is not only about fighting,” he added.

Budko recalled one moment when he ate a slice of foie gras for breakfast: “For me, it was a sign I was still alive,” he said. Despite being trained as killing machines, Budko said he and his fellow volunteers continued civilian life to the best of their ability, preparing traditional meals like borscht, a red beetroot soup, and taking the time to enjoy them with each other. This also meant saving abandoned cats and dogs and evacuating elderly people from zones that had become too perilous for them to stay.

An invincible optimism

From the trenches, the soldiers watched Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s speeches and followed news reports on military support from abroad. “We were interested in how the war was going to end, but of course the weapons situation was important too, because without weapons it was going to be impossible to end the war,” said Budko. “Despite the many weapons given, it was never enough.”

Writing the book also allowed Budko to relive some of the moments from “one of the best times of my life”, he said. The adventure, the camaraderie and the moments of peace, such as when he would lie down on the ground with a book, seem to have left Budko with a sense of nostalgia devoid of any bitterness. But today he preferred not to talk about the day he suffered the injury that caused him to lose both legs: “There is no trauma, but I’ve told the story too many times.”

Budko said he has always been endowed with an invincible optimism. He said what changed after the injury is that he “became braver and more open to people”.

Thinking back to his time in the service, the young man recalled the discovery of a small kobzar (a Ukrainian bard) figurine he made one day while digging trenches in the Kharkiv region. The statue was more confirmation that the lands were Ukrainian, he said, because kobzars never existed in Russia. It further convinced him of his role in preserving Ukrainian territorial integrity.

Ahead of the second anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Budko likened the war to a “David against Goliath” struggle and voiced a warning about the existential nature of the threat: “The less support Ukraine gets, the closer the enemy gets to other European countries.”

With this in mind, his goal today is to “contribute to the Western population’s understanding of the war, and encourage them to support us so that they can help obtain a Ukrainian victory as soon as possible”.

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US Supreme Court ruling on abortion pill could ‘tie the hands of every state’

The US Supreme Court is set to decide the fate of a pill essential for medical abortions. Access to mifepristone, once called the “pill of Cain” by the Vatican, may be heavily restricted across all states if the highest court upholds a lower-court ruling limiting access to the drug. Expert on abortion pills Dr. Sydney Calkin speaks to FRANCE 24 about what’s at stake.  

Issued on:

5 min

The ruling on mifepristone is the most important abortion case to reach the US Supreme Court since it struck down Roe vs Wade in June 2022, overturning the constitutional right to end a pregnancy.

Taking mifepristone in combination with another pill called misoprostol is the most effective way to have a medication abortion. And medication abortions account for more than half of all pregnancy terminations in the US.

On Wednesday, justices agreed they would make a decision on the restrictions on mifepristone set out in a ruling made by a three-judge panel of the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. The case stems from an earlier ruling by a conservative US District Court judge in Texas that would have banned mifepristone, but all restrictions have been frozen since late April

If these restrictions are passed, pregnant people would only have seven weeks instead of 10 to use the pill. Approval would also block mifepristone from being distributed by mail and would require the drug to be prescribed by a doctor, as opposed to other health care professionals like nurses or midwives.

Read moreThe long and winding history of the war on abortion drugs

Oral arguments on the abortion pill will be heard by the Supreme Court next year, and a decision is expected to be issued by the end of June 2024. It will come just four months before the US presidential election, when abortion will undoubtedly make headlines.

Until then, access to mifepristone will remain unchanged.

Dr. Sydney Calkin, a senior lecturer at Queen Mary University of London who has carried out extensive research on how abortion pills have transformed reproductive care, explains what is at stake.

Why is mifepristone being targeted in this ruling?

Dr. Sydney Calkin: The anti-abortion movement sees it as the next step after the 2022 ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturned Roe and removed constitutional protections for abortion in the US.

That ruling didn’t make abortion illegal across the whole country, it just said that it’s a question for each state. What we’re seeing right now is that states can ban abortion if they want to, but they can also keep abortion if they want to. And obviously, the anti-abortion movement isn’t happy with that. They don’t want abortion to be legal anywhere in the US.

Anybody who thought that the Dobbs decision was the final word on abortion and anybody who thought it just meant states are free to do what they want, well… I think we can really see that was never the case. The Dobbs decision was just one step in the anti-abortion strategy, which counts on going much further.

Rules on what medicines are approved and how those medicines can be used are set at the federal level. If more restrictions are put on mifepristone at the federal level, that would tie the hands of every state. Even states that want to keep abortion legal.

This is really important because, before the Dobbs decision, medication abortion accounted for the majority of abortions in the US. It’s a method that’s both widely used and a lot easier for people to access.

What are the real-life consequences of restricting access to mifepristone?

If the Supreme Court passes the restrictions, the length of time the pill can be used would be reduced from ten to seven weeks. Pregnancy in the US is dated from the last menstrual period, not the date of conception. By the time somebody notices they’ve missed their period, they might already be four weeks pregnant, giving them only three weeks to carry out a medical abortion. That really narrows the window.

