May 2002 The Sherwoodian Times 96th Issue


ST: Why did your father decide to send you from the U.S.A. to an Indian boarding-school?

AS: "I had spent some time in France and I had spent some time in the U.S., and I hadn't really spent a lot of time in India. And so, my Dad felt that I needed to get in touch with my roots, being half-Indian, half-French. He felt it was important that I should spend some time in this country, so he sent me straight from New York to India - actually via Afghanistan, where I had spent two years going on and off travelling with my Dad. That was between 1976-78 and finally I ended up here.

ST: What was your initial reaction to Sherwood?

AS: "Really tough! It was like going to the opposite end of the spectrum! I was living in New York - really nice life. I had people taking care of me, indulging in my interests such as sailing; I had a remote-controlled sailboat! I would go down to the park and play; doing a lot fun-stuff like going to the movies and arcades and all of a sudden I had come here and it was 'Fall in' College attention! Left turn'! So it was a bit strange. In fact, not even 'a bit strange'; it was really tough.

And I couldn't go home on 'quick holidays' because I was 8,000 miles away from home. So, it was just an enduring trip!

ST: Looking back, do you think it was all worthwhile?

AS: "Absolutely! Especially having spent three days here, thanks to Mr. Mountford, who has been really wonderful in giving us the best care and hospitality, allowing me basically to experience Sherwood, because I didn't pass out of Sherwood, so to speak. I was here from Class IV to VIII, so I never lived here as a senior - the moment that everyone looks forward to at the end one's school years. I mean, at the end of your time at Sherwood, you are finally being a senior and doing all the things you want to do.

So it's nice to come back and meet the College Captain and the prefects and the rest of the students because I totally understand them from a different perspective now, as earlier I was in fear of them and the teachers. It was like survival of the fittest!

ST: What are your memories of Sherwood?

AS: "I had some fine memories, but a lot of them were difficult because I felt traumatized, not by the school, but by the fact that my father sent me so far away from home; so I had blocked a lot of things out. But coming back has kind of managed to open up all these feelings; like it was brilliant to see everyone in the dining-hall. I remember I had chicken-pox here and Phillip took care of me; he was really a wonderful person.

It's now all at a different point in my life. I am 32 now; I was 9 years old and left when I was 12 or 13. There were so many teachers that are here no longer which is kind of sad because I had fine memories with them, especially Mr. Hoffland and Mrs. Kerr. Mr. Kerr was quite a fellow and I really loved Col. Millet - I though he was great and he was so nice to me; I remember he taught boxing.

On the other hand, some of the memories I choose not to remember are my boxing experiences - I didn't like the sport at all.

ST: Did the stay at Sherwood make any impact on your educational career after you left the school?

AS: "Absolutely! I think the foundation, the experience, the discipline were all character - building. I mean this was probably my biggest character-building experience that I have ever had and I have had a lot in terms of longevity, in terms of rhythm, growth, and this is my character's founding moment. And it's been the basis on which I walk through my life, my behaviour, my psychology and how I handle my hardships.

ST: Do you remember any moments or personalities during your time here?

AS: "I think that the big thing even then was the fact that Amitabh Bachchan was here and at that time, 20 years ago, he was really in his prime; he was really the top superstar. He is now, but he was really big then. I think Kabir Bedi was also here.

Actually, the culture that I was exposed to in New York and then the one that I was exposed to here were so vast and different and separated from each other. So I was coming with a completely different set of personalities that nobody even knew about here. So in a sense it was difficult because I didn't know who half my fellow Sherwoodians were.

ST: Where did you finish your schooling?

AS: "I finished my college in a town called Barrington and the name of the college was Simon's Rock of Bard College, which was the number one liberal arts school. Actually from Sherwood I went to France, from where I went to America and did one year of high school from where I went to college where I did political science, French literature and photography.

ST: What prompted you to enter world of theatre while you were at college?

AS: "I think it was the fact that I had seen so much and I was stuck in a town that really didn't have any opportunities to experience any cultural diversity. And that was upsetting me as I had come from France and spent time in India and I had seen so many different things - and people here were just like they had never left Nainital all their lives! Whatever culture they were experiencing was certainly like run-of-the-mill American Culture.

American culture is nice, but if it's what you have every day and you don't bother to take a good look around and see what your surroundings are all about, then what's the point? So, it wasn't enough for me. I actually have a very funny story which I feel should be mentioned in 'The Sherwoodian Times'. My first play was done with a pretty famous actor named Nicholas Deutsch. I was having dinner with him one nigh - the night I met him at a friend's house at a dinner-party - and he had actually been to Nainital! And he was the first person I actually talked to after ten years of leaving Nainital, and he had been all around: Haldwani, Ranikhet, Bhimtal And later he had this play by Kierkegaard, who was incidentally my favourite writer. So that was how I got my first production."

ST: How long did you remain with theatre and what prompted you to turn to film instead?

AS: "Well, I was very successful in raising money for my company, which was a non-profit company at that time. But theatre is a labour of love and it's an intense privilege to be able to do it, but you make a lot of sacrifice living with no money.

So I took to working in freelance events and at film festivals and film markets. That kind of satisfied my desires to travel and I was living better now.

And then I got a job for directing commercials in China, which was an amazing experience. I was one of the five producers on a three-million-dollar party thrown by Mr. Paul Allen (who is the co-founder of Microsoft) in Venice for the Millennium.

ST: Would you highlight the high points in your career?

AS: "Well, a career is nothing unless you develop your being at the same time as you develop your work. In other words, you have to grow, in my opinion.

The last eight years in my life have been a lot of fun, but I think shooting on the Great Wall of China has to take the cake - I never thought I would end up in China! Working on The Matrix also; it was more of an intellectual challenge of having to develop a camera-system to put out the effects that we wanted to and it was groundbreaking. And it paid off - I think it has been the most talked - about effects ever. So that was a large sense of pride and it has been a clean challenge."

ST: What brought you back to India after twenty long years?

AS: "I thought it was time I visited the school again and made up for the hardships I felt over here, and felt happy here. And, obviously, that's happened - I am extremely happy here, and I love this school".

ST: What are your future aspirations?

AS: "I am actually thinking of making a documentary about Sherwood. I would like to make a movie about Jim Corbett. And I think Sherwood is a really interesting place and apparently the last refuge of manners, a simple sophistication that lasts a lifetime."

ST: What is your message for Sherwoodians?

AS: "I think it's important to be happy and to follow your heart, and to drum up courage for the challenges you'll face that you are not expecting. I think Sherwoodians should begin whatever they do or dream and as they open the first door, before they know it, it a host of other doors will open, doors that they have never even dreamed of, and remember 'boldness has genius in it".

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