Art & Entertainment

Japanese Filmmaker Makoto Shinkai: My Films Will Continue To Reflect Ethos Of Asian Culture

Die-hard anime fans in India would know Makoto Shinkai from his titles such as "Your Name" and “Weathering with You” and the Japanese director says his movies enjoy popularity here because Southeast Asia has a common cultural cinematic language.

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Makoto Shinkai
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Die-hard anime fans in India would know Makoto Shinkai from his titles such as "Your Name" and “Weathering with You” and the Japanese director says his movies enjoy popularity here because Southeast Asia has a common cultural cinematic language.

Shinkai, who was in the city to promote his latest anime title “Suzume”, said his filmography is deeply rooted in Asian culture.

"I have visited India (earlier). I was in Thailand before that, so there is a sense... When I look at it, I feel that in Southeast Asia, Japan, we share a common cultural language, which is different from the language of Hollywood and European cinema.

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"One thing I know for sure, the language of my film will continue to reflect the ethos of Asian culture. My roots are from here, and I understand that language and I want to present that,” Shinkai told PTI in an interview here.

The 50-year-old filmmaker said he is aware that his films enjoy a great fan following in India, but that doesn’t make him confident about the reception to “Suzume”, which released in the country on April 21. It was distributed by PVR Pictures.

The movie, which was released in Japan last November, is among the top 10 highest-grossing Japanese films of all time.

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Shinkai said he wanted to bring his next film to India after receiving praise for “Weathering with You” when he had visited New Delhi in 2019 for the premiere of the movie.

"When I saw the response to ‘Weathering with You’, I knew whenever I make my next movie, I want it to take it to India. If you ask me, if I am 100 per cent sure that we will hit a sixer, no, I am not. It is always nerve-racking, the day before the premiere," he added.

“Suzume”, a Japanese animated fantasy adventure, follows the story of 17-year-old high school students Suzume Iwato and Souta Munakata, who team up to prevent a series of disasters across Japan.

Through this film, Shinkai said the objective is the universal theme of nurturing "hope" amid problems.

"When you look at disasters, look at the last 10 years, we have (had) earthquakes. Japan has a natural phenomenon like climate change. We have places where there is unusually high rainfall, which causes avalanches and deaths.

"Apart from that there are man-made disasters, like war between Russia and Ukraine, which is displacing so many lives. So, it (this film) shows there are things that can uproot your existence. But within that, how do we carry on? The one thing that pushes us is hope and that is the theme that transcends borders and languages," he added.

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The genesis of “Suzume”, Shinkai said, stemmed from the profound effect that the 2011 Great Eastern Japan earthquake, globally called the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, had on him. In the aftermath of the calamity, the filmmaker said he was toying with the idea of making a film that would tap into the emotion of the people.

“It (the earthquake) made me feel that what we think of as normal, it could vanish anytime. What would happen if my life would vanish, how would I react? I wanted to make a movie which addresses the phenomenon of abandoned cities, which started increasing in Japan... I wanted to build a character around somebody who walks around these places,” he said.

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For this, Shinkai said he conducted an in-depth research on people, who fell victim to such tragedies, in order to portray the right emotion on screen.

"I wanted to be authentic with that, so I did a lot of research, like, read a lot of letters, diaries of many people, watched interviews where people are explaining what they went through,” he added.

He often narrates his stories through the eyes of teenagers and the director said he himself sought solution to his issues in animation movies or in manga, (comics or graphic novels originating from Japan), during his growing up years.

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"Animation answers to the needs of certain young people, I (experienced that) when I was young. So, I am trying to give back to a younger version of myself the same safe space.

"In manga or animation stories, you can deep dive. It provides solace, which may be different from what is given to you at school or at home.”

Shinkai is also well-versed with Indian cinema, he said, as he hailed SS Rajamouli’s “RRR” and said he enjoyed watching the epic period action movie.

The Telugu film, which charted history by becoming the first Indian production to win the Oscar for Best Original Song for “Naatu Naatu”, emerged as the highest grossing Indian film in Japan upon its release there in October last year.

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“What is interesting in Indian filmmaking is you get to see a new world in a different way than what the Hollywood format shows. For example, ‘RRR’ was a big phenomenon, I went to see it and I enjoyed it. So, it shows you something where we get to see extravagance, a full spectrum of emotions and that is wonderful to see,” he said.

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