As it stands, there is a range of health care providers who can prescribe mifepristone. The restrictions would also limit the providers to physicians, meaning there are fewer people licensed to prescribe the drug. And there’s already a shortage of abortion providers across the country.

Under the 2016 Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revised regulations around mifepristone, it was decided that a lower dosage of the drug could be used than was previously agreed. The restrictions would remove that requirement, increasing the amount of mifepristone used and therefore making it more expensive.

The 2016 revision also allowed for people to use the pills at home and it stated that it wasn’t necessary for a patient to come back in person for a follow-up appointment with their doctor. That would be scrapped.

But most importantly, restrictions would prevent telemedicine abortion services and mail order abortion pill services from operating. In 2021, during Covid, the FDA made it easier to get the pills through the mail. Since then, many services have popped up to offer this solution in states where abortion is legal. Taking that away would really harm access.

If you live in Texas for example, you can’t just go online and order abortion pills from California or Massachusetts. It’s illegal to access medication abortion in states where abortion is illegal. But mail order and telemedicine services are really changing the landscape. Some operate out of states with shield laws for their doctors, meaning doctors are protected from prosecution if they provide abortion pills to people in states where it’s illegal. These services are really useful for people whose neighbouring state allows abortion. Someone living in Texas can drive to New Mexico and order abortion pills to a post box there and collect them later.

What solutions could people turn to?

Access to abortion has changed so dramatically thanks to the mobility of pills. These rulings matter because they will restrict access to some extent. But in another sense, they don’t really have as much impact as the anti-abortion movement thinks they will.

The availability of medication abortion online means that governments and courts have less control over the matter than they used to, when abortion was only a surgical procedure carried out in hospitals and clinics. Now, abortion pills are available online, manufactured across the world and relatively cheap.

Of course it would be really, really grave if the Supreme Court decides to impose all these restrictions, but there are already a lot of people who are accessing pills through other channels that won’t necessarily be impacted by the ruling.

People in the US get medication abortion pills from international organisations like Aid Access, which is affiliated with the Dutch group Women on Web. They get pills from online pharmacies. A group called Plan C in the US do a lot of work to look for those pharmacies and provide information about the price, reliability and speed by which the pills can be delivered. Cross-border networks between the US and Mexico have become more formalised.

Regardless of this case, people are still going to be getting abortion pills. But there is a risk of people being criminalised for getting those pills. 

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EXCLUSIVE: Vikas Bahl reveals, “While prepping for Ganapath, I used to see making videos of S S Rajamouli and Sukumar’s films” also says, “I hope we can crack the story of Queen 2” : Bollywood News – Bollywood Hungama

Ganapath – A Hero Is Born, starring Tiger Shroff, Kriti Sanon and Amitabh Bachchan, is all set to release in cinemas tomorrow, that is, October 20. Bollywood Hungama exclusively spoke to director Vikas Bahl about the film and a lot more.

EXCLUSIVE: Vikas Bahl reveals, “While prepping for Ganapath, I used to see making videos of S S Rajamouli and Sukumar’s films” also says, “I hope we can crack the story of Queen 2”

Since the time you debuted as a director, you have never repeated a genre. How do you manage to do so? Not many filmmakers could achieve this feat…
Maybe, I just like different kinds of stories. While doing so, you have to break the genre. I think it’s a constant learning curve. When you are switching genres, you are always nervous as to whether or not you can pull it off. I like that nervousness. Maybe, the student inside me wants to constantly keep learning how to try new genres. When I was doing this film or even the next one (a horror), I used to sit for hours on YouTube and watch videos on how these films are made and how these genres are done. So, it was almost like going back to school. That’s exciting for me. I don’t want to get into a comfort zone that ‘this is my genre, this is what I want to do for the next 10-15 years.’ I’d rather try new things.

How difficult was it to get the futuristic element right, especially for a Hindi film considering that we don’t have many reference points in our cinema?
More than just about the future, I was trying to pen a story that any calamity in the world leads to inequality in the sense that the rich get richer as they benefit from it. But the poor get poorer. This happens during any catastrophe, whether man-made or a natural disaster. This is the basic premise of the film. Since it is based on the hypothetical situation of the next biggest calamity that happens on the planet, I had to set it in the future because it couldn’t happen earlier. Hence, the idea was not just to make a futuristic story.

Years ago, Shekhar Kapur attempted a film called Paani. It was also set in the future and was about the water crisis. Were you inspired by its plot maybe at the back of your mind?
Shekhar sir is too senior and I think too brilliant (smiles). I don’t know much about Paani. I know about it just as anybody else knows. But I am sure he would have made an unbelievable spectacle. Even if I am remotely close to what we set out to do, I think I’d be good!

You became a force to reckon with, with Queen (2014). The same year, Tiger Shroff and Kriti Sanon debuted with Heropanti (2014) and became overnight stars. How was it to collaborate with two fellow artists for whom 2014 was also a defining year?
Now that you told me and I realize it, it feels good (laughs)! I don’t think any of us thought about it. We never sat and discussed this connection.

