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Interview Bengali Hindi

Filmmakers are becoming too urban centric now: Goutam Ghose — Birthday special

The director, actor, producer, cinematographer and music director is known for delivering some of the most important films in Bengali, Hindi and Telugu industries.

Roushni Sarkar

National Award winning filmmaker Goutam Ghose turns 69 today (he was born on 24 July 1950). The director, actor, producer, cinematographer and music director is known for delivering some of the most important films in Bengali, Hindi and Telugu industries. His Bengali film Dakhal (1981) won the National Award for the Best Feature Film in 1982. Ghosh’s Paar (1984), Antarjali Yatra (1989), Padma Nadir Majhi (1992), Dekha (2001) and Yatra (2007) have won multiple awards in and outside the country. Ghose is the only Indian filmmaker to have received the Vittorio Di Sica Award in Italy in 1997 .

Also, a noted documentary maker, a dedicated photo journalist and a film spokesperson, Ghose spoke to Cinestaan.com about his upcoming film Raahgir. He also shared his views on the current not-so promising state of Bengali cinema and expressed his hope for its return to a glorious phase. Excerpts.

Off late, we have seen you acting in films more than directing your own. When are you making your next film?

No, I really don’t consider myself as a regular actor. I only agree to act when young filmmakers approach me. I have appeared in guest roles as well. It is true that I love acting but I enjoy directing or making artistes act much more. I have finished making my new Hindi film Raahgir, featuring Adil Hussain, Tillotama Shome and Neeraj Kabi. The film primarily focuses on the humanity of common people, which is declining quite a lot these days. Due to various reasons, including the changes in socio-economic structure, people have become extremely selfish. People these days hardly even care about their neighbours, they are only concerned about their material gains. The film is based on a story by Prafulla Roy, set in this context. The film has been shot in Jharkhand. First Raahgir will be sent to various film festivals and then it will be released this year.

I have also been working on an Indo-Italian project for a long time. It is a story of a small boy. After I am done with these two films, I will again lay my hands on Bengali cinema, which I love making the most. Right now, I am just caught up with a few commitments.

These days not many realistic films are being made in Bengali cinema, reflecting the volatile situation around the country. What is your thought on that?

I think it is just a phase of a cycle for Bengali cinema. When we were younger, the socio-economic situation around would shake us up and in all the films of that time, we could see the reflection of that. Now, for some reason, directors are making more of detective films and thrillers to cater to the taste of the audience. Nevertheless, I feel the trend of making realistic films will return again because all the ups and downs and upheaval of the present times, need to get reflected in cinema.

I also think that because of the same reasons, now Bengali films are not meeting the international standards. I feel that now filmmakers should concentrate on making films on humanity and tolerance more. The effects of manipulation in the name of politics need to be highlighted in the films as well. I am hopeful that the filmmakers of younger generation will take notice of the situation and bring the trend back.

Is it because of the same reasons not many films stay relevant for a long time?

Yes, films that can be considered as classics are not being made now but they will be, I am sure. It is not that classic films are not being made at all, but, yes, the number is quite less. See, I feel, with social unrest and conflicts, art achieves growth and history has been proof of that. Currently, we are going through a massive transition. In our country, market economy was introduced into a society, pervaded with feudal values.

Till this date, there are issues with dowry, honour killings, women’s security are at stake and aboriginal and tribal people are being killed.

I also feel that it is not an easy job to run the administration of our country - it is not merely about interpreting politics in terms of political parties. A peculiar situation has risen with the implementation of consumer economy in a society filled with diverse age-old customs. This was not the case with Europe. The countries were already at an advanced stage when they were being rebuilt after the world wars. Feudalism was not there anymore and situation was not so complex as it is in our country. The situation is almost same in many other third-world countries as well.

I think it is the ideal period for making films and the emergence of digital platforms are aiding the process. See, our country is as complex as fascinating. I think it is a paradise for filmmakers. The problem is, filmmakers are getting too urban centric. They need to go out and explore the people and the various aspects of their life in the forests, coastal areas. Camera has an incredible power and it can reach anywhere. We will be more enriched if we can incorporate variety of elements in our art forms. Our country is not at all homogenous and will never be. There is not a single particular identification of being Indian. There are certainly some common factors, but we need to invest our thoughts more in the idea of Indianness before bringing a simplistic parameter.

What do you think of the future of cinema in digital platforms?

There is an interesting contradiction in this context. There have always been technological changes in films from the very beginning. With the technological advancement, forms of telling stories have changed and so have the perceptions of the audience. From the silent era to the talkies, from black and white to colours, from analogue to digital - there has always been a progress. Particularly, in digital platforms, the changes are becoming much more rapid. The market force is always coming up with some new ideas and hence, a confusion is also being created.

French film critic Alexandre Astruc once said, when camera and film will become as cheap as papers and pen, there will be new rush of ideas. When we started off as filmmakers, it was an expensive affair. Now a film can be made in a mobile camera as well. Therefore, there is a scope for a lot of experiments. At the same time, we will also have to keep in mind that, the trend of digital platform doesn’t turn filmmaking into a gimmick. Honest efforts of learning the language of filmmaking has to be there as well. This is an ongoing process.

Do you have a dream project on which you are yet to start working?

Yes, I have a dream project of making a historical film on Dara Shikoh, the heir apparent of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, who was killed by Aurangzeb. He was a scholar and was inclined towards a culture of harmony. Had Dara Shikoh been the emperor, the history of our land perhaps would have been different.