Celebrated South Indian filmmaker, K Vishwanath, who is known for directing ‘Sankarabharanam’, the 1980 Telugu film highlighting the neglect of traditional Indian music under the increasing influence of western music, has been awarded this year’s Dadasaheb Phalke Award. The octogenarian director of Hindi film classics like ‘Sargam’, ‘Kaamchor’, ‘Sanjog’, ‘Eeshwar’, and ‘Sangeet’, who will be honoured with a retrospective of his films at the IFFI 2017, speaks to NT BUZZ
RAMNATH N PAI RAIKAR | NT NETWORK
- You have been a very good storyteller and are known for narrating quality stories through your films. Do you feel that technology is now dominating films?
It is primarily all technology that has taken over films. Actually, before computers arrived, God had already given humans a brain to think with. Computers changed this set up. However, if you ask any person, which is the back seat and which is the front one, I feel that human brain is still in the driver’s seat. As far as technology is concerned, it may be helpful in doing things faster or in an easy manner, but it is basically the human mind that works, with stories forming the soul of films. As we all know, soul is very important for a body.
- You have made some very significant films in Hindi in the past. What are your reasons for not directing a Hindi film since the mid-1990s?
The reasons are very peculiar. Everybody will give a reason for it as per his own advantage. Suppose you ask an aging artiste as to why he is not appearing in films nowadays, the artiste will say that he or she is not getting a right story. The actual fact is that the artiste is not booked, not being approached. The producers are not approaching old people. So the reasons are being camouflaged. Producers are putting a veil on their reasons. In fact, I never tried for Hindi films in the first place, and now that I am out of them, I am not trying to go back to them. Frankly speaking, even if I try, I may not get to make another Hindi film. Of course, given a chance, I could have made many Hindi films, because as long as my mind is fertile, it would be wrong on my part to keep quiet. If one is not physically able to work on the set, then it is another matter. In such a case, the person automatically has to take a back seat. As long as the functions of a creative person are normal, he can very well be productive.
- Is the situation similar in South Indian film industry?
Everywhere it is the same situation. It is a universal phenomenon.
- Music is the core of most of your films. You used the Indian classical music very effectively along with the storyline. Today filmmakers are going for fusion music. Do you see this as the demand of the changing times?
That’s very true. But first of all we should understand that almost no film made today has a storyline based on classical music. Say a film like ‘Mughal-e-Azam’ had ample scope for use of classical music. Until 20-25 years ago, most of the songs were melodious and used to be based on some raga, or at least have a classical base. The point is that today’s filmmakers, first of all, don’t have a conviction (about music). They are upright (in this matter). That’s why proper use of music in films is not seen today. Still, nowadays, once in a while we get a good song. There are filmmakers like Sanjay Leela Bhansali who retain the classical touch for the songs in their films. And their songs are getting popular too! However, generally speaking the change in the trend of music is natural. Your grandfather wore a dhoti; you are wearing a pair of jeans! The advantage or disadvantage of this change is a different thing. Tea may be given in a kulhar, the terracotta cup in Kolkata, or may be served in an expensive tea set in a starred hotel. It’s all a matter of vanity!
- Filmmaking in India started with a studio system, followed by the era of directors, and today, we are witnessing that the films are sold on the strength of the actors acting in them. How do you observe this metamorphosis?
Fortunately, there are still some directors around whose name sells the film. I do agree that at one time only directors mattered; for example, people would go to see a Shantaram (V Shantaram) film, they were not bothered to know who the actors in his films were. Similarly, people would go to a film solely knowing that it is a Raj Kapoor film. These people left their stamp on their film, and continued to do so, on their subsequent productions. Today, if you see films of these great directors, you can easily identify their styles. They did stick to their own school of conviction. Today, whatever changes have come in the filmmaking process, we will have to accept that.
- How do you react to the bestowing of the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Award upon you?
It’s the highest award given in the country for a film personality. I don’t feel that (with this award) two horns have come on my head and a third eye has come up on my forehead (laughs). But the government has recognised my talent and there is a good feeling that one’s hard work will be always paid. It may take time, but it will always be paid.