‘Senna’, a documentary film on the life of the legendary Formula One driver Ayrton Senna, has been one of the success stories of last year both in terms of critical acclaim and impressive box office/DVD figures

The movie has also managed to win number of awards at prestigious ©vents, with the latest being at BAFTA. However, surprisingly, despite its success, ‘Senna’ hasn’t been nominated for Oscars. In an exclusive interview with Mid Day, the film’s director Asif Kapadia talks about missing out on Oscars, making of the movie and what made Ayrton Senna so great.

How does it feel after ‘Senna’ won the best documentary award at BAFTA?

It’s brilliant. It feels great. It’s an amazing feeling because of the way the film has been received around the world and now to get these two awards from the people within the film industry. It’s the highest reward you can get.

Your documentary was against pretty stiff competition, including the one made by Martin Scorsese. What does this award mean to you?

It means a lot. I never thought that day would ever happen when I’d have a film in the same category nominated against my hero Martin Scorsese as well as James Marsh, a fantastic director whose film Man on Wire had won an Oscar. To be in that company is really special. We were very lucky to win. It’s fantastic, just like a dream.

How is ‘Senna’ different from the films you have made so far?

The main difference is that ‘Senna is a documentary. This is a factual film made in the style of a drama. The others were fiction films were made in a naturalistic fashion. But they were with actors and script. This was different. This was a astory of a real person in the style of dramatic action feature film.

How different was the lead character of Senna from the other characters of your films so far?

I personally think the lead characters in ‘Senna’ and my first feature film ‘The Warrior’ are in a way quite similar. These are two people on a spiritual journey. They are on a path where they are trying to do the right thing, competing and fighting against a corrupt system. Even though the two characters are totally different – one is Indian from the past, riding horses and brandishing swords while the other is ultra modern, Formula One driver – the element of spiritual journey in the two characters is quite similar.

What have you been touched most by the character of Ayrton Senna?

It’s his ideals that he believes in and the fact that he fights for what is right. He had everything already… money, good life. Yet, he gave up all that to follow his dream. He was a pure man in search of purity in so many ways in what he did. I found all of this powerful, moving and inspirational. The more time I spent studying him, the more I liked him.

How do you compare your perception about Ayrton Senna before and after the film?

Earlier, I knew about him as a racing driver. What I have learnt is really about Senna, the man. Even about the racing part, I hadn’t read lots of books or studied everything earlier. I have learnt a huge amount while making the movie.

Do you think this film has helped in not only popularising but also changing perception about Ayrton Senna as an individual?

Of course. One of the main successes of the film is that people who have no interest in Formula One have liked the film, have fallen in love with him and have started understanding the sport. Those who thought the sport was boring, now understand how competitive it is, how tough it is. How good Senna is to be the best at what he does. I think the film has reminded the fan why they like Formula One and why they love Senna. And it’s also made people, who had no interest in Formula One or had never seen a race in their life, understand why he is such a special guy in that very tough world of Formula One.

Are you planning to bring this movie to India which hosted its inaugural Formula One race in 2011?

We had a screening just before the first Grand Prix last year. This March, the film is going to be screened in Mumbai, Delhi and at various events around the country. Thats something for people to look out for. The film is already out on DVD in various places so it’s going to be hard to get a release now. The film in its own way is timeless. Whenever there’s a Grand Prix anywhere in the world, I am hoping it’s a good excuse for people to watch the film again to understand why he was so special and why Formula One is such a unique, competitive sport.

Do you feel sad to have lost out on Oscar nomination?

At the beginning when we heard about the long list, it was sad. Now, we are very happy that we have got two BAFTA awards. It’s been received so well. It’s broken so many records around the world. In a way, everybody has said the same thing that we couldn’t have done anything different. We tried to do the best film. The system within the Oscars is such that they felt the film shouldn’t be shortlisted. We can’t do anything about that. We are kind of over it. Everyone else has really given the film so much love that it will be silly for us to complain

What inspiration can a layman get from Ayrton Senna? What do you think are his special qualities?

Senna means different things to different people. The fact that he keeps going, he always tries to do his best, is a simple thing that can be explained to young people and children. People on the outside may think it is a sad story. However, when you are in to his story, you fill find that his journey is so inspirational because of the good that he did and because he stood up for what he believed in. The things that he wanted, the things that he did and the way he did… he was essentially a good man. The important part is that whatever things you want to do, you should do them with passion, always try to do better and never give up.

Have you ever come across a character like Ayrton Senna before?

I don’t know if I have yet. I think he has kind of everything. That’s what makes him so amazing. He is like a super hero from a comic book. The big difference being he is real. He did it all, he did everything. He actually drove that car the way he did it… the gears would go and he would still win the Brazilian Grand Prix. The fact that he had the faith and spirituality. The fact that it would rain when he needed it to rain. The fact that he meant so much to his country Brazil at that point of time. The people of Brazil loved him so much. The whole story is just unreal. If you had written it, no one would have believed it. There are still so many stories we could have told.

We didn’t have time to put it in the film. I don’t know if I have come across a hero like him who is real. I think Mohammad Ali is another massive hero. His journey is amazing too. There are lots of people from the world of sports that do amazing things. I think Senna is particularly special because of the world of Formula One that he was in, is so particular. Coming from Brazil and achieving what he achieved … I think he is one in a very few number of people that can have a journey that special, that you can show. I am sure there are people who have done amazing things in the past. But it’s very difficult to make movies about them. And as soon as you get actors to play them, for me there’s something lost. The big thing about Senna’s story is that we were able to show it with his own voice, him telling the story and the fact that everything you see actually happened.

source: © mid-day.com