Tiger Shroff is not seen doing typical action in the film. Kriti Sanon, meanwhile, is attempting action for the first time. How exciting was it for you and them as well?
Yes. The good thing about Ganapath and hopefully it’ll also be a surprise for the audience is that Tiger is just not doing action in the film. He has done a lot of humourous, emotional and dramatic scenes. He has a big character arc. Action is the base of it but is not the primary characteristic. I always found him very innocent. He has his own little world of action, exercises and workouts. I loved that innocence. I wanted him for his innocence as much as I wanted him for his action. Even though I had never worked with him or even met him before, I was correct about how he is.

As for Kriti, she’s a great actor. She has a lot of action in the film and has done a great job. She has this ability that she can pierce through your eyes and deliver the dialogue. She’s also tall and looks absolutely convincing while taking on the goons.

EXCLUSIVE: Vikas Bahl reveals, “While prepping for Ganapath, I used to see making videos of S S Rajamouli and Sukumar’s films” also says, “I hope we can crack the story of Queen 2”

You worked with Amitabh Bachchan, first in Goodbye (2022) and now Ganapath. It must have been a high, wasn’t it?
Everyday, he walks on the set, you have to pinch yourself that he knows me and he knows my name, forget the fact that he’s in my film. He was extremely generous. He knew I was trying to put up a film like Ganapath together. He knew it was ambitious. He saw the art and mood boards and told me, ‘Vikas, if I can help you make this film in any way, tell me’. I pounced on the opportunity and told him, ‘Sir, ek role karenge mere liye’! He did it purely out of love. He said, ‘Anything for you. Just go and make this film’.

The film’s post-production took a year. There are a lot of green-screen shots. And this is your most VFX-heavy film. Please tell us about your experience…
It has been a phenomenal learning experience when it comes to VFX. I just hope that everyone supports this fact. When you are doing it for the first time, you are just learning. You are not a master at the craft. I remember for days, I used to see making videos of S S Rajamouli’s films. I used to understand how he used to use the green screen and used to check out the ‘before VFX’ and ‘after VFX’ shots. I also used to watch Sukumar sir’s making videos. It’s almost like a tutorial put up on YouTube. By now, the fear of VFX has gone away. Now we can write stories without any boundaries. You can imagine anything and you can pull it off on the screen.

Earlier, Ganapath – A Hero Is Born was called Ganapath – Part 1. Is a sequel in the pipeline?
It’s still part 1. We just decided to call it ‘A Hero Is Born’. There’s the intention of doing a sequel. We hope it’s received well and people love it because this is the start of the journey of the protagonist.

Will the sequel be called Ganapath – A Hero Rules?
After you watch the film, why don’t you send me the title of the sequel? (laughs)

This is the age of sequels. Would you like to make a sequel to Queen? We would love to know what happened to Rani (Kangana Ranaut) and what she’s doing 10 years after the events of the first film…
Queen 2 is always a very tempting option. But the temptation should be that we find a great story to tell and not just exploit the commercial benefit out of it. I really hope we crack the story for the sequel so that I can make Queen 2. I would love to do that.

Also Read: Ganapath: A Hero Is Born director Vikas Bahl praises Kriti Sanon, Tiger Shroff and Rehman for shooting action sequence in Ladakh under harsh conditions

More Pages: Ganapath – A Hero Is Born Box Office Collection , Ganapath – A Hero Is Born Movie Review


Catch us for latest Bollywood News, New Bollywood Movies update, Box office collection, New Movies Release , Bollywood News Hindi, Entertainment News, Bollywood Live News Today & Upcoming Movies 2023 and stay updated with latest hindi movies only on Bollywood Hungama.

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Interview: ‘The Eight Mountains’ Directors Felix van Groeningen & Charlotte Vandermeersch | FirstShowing.net

Interview: ‘The Eight Mountains’ Directors Felix van Groeningen & Charlotte Vandermeersch

by Alex Billington
August 23, 2023

“Yes, we want to build this house really for real at this altitude. Yes, we really want go on a glacier.” They went to any length to make this film feel real, and authentic, and it’s all the better for it. One of my favorite films of 2022 (and 2023) is called The Eight Mountains, an Italian drama about two friends who grew up in the mountains. I have been raving about it since the 2022 Cannes Film Festival, seeing it again at another festival in late 2022, following its release in spring of 2023. Co-directed by Belgian filmmakers Felix van Groeningen & Charlotte Vandermeersch (who are also married), the film is a remarkable look at how massively powerful mountains are in shaping the lives of humans. I get all emotional just thinking about it, as I’m a huge mountain nerd myself (I even once went to Nepal to trek around the Himalayas, too). I was lucky to get time to interview Felix & Charlotte earlier in 2023 – I’d been chasing them throughout 2022 and earlier this year when they showed up at Sundance to screen the film. No matter when, I’m happy to share this conversation with the two of them – discussing the parts of the film that I think are truly extraordinary.

