INTERVIEW

‘Guardians’ director Sarik Andreasyan: ‘It’s like Hollywood with Russian humour’

The Armenian director’s movie – a Russian reply to ‘The Avengers’ – is being released in India in multiple languages on February 24.

Armenian filmmaker Sarik Andreasyan’s superhero-themed film Guardians – The Superheroes is the second Russian film to be released in India under a new cultural trade pact between the two countries. The first film was The Crew, which was released in January. Dubbed versions of Russian films have been released in India in the past.

Guardians is set during the Cold War, and is Russia’s answer to The Avengers. A team of four superheroes are created in a secret laboratory to avert a nuclear disaster. Russian actors Alina Lanina, Sebastien Sisak, Sanzhar Madiyev and Anton Pampushnyy push the limits of action and adventure in the big-budget feature, which will released in Russia and 50 other countries on February 23 and in India a day later.

Guardians has been dubbed in Hindi, English, Tamil and Telugu for Indian audiences. In a telephone interview with Scroll.in, Andreasyan spoke about taking on Hollywood even while engaging with the country’s all-powerful movie industry, and names his favourite Hindi film.

How did the story of ‘Guardians’ take shape?
I am a huge fan of Marvel and DC comics and watch a lot of superhero films, but a lot of them feel and look the same. I watch a lot of Hollywood films too. What I wanted to do was to borrow the structure of classic Hollywood films about heroes and add elements of Russian humour and drama to specifically suit Russian audiences. Since we are making the film on such a large scale and showing it across the world, its appeal is universal. The language might be different, but the idea of a superhero film is something everyone understands and can relate to.

What were the challenges in scripting the film?
The story is not so much about comics as it is about the mentality of the people. It is reflective of the Cold War. Each of the four guardians represents one of the republics of the Soviet Union – Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Armenia. The superheroes possess superpowers that are unique to the regions. We took about two years to work on the project because we wanted to make it big and unique. It was a long process, but well worth the effort.

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Guardians - The Superheroes (2017).

What makes the superheroes human?
What makes superheroes human is simple desires, such as love and friendship. In our film, the superheroes have these qualities just as they have superpowers, and I think it’s these simple desires that make them even more powerful. Anyone in the audience will relate to the superheroes because we all share the same feelings.

Is the film being released simultaneously in 50 countries?
Yes, it is the first time a Russian film is going to be released on such a large scale internationally. It’s not the first Russian film to get an international release, but on this level, it’s certainly the first in league with Hollywood films. It makes us extremely proud that we have been able to give our film such massive exposure across the world.

Indian films have been popular in Russia since the 1950s. Have you seen any?
Bollywood films are extremely popular here. What comes to my mind is Awara, which is one of my favourites. It was shown everywhere and I watched it multiple times when I was growing up. Indian actors are now in Hollywood and the new films do well internationally. Indian films have a special place in the hearts of the Russian people.

In 2014, you worked on your first Hollywood film, ‘American Heist’. What was the experience of working with an American crew?
It was a good experience, and I am working on another project soon. I cannot reveal the details right now. Regardless of where I work, I try to do my best and be professional, so only the set-up changes. My hard work and dedication remain the same.

Sarik Andreasyan.
Sarik Andreasyan.
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London then and now – As experienced by Indians

While much has changed, the timeless quality of the city endures.

“I found the spirit of the city matching the Bombay spirit. Like Bombay, the city never sleeps and there was no particular time when you couldn’t wander about the town freely and enjoy the local atmosphere”, says CV Manian, a PhD student in Manchester in the ‘80s, who made a trip to London often. London as a city has a timeless quality. The seamless blend of period architecture and steel skyscrapers acts as the metaphor for a city where much has changed, but a lot hasn’t.

