“In the south we can make the films slower, but not in Bolllywood,” said the director. The director in conversation was Priyadarshan Soman Nair. Mayank Shekhar conducted the first session of ‘In Conversation with Director’ on November 25. Elaborating on the statement he said: “I can put silence and pauses in south films; the literacy levels there help a lot. You don’t have to explain everything. In Bollywood you need to spoon feed the audience. You cannot make a realistic film and make it successful here, but it is possible in a place like Kerala.”
Known popularly as the man behind comedies like Hera Pheri, Bhool Bhulaiyaa and Malamaal Weekly, Priyadarshan has also made some serious films like the Malayalam film Kala Pani and Tamil film Kanchivaram, which won him a national award. The director spoke candidly about all that is dear to him.
On the fact that Kerala and Bengal have a strong art house culture the director agreed to the relation of this trend with that of the left ideology prevalent in both these states. “Communism gave a boost to education in Kerela. This helped literature, plays and cinema a lot. People were writing against the system, especially in the 60s when there was an inclination towards this ideology,” he said.
The director began writing his movies at a very early age. By 19 he wrote his first screenplay. For this he credits his father. “I thank my father who was a playwright. I grew up among all these people who would come home and discuss things. I was fascinated with literature. And I was in love with films. Anything that ran on screen fascinated me,” he said.
“During my days of struggle it was very difficult to get behind the camera, but today things have changed. Now I can have a camera in my pocket!” he said about the difficulties he faced, but also added that his desire was so strong that it kept him going. The director also shared that he had dreams of becoming a cricketer, but an accident prohibited him from playing.
With about 90 films to his credit, filmmaking has become inherent to the director who aims at reaching the hundred mark soon. Filmmaking for Priyadarshan is all about being a team player and the director maintained that everyone, even the boy who brings the tea everyday, is an integral part of filmmaking.
About working with a certain cast of actors repeatedly, he said he does it because of the shared camaraderie. “Mohanlal and I have worked together on numerous films. We were a group of people who had grown up together with ambitions in cinema. Although Mohanlal started his career as a villain, I knew his potential and then I wrote comic roles for him, which increased his popularity, even more than that of lead actors. It was trust in each other that made us work together,” said the director.
The director even made the comedy Hera Pheri with actors known primarily for their negative and action roles. “When I decided to make the film I though only Paresh Rawal could handle Baburao’s character. I had Utpal Dutt in my mind, but he had passed away. As for Sunil and Akshay, I felt that anyone who can react well to a situation could do well in the roles. And I have never felt that any actor is bad. The director can make them work well.”
On the topic of cinema becoming more of entertainment than real films he said that the whole culture of Bollywood is about entertainment. “Hollywood is the same. When they don’t find stories on earth, they now go into space,” he said, though he supports the song-dance routine in Indian cinema. “Cinema in India is an evolution from folklore and dramas which conveyed things through music. This is something unique in our cinema,” he said.
Speaking about the latest controversies about the Aamir Khan statement, he said the media is to be blamed. “Random instances are being picked up and they spoil the spirit of the country. I think the media is not positive. They never talk of development. The media is the only reason it’s (intolerance) killing the country.” On the topic of censorship he said that all the censorships are affecting filmmakers in different ways.