The Eight Mountains (originally Le Otto Montagne in Italian) is written & directed by Felix van Groeningen & Charlotte Vandermeersch; it’s adapted from the novel of the same name written by Italian author Paolo Cognetti. It stars Luca Marinelli as Pietro, and Alessandro Borghi as Bruno, two boys who become best friends growing up in the Italian Alps near Turin. The film follows them as they grow up and become men, each heading down their own paths: Bruno digs deeper into the mountains, building his own mountain hut from scratch; Pietro explores further, eventually traveling to the Himalayas and meeting a Nepali woman. The film has played at the Cannes, Munich, Melbourne, Zurich, Busan, Zagreb, Cologne, Vilnius, Tallinn, & Sundance Film Festivals, picking up tons of awards along the way. After premiering in art house theaters in the US earlier in 2023, it’s now available to stream on the Criterion Channel. I adore this film, and have written about it many times. Here is my original review from Cannes 2022. I also love the soundtrack by Swedish musician Daniel Norgren – visit his official website. My chat with Felix & Charlotte begins below.

The Eight Mountains Directors

Before making this – how closely connected to mountains were you? What is your relationship with mountains? Did this film bring you deeper into understanding and appreciating them?

Felix van Groeningen: My personal connection is – I’ve been going to this place in the center of France, in between volcanoes…. But not so high. Yet, a very remote place. The closest big shop is 20 kilometers. And the biggest city, it takes an hour to get there, so very remote. And that place, my parents went to live there first… Then they came back to Belgium. It was even before I was born. And we kept going there. My parents built a house there, I have part of my family who started living there. So I have this place that I knew from holidays, that I [also] go to when I need to feel grounded, when the city’s too much. I have my personal Bruno, also, who is my cousin, who still lives there, although they travel more than Bruno did. So I have that connection. This very pure place in the world where time stands still… Where you have very pure lakes and where you encounter yourself with the mountains as a backdrop. And with people from there that we know very well. And my mother had a relationship with a guy from there who was a mason.

Charlotte Vandermeersch: They build their own houses.

Felix: We built our own house. And before I read the book, actually I started to by accident… go into the higher mountains. And I did go to the Alps with a friend for four days to do a hike. And we slept in mountain huts and it was part of my life, somehow. And then I read this book and I’m like, okay, I wanna get to know more. And Charlotte is someone who really seeks adventure. Mountains, maybe not necessarily, but she did go by herself to the Amazon. She did a hike in the Indian Himalayas. She did the Trans-Siberian. So she’s very much an adventurer. In that sense, she also had discovered the mountains, or in being at a very remote place.

Charlotte: I combined for the film this feeling that you get, whether it’s standing in front of an ocean, on a beach all alone at night, for instance. The feeling that you get there. Or when you’re in the Amazon and you travel for days and days. Now it’s faster, because they have fast boats. But before, it was very slow and you get deeper and deeper into the forest and the emotion that brings. Then I went to the Himalayas with my best friends. And you hike for six days in a very remote area, only by foot. And I remember the emotion of it. After a few days, it really got to me. When you feel like a tiny human, but very connected to the whole universe – like you’re tiny, but it’s beautiful. Something like that…

And that I combined with growing up in the countryside. My father especially being friends with all of these old farmers. We would go visit them in these tiny farmhouses. Just seeing the way they lived. Now these people have died and things are really changing now… But this old world of farming, living with your animals, you know? It’s something that I knew from my upbringing.

As a mountain lover myself, I watch so many Hollywood movies that involve mountains and, if it’s not entirely CGI on a soundstage, they just shoot it at a ski resort. And this doesn’t feel authentic, no matter how hard they try… But from the first shot of this film – I’m in. I’m sold. And then there’s 2 + 1/2 more hours of just everything beautiful. This is not something we see often, and I appreciate your commitment. So I’m wondering, how hard was that? How much convincing did you have to do to get everyone on board to film this authentically like that?

Charlotte: I have to say, Felix is a natural. When you go for it, you [really] go into it. And then you drag everybody along. That’s a big part of it.

Felix: Yeah, sure — I have that. I guess as a director, you need to or you don’t get anything made. But we had amazing producers, I have to say, from the beginning.

Charlotte: Also.

Felix: They were all in. Of course at moments, they asked us if we could bring the script down because there were maybe too many shooting days. And other things that came up… But in terms of the vision we had or the vision we developed while we were preparing and developing the movie, because upfront I didn’t [hold back]… The way we were going to shoot it was [figured out] during the development. We said, yes, we want to build this house really for real at this altitude. Yes, we really want go on a glacier. So they went along… And then we realized as we were going along that it was worth it, that it was working and that we had to push it further. We reached a limit, at some moments, where our Italian line producer was like, “that’s not possible.” The actors are never going to sleep in a mountain hut. With the rest of the crew. And we’re like, yes, they will.

Charlotte: They will. And they did.

