An In Conversation session with Indian directors, Srijit Mukherji, Anant Narayan and Abhishek Shal was held on the second day of the International Film Festival (IFFI). The session was moderated by television anchor, Sunil Tandon.
The directors discussed various aspects and the importance of diversity in Indian cinema. Having directed Marathi films and acted in films and theatre of various languages, Narayan said: “No other country in the world with so many regions, so many languages and people comes together to make a film. So I think I have tried to bridge the gap of diversity because what is beautiful about the diversity of this country is that every region has a lovely local flavour,” he said and went on to add that directors of regional cinema stay true to the ethos of the culture and the language while in return creating a rich legacy of cinema. “I’m saying this at the risk of my own career that Hindi cinema is not Indian cinema. And it is actually the regions that are doing all the important work,” he said.
However, he continued, one should keep the diversity of cinema alive as that will be considered a landmark for Indian cinema with its different languages, atmosphere and local flavour.
Mukherji on the other hand said that it is students who did not attend film school that are bound to sample diversity of Indian cinema. “You get to watch various movies from various parts of the country on television, so people like me, as I was growing up, saw Indian cinema in full splendour. And thanks to such movies, as a child, I learned to read subtitles. It was a very important thing to grasp cinema and sample diversity,” said Mukherji. Agreeing with Narayan, he said Hindi cinema does not represent Indian cinema entirely. “When you venture out you sample the cinema from different parts of the country and obviously there is Hindi which has an unfair hold on the popular imagination as far as the presentation of Indian cinema is concerned,” he said. He considers the role of film festivals as a way of exposing knowledge about Indian cinema and thus making people understand that there is a universe of films beyond Bollywood.
Being only one film old, Shah realised the importance of diversity in his films when people from various parts of the country, who speak different languages, helped in making a Guajarati film. “There were people on the set who spoke nearly nine languages who were helping to make a Guajarati film. This is a great example of diversity in India,” said Shah.
The directors further ventured into speaking about remakes of regional films into Hindi films. Narayan highlighted the fact that Bollywood is at a loss of subjects and hence goes on to make remakes. “Hindi cinema seems to be at a loss of subjects, so there are agents who are waiting like vultures. That is a super hit in the south or Bengal and they actually have the rights. And when they remake it in Hindi they are not able to catch the ethos and the culture of that region, and have destroyed whatever originality that Hindi cinema has because they are all relying on regional remakes,”
When speaking about diversity being a good thing, Mukherji said: “It depends on how you handle it and take it to another level without the influence of other cultures. Diversity does help; it gives you ideas through folk tales and songs, which trigger your mind into making an authentic story. So overall it can be dicey but it should be
Narayan on the other hand is thankful for diversity. “I would say thank god because it would be terrible to make films in one language even though it’s a national language. If films are not made in these languages and all these great stories were only told in Hindi it wouldn’t have done justice to the story,” he said. Shah believes that regional filmmakers should be given a chance to make a film the way they please. “Diversity is the need of the hour in Indian cinema because we know the kind of films made in Hindi. We have great filmmakers in many languages so there is diversity. We should get to tell our story in our languages and dialect,”