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Interview Marathi

PIFF 2018: Always focused on human stories when making political film, says Jabbar Patel

In an exclusive interview, filmmaker and Pune International Film Festival director, Patel spoke about how political films should be made in today's times.

Suparna Thombare

Filmmaker and Pune International Film Festival (PIFF) chairman and director, Dr Jabbar Patel has made acclaimed socio-political Marathi films like Samna (1975), Sinhasan (1979) and Umbartha (1981) in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

On the sidelines of PIFF, Patel sat down to talk to us about what goes into writing and making films that explore the politics of the time. While his film Samna (1975) took on the subject of sugar co-operatives of Maharashtra via the story of a small-town political racketeer and a morally upright school teacher, Sinhasan (1979) explored the nexus between politicians and criminals. His other films like Jait Re Jait (1977), Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar (2000) and Umbartha (1981) explored other social and political aspects.

The director feels that any political film connects with the viewer when it focuses on the human story. 

Speaking about several films in current times that attempt to comment on or take a critical point of view of the establishment facing political trouble or issues with the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), Patel says, "Every era has these issues. It was not like films didn't face trouble at that time (when he made films in 1970s and 1980s). It depends on how you make the film. You may be having any ideology, but it's the basic things you are talking about. It should be on a humane level. If you do that nobody can stop you. Even the establishment."

Here are excerpts from the exclusive interview with the filmmaker:

You have made several political films like Sinhasan (1979) and Samna (1975) which made important statements. What do you think about the films being made in today's scenario? 

If we are talking purely about political, every era has it own problems. But if you keep the film at a purely humane level nobody can stop you. If the film has human logic, then the socio-political aspects, they all fall in line and people understand that the whole issue is a human issue. 

I always focused on human story when making political films. Then there is nothing to criticize or please one party or another or tribe or caste or some religion.

Recently, we saw what happened to Padmavati...

I have not seen the film. You have to see the film before deciding. Any filmmaker will tell you the same thing — the film has to be seen and then you can decide. 

When you were writing socio-political films what were the things you kept in mind... something that would help today's writers that are attempting to engage in similar films.

When I made a political film I always kept in mind the human situation today. That is the main point because they are the sufferers, in a capitalist society or even a socialist one or a democratic government. Still the human situation in every kind of society has its pluses and minuses. What are those? Unless you know exactly what the human being is like in that situation in that particular era, you can't do justice. And then you are making a film on what? Suppose it is a man woman relationship, but its a political film. 

You have to study, and you should know the history also. I think today's political filmmakers should know the history of this country properly. Unless you know the history, it's very difficult to make a political film.  

You made Umbartha (1981) which told the story of a woman fighting to step out of home and be financially independent. What kind of films on women's issue would you like to see being made today?

I can't say what kind of a film should be made. There are many women-centric films being made today and everyone has a point of view. It's good.

Though the situation outside is changing, but basically as a woman, what her instincts are, what her ambitions are and her role as a woman in society and in a family still has problems. The woman has to be absolutely, downright tough. That's what I feel. 

How has your vision for PIFF changed over the last 16 years, since it first started? 

As the socio-political situation around the world changes, cinema changes. And you have to improve your sensibilities and change your attitude and the way you look at the world. You cannot be rigid. Cinema is like that. To understand cinema you have to be flexible. So we are very flexible and a more academics-centric festival. Our average age group for viewers here is 20. We have wonderful and vibrant students activities. And they come here to watch films with a lot of sincerity and to understand not just films and its techniques, but also the aesthetics of cinema. And we also keep the information flowing at the PIFF forum. Our festival is always future-centric — technique and story-wise. When we call ourselves a developing country we have to. 

Related topics

Pune International Film Festival