Felix: And they did. So we just – we kept on saying like, yes, we’re going to do that. But how I don’t know. Let’s figure it out. I guess the stress you take in making that work is that, you don’t know. And there’s nobody who really takes responsibility. Because nobody knows. So you have to bring guides. And the line producer and somebody who… the first assistant [director]. But nobody really knows. So you have to… speak everything through and try it and go to the limit and see what works and what doesn’t work—

Charlotte: Because things are scary at first. They seem a bit threatening with a lot of risks and how and if you get pushed back by that, yeah, you have to be courageous, and believe it’s possible.

The Eight Mountains Directors

Felix: [Our DP] Ruben Impens and I and Charlotte, I mean… Especially Ruben and I, we go back 20 years. And he’s an incredible force in that, too. To foresee things and to make them happen and…

Charlotte: And be courageous and not make mistakes, and “we’re going to make it work.” And be very flexible. He’s always flexible and going for it. Yeah.

Felix: I’m really happy that you say that that the mountains work so well. I didn’t know if we were going to be able to do that. But you read it [the novel] and you start to write and images start to come and then and you start to get to know the place. And it’s just something that forms itself, I guess.

Charlotte: Well, what’s crazy with you is that… We would take a helicopter – and then it all felt like, wow, it’s going to cost a lot of money, to do some location scouting in this helicopter. Then being in the Alps – “Could we land on that mountaintop? Could you land on this mountaintop?” Maybe it’s just a little bit dangerous. “Oh, we can try?” Things like that. You feel like wow, what are we doing? It’s crazy. But then we would get back down and we assess what we’ve seen and what we’ve learned and then Felix would say, okay, so what we’ve learned—okay, yeah, this is more interesting, this and that. Well, let’s go there again. And they’re like, “again?” Yeah. We need to go again. And I’m like, really? “Yeah.” Then a third time. “Yeah.”

And I’d be like, wow, this process of making this film and getting to know a place – it’s really a big effort. It’s going there again. Sometimes I was like, what? What should I be seeing now that I haven’t seen before… Not knowing the process. All right, now I can see how things evolved every time more pictures, more, more, more, yeah – it’s this whole evolution.

Felix: And I think the mountain really works because it’s also it really found its place in the script, right? In the storytelling. In function of… how the story moves and what it means for the characters or how a character becomes part of this place, that you get to know more or less in the visual geography of the movie.

Charlotte: And how important it was to defend, for instance, the walk up. [The characters] first walking up [the mountain in the film]. Then with the mules… The effort it takes. And we needed shots along the way. These are things that when you look at it and they are walking up, the producer’s saying, “why don’t you just cut those moments in between?” They start walking and then they get there. Well, it’s a big thing defending this because you need to feel the effort and to feel how far things are. And with the motorcycle, it’s a long ride on the motorcycle. And then they need to walk more… It’s like a long walk. So this is—this was a job. And realizing how important this was. You can’t just jump and be there.

Yep, that’s exactly why I’m asking about this. I’ve done one of the big treks in Nepal, too. And I learned about how much effort and energy it takes. That’s something that comes through in your film that I don’t think I’ve ever seen in any other mountain film. In documentaries, yes, but in a feature, that’s very rare to see. This is why it moved me so deeply. How much – how dedicated you were to bringing all of these lived-in, accurate experiences of the mountains to the screen and not cutting them out and not shortchanging it wherever you go…

Felix: The book set the basis of that, too. The book makes you realize more of what the mountains are. And makes you look differently at the mountains. So arriving there, having read the book, experiencing it ourselves, it became—our experience became part of the movie. That’s why we also when we went to Nepal, we said, we’re really going to do the trek. So we did it for real.


Charlotte: Yeah. Because if not, the alternative was taking jeeps and going along the paths that have been walked – the big touristic Annapurna trek. But how are we going to film him getting to a very authentic place along there? Then we would’ve had to stage that. Because we didn’t have the time to prepare also. It was during COVID-19 times, the country’s locked up, so the moment it opened up, we just went there and had a month to film…

Oh, wow.

Charlotte: And yeah, we shot a lot of great material. It was a very stressful month, but we did a lot. And we all lost like eight pounds or ten pounds. Because it was so physical.

I also want to compliment the pacing of the film, and discuss how exquisitely paced it is. At first, I thought the whole film was going to be about these two kids. Then you move on as they grow up, then they go out and experience life… After all of this time, I still I wanted to keep following their story. I wanted to keep finding out where they’re going to end up and what’s going to happen next. My first thought is – how much more footage do you have of the two kids? Could you have made a whole movie with just them?

Felix: Well, actually we cut the most from the kids. We did have more.

It felt like it… I could’ve spent the whole time watching their story.

Charlotte: We loved the kids’ section.

Felix: [There’s] another whole film. But…

Charlotte: It was really hard to cut there. That was really a pressure point that we had from up above.

