The celebrated cinematographer, screenwriter and director, Apurba Kishore aka A K Bir has been chairing the technical committee for the International Film Festival of India over the past couple of years. In an exclusive interview with NT BUZZ, he discusses the IFFI infrastructure in Goa as well as the art of cinematography, among other things
RAMNATH N PAI RAIKAR
- For the past couple of years, you have headed the technical committee for the International Film Festival of India. How do you look at the infrastructure that is available in Goa, for this prestigious film festival, which arrived here fifteen years ago?
Actually the committee has been looking forward for a permanent film festival complex, having been given such an assurance by the government, which would house all the necessary ingredients for the festival. So at the moment, we are focussing on the main auditorium, where the international films would be screened. At present, Kala Academy is acting as one, but then it is more of a multipurpose auditorium that can handle theatre screenings, musical concerts, drama performances, and other cultural activities. However, it doesn’t function as an exclusive film screening complex. Therefore, so far what we are doing is a make-shift arrangement. In fact, just a building, a screen and a projection facility would not serve the purpose for a film festival of this magnitude, and we have to look at many other perspectives. At a film festival, the creation of the entire ambiance is necessary too, so that the whole atmosphere becomes very congenial for the people to view the films, with their minds focussed on what is projected. The colour scheme, the decor, the type of screen, the side masking; all these things are very necessary. Of course, for a layman it may not sound anything important, but for a person with specific technical perfection, we require to have all these specifications, which is not the case in Kala Academy. All these years, we have somehow or the other managed to get through the requirements. I have been continuously putting in my best efforts to overcome the shortcomings in these areas, and yet maintaining the screen of an international standard.
- You are also a member of the expert committee set up by the government of India to review functioning of film institutes in the country. What is the exact mandate of this committee?
This committee has been recently constituted, after sparking of an idea that we need to review, every now and then, our film institutes. Today, many things are happening all over the world, at a very fast rate. So while keeping all these elements in view and at the same time, considering the resources available to us, sometimes our minds think that if such things are happening in other places, then why not here. Therefore, the basic idea behind this committee is to inculcate the spirit of learning irrespective of whatever the situation is. We haven’t met so far, but the idea would be to have an interaction, have an analytical understanding about what exactly should be the basic foundation on the basis of which these institutes are catering to the students. And the students are supposed to be the future reflection of India’s promise to the world, in terms of cinema. That’s why we have to see how well the students can be tuned up, to be groomed, and at the same time have an open mind to receive a message as well as give messages. In terms of the teacher-student relationship, it’s the interactive process we have to develop in these institutes, in which the teacher provides the input to make students feel more enlightened, more energetic and at the same time also maintain a certain kind of dignity and respect, in terms of the source from which the students are activated. So this is a crisscross moment in which the students develop their sense of understanding.
- As one of the topmost cinematographers in the country, how do you see the human element in the art of celluloid cinematography disappearing after the advent of the digital technology?
Ultimately this medium, which asks for one’s ability to record images of a particular sensibility, very much depends on the human aspects of the creative effort. Now, these human aspects are of different kinds in nature, perception, sensitivity and grasping power, and then one is able to process it through the human element. That’s where the creativity comes in. When we talk about cinematography, it’s a way of writing (on screen) with light, and writing involves language. This language needs to have a particular character and nuance, so that it could be very simple to be perceived by any common man to get the feel and sense of the overall experience in imagery form. That’s the objective of any cinema.
The technology is another area, which keeps on developing every moment. However, how these developments are received, perceived, assimilated, understood and grasped depends on the human mind. That is where the cinematographers enjoy bringing new perspective to their usual perceptions. This is why cinematographers have to keep themselves very alert and active, while developing their sensibilities. Unfortunately, today the technology has overtaken the human factor, making its pursuer its slave. And a slave loses his principals, his clarity, his distinction and his ability of creation.
- You have been the regular cinematographer for directors like Basu Chatterji – ‘Khatta Meetha’ (1978), ‘Prem Vivah’ (1979) and ‘Hamari Bahu Alka’ (1982) – and Bhimsain – ‘Gharonda’ (1977), ‘Dooriyaan’ (1979) and ‘Tum Laut Aao’ (1983) – working in many of their projects. Are you of the opinion that every director needs to have a regular cinematographer for his films?
A cinematographer actually tries to interpret the director’s ideas, thoughts and feelings. So there needs to be a better understanding between the two. A director would like to have a cinematographer, whose temperament, sensibilities, grasping power and human nature connects well with his own way of thinking. Therefore, a film director looks for a cinematographer, who could be in harmony with him. The two form a unit by itself. They are there on the set taking decisions, while the rest comes later. One important example is the nature of frame with which an image is captured. The frame is followed by light and colour to enhance it, the lenses for magnification of the image, the resolution including tonal quality of the image, and so on. The establishment of all these factors, and the point of view to be taken, requires the combined or individual decision of the two. In short, the roles of the director and the cinematographer have to gel harmoniously.
- You have directed a number of children’s films like ‘Nandan’ (1998) and ‘Baaja’ (2002), besides others. What is the scenario in our country as regards children’s films?
The children’s films in this country are not as enriched as they should be. Probably there is a lot to do (for these films) in terms of social phenomenon as well as our educational system. Our educational system gives a very stagnant way of understanding in terms of knowledge, and in the stagnant form, people do not exercise the real feeling of being human. There is an element of innocence in every human being, but people start believing that they are very knowledgeable, which is not the fact. People then go for assumed understanding. Projects pertaining to children’s films are taken up to become commercially viable. So such films produced in the country neither have sense of innocence, nor an element of adventure in them. Naturally, our films for children are rootless.