Rolex protégé Chaitanya Tamhane on thinking visually with mentor Alfonso Cuarón

Man sitting in a theatre with many books on the floor
Chaitanya Tamhane at an old single-screen movie theatre in Mumbai with collected books, props and curious. ‘They relate to my process of writing, my hobbies (magic and board games), and my filmmaking,’ he says. To the left is a poster for his film, Court, created by Polish designer Mieczyslaw Wasilewski.
(Image credit: Yann Rabanier)

Bringing together leading artists, writers, architects, musicians, filmmakers and other creative luminaries with the brightest young stars in their field, the Rolex Mentor and Protégé programme is an ambitious cultural exchange. The protégés reveal what mentoring has meant to them and how their lives have changed as a result.

The film director Chaitanya Tamhane sprang to fame at the 2014 Venice Film Festival with his debut feature, Court, which was awarded Best Film in the Horizons category and has since won more than 30 further awards worldwide. Tamhane started making films after graduating in English literature from Mithibai College, Mumbai, and also writes and directs his own plays. In 2014 The Hollywood Reporter singled him out as one of the world’s most promising filmmakers under 30. He has been mentored by Alfonso Cuarón, the Mexican film director best known for Gravity and Y Tu Mamá También, who is currently working on his new film, Roma, set in Mexico.

W*: How would you sum up the scheme?
Chaitanya Tamhane: It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for someone like me, who’s making independent films in India, to meet someone like Alfonso, but it’s also been amazing to meet all the other protégés and to be part of this group of such talented people from all over the world doing such different things.

W*: Has the time you have spent with Alfonso Cuarón on the set of Roma changed the way you think about cinema?
CT: Absolutely it has – I have never been so sensitised to the image before. Alfonso is a master of light: he’s obsessed with every tiny detail, every reflection. Of course, he’s also super-skilled in directing actors and all the other aspects of film, but he’s really opened a window in my head when it comes to using the image. I’m also writing in a different way as a result, thinking much more visually, where I used to think mostly about character and narrative.

W*: What will you be working on next?
CT: My new script is based in the world of Indian classical music. It’s a coming-of-age film, if you like, though you could call it a very late coming-of-age film, since the concept of time is very different in Indian classical music; you’re a beginner for many years. It’s set across three different decades. I’ve been researching it for the last 18 months, and I’m hoping to have finished it soon, so I can show it to Alfonso when we meet up again.

As originally featured in the January 2018 issue of Wallpaper* (W*226)


For more information, visit Chaitanya Tamhane's Court website and the Rolex Mentors & Protégés Initiative‎ website