Felix: Yes. Yes. For us it was – what do I want to say? We were confused at some point in the edit. When we first showed the film to people, we thought adults… the second and third part, let’s say the building of the house and everything else, was too slow. It was really taking too much time. But in the first cut, we realized all those scenes, they’re working. They’re working. Let’s give it time. Let’s give it time. But it did feel that the film was somehow out of balance. And we thought – we have to go faster there. And then reactions from people involved and not involved were rather the opposite – the beginning is harder to get into and then the rest is really working. Then it was about finding that balance. And indeed pressure from above to get the movie under 2 + 1/2 hours. And to cut the beginning. And then there were moments where we tried that, where we were like, okay, it works. It’s better. Everything’s there… it’s usable, well told, and it works. And then at moments, we did try and went further and were like, but this… no, we don’t want to go there. We have defended it! To give the kids time all through the process, in the writing, every [step of the way]—

Charlotte: Always we needed to defend that. “Why don’t we just start off when they’re already friends?” No. We we want them to feel their loneliness. It’s brief, but you feel why. It’s also something intuitive. But they have to get to know each other. And you see how different they are, there’s something energetic about their coming together. These were things that were… under attack often.

Felix: But somehow the first cuts of the scenes when they were adults… In pacing, a lot changed throughout the whole edit – as it goes. But on the other hand, it very naturally found the right pacing and it was close to what we felt on set.

Charlotte: It was close to what happened on set. It was very natural in that way. Didn’t need to manipulate.

The Eight Mountains Directors

You mean – you could get a sense for the entire story while you are on set as to what you are building and getting from these performances, right while it’s happening?

Charlotte: They had very natural pacing between the actors… When you ask them about it, I heard them answer, it was already in the script. Every pause, every—we gave a lot of silence and a lot of “air”, let’s say, space in between reactions to each other. It was not written “they’re reacting all the time.” Give it time. Breathe. Think. Take it in. Give it back. And then they just naturally delivered this dialogue and we did not need to manipulate that a lot in the edit. It just worked the way it was. That was… pretty cool.

Did you test screen the film with a public audience? Or only a family and friends preview?

Felix: Family and friends.

I’m curious: do you trust a public audience to actually give you proper feedback? Or would you rather prefer to trust yourselves as filmmakers and storytellers more?

Felix: Depends on the mood I’m in. I like to show it to people. Beause as you watch together with people, you watch through their eyes also. Sometimes it’s not so much the discussion afterwards that is interesting, but your experience as you’re watching it with them.

You speak so confidently about your editing here that I’m thinking, okay, you’ve clearly not only borrowed from some of the reactions of these people, but also made sure to stay true to what you believe in, in terms of telling the story properly.

Charlotte: Sure. We did – we showed it to people, this and that, but it’s always just us looking at each other after the screening, sharing our feelings about it. And if something comes back from one of your friends, or a person that was there, you feel confident, because yeah, I understand that. It’s a reflection of your own idea.

Felix: Yeah. The interaction with the producers was really important and beautiful at times. Other moments it was harder, but in general – and especially the first times they watched – it was incredibly productive, I would say.

Charlotte: They’ve always been very supportive. First of all, they’re nice people. They are very supportive. They know that’s what will help. The producers gave us confidence… Let us just find out where we are.

Felix: But it’s a process. In the beginning, you want try different things – with voiceover, too. You’re still figuring out what it has to be. And every step of the way… you want to stay open. Your feeling has to be right… You have to stay true to a certain feeling, but on the other hand, you have to keep experimenting – I think, that’s what makes it exciting.

Charlotte: I thought it was a interesting journey… You write and you rewrite and then you prepare and then you shoot and then things get mixed up again and so for the 50th time, you assess this scene and in the end you don’t really know anymore what you are conveying. So how much info do you need to put in? How much can you just leave out? And it’s already there. That’s where the editor is super important. Nico Leunen is a great editor. He really feels what it needs, what it doesn’t need. How you can keep some mystery, he really understands that. What you need, what you don’t need. That’s an interesting journey, I think. That’s what editing is all about. Because you stuff it with so much detail… And then you find out.

I also must ask about the choice to use Daniel Norgren for the soundtrack. I want to know about the story of how you found him and how you ended up thinking that he’s the right person for this? I think he’s perfect, I love his songs in this film, it’s a magical match. Why did you choose him to score this film?

Felix: We had gotten to know an album by him called “Alabursy“, which, a couple of tracks or most of the tracks from that album ended up in the movie.

Charlotte: This is really the inspirational album.

Felix: Yeah. Charlotte got it from her brother. And so that’s how we got to know him. I started listening to a lot while I was writing and working on the project. And I brought it up at some point with Charlotte and with Nico. And they were both very excited. We decided yeah, let’s just go for it. We reached out before—a long time before shooting. Six months before shooting. And he was very much interested. He read the script. Loved it. He wanted to do it. And then… something went off. It just became strange and he backed out. He said that he didn’t have time. That he wanted to focus on other things.

Charlotte: He’s just 250%. He suddenly realized that this would dominate his own life and work and then that he would not be completely free also, because it’s a film. You have a big production company behind it. You know? And he backed out.