The famed Brit ‘stiff upper lip, for example, finds ample validation from those who visited London decades ago. “The people were minding their business, but never showed indifference to a foreigner. They were private in their own way and kept to themselves.” Manian recollects. Aditya Dash remembers an enduring anecdote from his grandmother’s visit to London. “There is the famous family story where she was held up at Heathrow airport. She was carrying zarda (or something like that) for my grandfather and customs wanted to figure out if it was contraband or not.”

However, the city always housed contrasting cultures. During the ‘Swinging ‘60s’ - seen as a precursor to the hippie movement - Shyla Puri’s family had just migrated to London. Her grandfather still remembers the simmering anti-war, pro-peace sentiment. He himself got involved with the hippie movement in small ways. “He would often talk with the youth about what it means to be happy and how you could achieve peace. He wouldn’t go all out, but he would join in on peace parades and attend public talks. Everything was ‘groovy’ he says,” Shyla shares.

‘Groovy’ quite accurately describes the decade that boosted music, art and fashion in a city which was till then known for its post-World-War austerities. S Mohan, a young trainee in London in the ‘60s, reminisces, “The rage was The Beatles of course, and those were also the days of Harry Belafonte and Ella Fitzgerald.” The likes of The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd were inspiring a cultural revolution in the city. Shyla’s grandfather even remembers London turning punk in the ‘80s, “People walking around with leather jackets, bright-colored hair, mohawks…It was something he would marvel at but did not join in,” Shyla says.

But Shyla, a second-generation Londoner, did join in in the revival of the punk culture in the 21st century. Her Instagram picture of a poster at the AfroPunk Fest 2016 best represents her London, she emphatically insists. The AfroPunk movement is trying to make the Punk culture more racially inclusive and diverse. “My London is multicultural, with an abundance of accents. It’s open, it’s alive,” Shyla says. The tolerance and openness of London is best showcased in the famous Christmas lights at Carnaby Street, a street that has always been popular among members of London’s alternate cultures.

Christmas lights at Carnaby Street (Source: Roger Green on Wikimedia Commons)
Christmas lights at Carnaby Street (Source: Roger Green on Wikimedia Commons)

“London is always buzzing with activity. There are always free talks, poetry slams and festivals. A lot of museums are free. London culture, London art, London creativity are kept alive this way. And of course, with the smartphones navigating is easy,” Shyla adds. And she’s onto something. Manian similarly describes his ‘80s rendezvous with London’s culture, “The art museums and places of interest were very illustrative and helpful. I could tour around the place with a road map and the Tube was very convenient.” Mohan, with his wife, too made the most of London’s cultural offerings. “We went to see ‘Swan Lake’ at the Royal Opera House and ‘The Mousetrap’ by Agatha Christie. As an overseas graduate apprentice, I also had the pleasure to visit the House of Lords and take tea on the terrace.”

For the casual stroller along London’s streets today, the city would indeed look quite different from what it would’ve to their grandparents. Soho - once a poor suburb known for its crime and sex industry - is today a fashionable district of upmarket eateries and fashion stores. Most of the big British high street brands have been replaced by large international stores and the London skyline too has changed, with The Shard being the latest and the most impressive addition. In fact, Shyla is quite positive that her grandfather would not recognise most of the city anymore.

Shyla, though, isn’t complaining. She assures that alternate cultures are very much alive in the city. “I’ve seen some underground LGBT clubs, drag clubs, comedy clubs, after midnight dance-offs and empty-warehouse-converted parties. There’s a space for everybody.” London’s cosmopolitan nature remains a huge point of attraction for Indian visitors even today. Aditya is especially impressed by the culinary diversity of London and swears that, “some of the best chicken tikka rolls I have had in my life were in London.” “An array of accents flood the streets. These are the people who make London...LONDON,” says Shyla.

It’s clear that London has changed a lot, but not really all that much. Another aspect of Indians’ London experience that has remained consistent over the past decades is the connectivity of British Airways. With a presence in India for over 90 years, British Airways has been helping generations of Indians discover ‘their London’, just like in this video.

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For more information on special offers on flights to London and other destinations in the UK, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of British Airways and not by the Scroll editorial team.