Felix: It was strange, beause we had great contact and all of a sudden, he was gone. And we were really mourning. We were like, oh fuck, we really don’t know what we’re going to do…

So I started to try and find other options. And actually Charlotte is the one who was always like, no, no, no, no. And I was ready to move on… We have to find somebody else. And she kept on saying, it’s not better, it’s not better. And we tried all different kinds of music… We weren’t trying to copy his style with a different artist, that wasn’t going to make sense. We were parting in a different way. Until – as we were already shooting the movie, in between blocks, we hear a song of his on the radio and we’re both really moved and we realize it’s him and I say to Charlotte, we’re just going to ask him if we can use his songs. And that could be a solution. And we did and he immediately said yes. And that’s how we started the conversation again. Because he was still super excited by the project. And he was like, “oh, like that way? That’s fine.” And what we hoped would happen, did happen, is that at some point he’d like it. He started to send stuff that he hadn’t released yet and it became part of the movie. In the end, although he didn’t do a lot for it, it became a very creative collaboration with him.

Charlotte: Nothing was composed for the film.

Ohhh, wow, okay…

Charlotte: But he composed a lot of soundscapes, just by himself. And he had this in his drawer. And some [sounds] found their way into an album as an intro or an outro. He often uses that. But then he just told us, oh I have this left, or I have this. And then he told us – this is the film I was making music for without having a film. So that was great. That was just beautiful.

Yeah, it worked out beautifully.

Felix: It was meant to be, somehow, and it worked out after a long trajectory.

Charlotte: Yeah, he came too, for opening night. It was great.

Thank you to Felix & Charlotte for their time and also to Cinetic for arranging this interview.

The Eight Mountains Directors

Felix & Charlotte’s The Eight Mountains won the Jury Prize award at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival last year. The film initially opened in US theaters starting April 28th, 2023 earlier this year. It’s also available to watch streaming on Criterion Channel right now. Listed as one of Alex’s Top 10 Films of 2022 (screened at multiple festivals). Worth a watch anytime – enjoy the exhilarating experience of this cinematic journey.


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30 Years of Maya Memsaab EXCLUSIVE: Deepa Sahi gives a RARE interview; says “Shah Rukh Khan was a child at heart and a THOROUGH gentleman”; opens up on lovemaking scenes: “I did get giggly at first but then you got to do what you got to do” : Bollywood News – Bollywood Hungama

The acclaimed film Maya Memsaab (1993) recently completed 30 years, on July 2. The film featured Deepa Sahi in a lead role while Shah Rukh Khan, Raj Babbar and Farooq Sheikh appeared in supporting roles. The actress delivered a stupendous performance in this Ketan Mehta-directorial, which was adapted from the French novel, ‘Madame Bovary’. Deepa Sahi, who debuted with Govind Nihalani’s Party (1984) delivered memorable performances in several films. She later turned producer and even director. Moreover, she also runs Maya Movies and a successful animation company, Cosmos-Maya. Incidentally, both companies are named after Deepa Sahi’s character in Maya Memsaab.

30 Years of Maya Memsaab EXCLUSIVE: Deepa Sahi gives a RARE interview; says “Shah Rukh Khan was a child at heart and a THOROUGH gentleman”; opens up on lovemaking scenes: “I did get giggly at first but then you got to do what you got to do”

The actress-entrepreneur has been away from the public eye for a long time. But on our request, she agreed to give a rare, exclusive interview to Bollywood Hungama about Maya Memsaab, working with her hubby Ketan Mehta and a lot more.

Ketan Mehta said that you were the one who recommended the book ‘Madame Bovary’ to him. When he decided to cast you, were you nervous or scared since it was quite a bold character for the early 90s? Or were you excited to take up the challenge?
I thought I was not experienced enough in life and should wait a few years to do such a complex role. But the director insisted that he could not imagine anyone else doing it. So, I was like, “What the heck? If the director is so confident, why am I being diffident”? I loved the imagery in the book, some of which stayed with me. For example, I can’t recall the exact phrase, but it compared a woman’s desires to a veil (and virtually every society has a veil as part of a woman’s attire); the veil that is “free floating at one end and tied at another!” Also. Ketan wrote some amazing dialogues which are so deep. For instance, about Maya, he says “Samajhna to asambhav hai, sambhav hai anubhav ho jaaye” or “sapno ko chhoote hi, unka rang kyon ud jaata hai?” These are life-defining lines!

How was it working with Shah Rukh Khan? It was his first film…
He is the most energetic and dedicated actor with an instinctive cinematic sense. One can’t learn such things. They need to be part of the personality and he surely had an instinct for that. Besides the fact that he is a thorough gentleman and caring for everyone on the sets, it is his energy that is the most infectious! Also, what I liked is that he is a kid at heart. He was always playing some game or the other and he’s also a big computer freak, which is what I am. Even then, he was into playing games on the computer.

How was your equation and experience of working with Raj Babbar and Farooq Sheikh?
Raj Babbar was a senior respected star already then and so was Farooq. As actors, they were far more experienced than me. Farooq was very disciplined and kind.

Ketan Mehta once said in an interview, “I am not that short-tempered now, but I remember when I would shoot earlier, all these actors including Shah Rukh Khan in Maya Memsaab must have been struck by my matchbox throws at them like missiles”! How was it working with such a hot-headed director?
He exaggerates! He does lose his temper in his passion once in a while, but he is hardly someone who can be called ‘hot-headed’. The best part of working with Ketan is that he pushes you to excel and has the savviest interpretations of characters and their mercurial quality. Also, he gives actors a long rope and loves them to improvise and add what he calls ‘the magic’. He understands human behaviour like no one I have met ever and is the most stimulating to work with.

Was it tough for you and Shah Rukh Khan to perform the lovemaking scene? It was quite bold even by today’s standards…
Well, I did get giggly at first (a sign of being uncomfortable) but then you got to do what you got to do. I did brood a bit about being misunderstood at the time of release, but I think 99.99 % of people got the intention. In fact, I remember at a terrace party, someone told Shakti Samanta ji, who was the Chief of Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) then, that he was partial to allowing Ketan Mehta bold scenes but imposed cuts for even some dance moves for the others. And he graciously replied, “You make a piece of poetry Ketan has made, and I promise not to impose any cuts!” That was amazing!

Do you recall any memorable feedback that came your way after the release of Maya Memsaab in cinemas or film festivals?
Oh yes. There were many! It began on the day of the first public screening. I did not wait for the end and came back to the hotel. I recall I was at Ashoka Hotel in Delhi. An hour after the screening, there was a knock on my door and about 30 women came into my suite. They sat and spoke about how they had come from the screening and simply had to meet me, and it was the first film that ‘understood’ their inner core. They all had incidents to tell, and one even cried at how her ideals had let her down!

Then, I recall in Mumbai, two men in traditional dresses came all the way from Rajasthan, wearing their dhotiesangrakahas and pagris and sat in my living room. They told me how they had seen the film 17 times! They said it was about them. This is amazing as Flaubert, when asked about the book, had said “Madame Bovary, c’est moi” which means, “It’s about me”.

30 Years of Maya Memsaab EXCLUSIVE: Deepa Sahi gives a RARE interview; says “Shah Rukh Khan was a child at heart and a THOROUGH gentleman”; opens up on lovemaking scenes: “I did get giggly at first but then you got to do what you got to do”

I have yet to visit a country where someone has not called me “Maya” from across the road or on the street. The funny thing was that I read about a dish in a Delhi hotel menu which was called ‘Maya Memsaab ki pasand’. I had so many offers to launch soaps and perfumes named after Maya Memsaab but I was never into all that. So, I refused.

Do you have any plans to return to acting? You were phenomenal in Maya Memsaab and other films, and it’ll be great to have you back on screen…
Been there done that! I am not interested anymore. Even then I was too restless to be an actor as it involves long hours of waiting and I also hated getting make-up done and dressing up. Now I am too occupied with my new media technology hubs. Yes, I do miss live-action as I have been involved in our animation studio for so many years. So, I am producing some digital series currently. But I am not acting. At one point, I was interested in playing Indira Gandhi as I find her life fascinating and her contradictions really intriguing but not anymore.

How has the MAAC and Maya Movies journey been?
My life has been good. Time has flown like crazy! I thought I would spend 6 months setting up an animation studio and then getting professionals to run it. But it consumed all of my life nearly as there were no animators when we started which we did not know. It meant setting up schools to feed the studio. We ended up having over 70 franchises and 1600 animators in-house! And films became secondary as it took up so much time. However, all was good as Ketan makes everything good for me! I’m an absolute Ketan fan and if he tells me to jump off a cliff, I would, for him! And this is strange as when we began together, I told him, I am too restless and don’t think I will last long term. He said, “We will be together as long as we want and when we don’t want we shall see”. And as you know now it’s 30 years!

Would you like to direct again?
No. That was a lark but it’s too strenuous and demanding. My real passions are travelling, cats, and the latest phenomenon, AI!

If a remake of Maya Memsaab is made, which actor would you like to see playing the role of Maya, Dr Charu Das, Rudra and Lalit?
Ha ha! I am not answering that one; it means trouble!

Lastly, you have a close bond with Ketan Mehta. He said once in an interview, “I must be the craziest man she has met in her life, but I suppose she likes my madness, my films and my world view”. Your thoughts?
As I said, in Ketan, I have a perfect soulmate. He understands me perfectly, gives me the perfect space in life, and does not try to lead my life or dictate my life. I can’t survive with anyone dictating to me and he is the one who has never ever told me what to do, eat, wear, think, when to travel. He has never said “do this” or “don’t do this”. Nor do I do that to him, as I believe only if you give space can you demand it! And I have already warned him that he cannot get rid of me, the next 7 lives at least! He is a combination of Dennis the Menace and Superman (mentally) and has the same spirit of adventure that I have. The best is that he is the most non-mercenary man I have met, with never a bad word for anyone!

Yes, we are both crazy. I remember we had a pact that on every first monsoon shower, whatever the time, we have to drop whatever we are doing, meet up at Marine Drive and dance in the first rain together. We did that all for the first 10 years that we were together, till we got too damned busy! My mother often said “Ek hi thaili ke chatte batte” to us but in a good way!

More Pages: Maya Memsaab Box Office Collection


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