When the biggies blur the lines
A filmmaker’s job is to hold the audience attention and not just deliver a message, filmmaker Zoya Akhtar tells Asmita Sarkar at the launch of the Delhi edition of the Mumbai Academy of Moving Images (MAMI)
On a humid and rainy weekend in Lutyen’s Delhi, top Bollywood directors put their weight behind the launch of something close to their hearts: the Delhi edition of the Mumbai Academy of Moving Images’ (MAMI), a platform for filmmakers that has already received appreciation for its work in Mumbai in bringing world cinema to the doorstep. And give us a perfect reason for indoor binge-watching on rain-washed days. In the process, they want to engage with curious minds on fresh ideas and content, forces which are gradually changing the contours of our films as we know it. So there are going to be workshops, discussions, open houses and masterclasses.
“The festival is a boon because these are films that many people don’t have access to theatrically. It’s a completely different experience to watch a film that was released somewhere else but not in India on the big screen uncensored. For long, ours has been a staple diet. Slowly, there’s a shift in film fandom about absorbing a point of view from other cultures and contexts,” said director Zoya Akhtar, during the launch.
Other filmmakers like Vishal Bhardwaj, Anurag Kashyap along with festival director Anupama Chopra, singer Rekha Bhardwaj, and MAMI creative director Smriti Kiran were also present at the launch at PVR ECX, Chanakya. The launch party was organised by Managing Director, PVR Ltd, Ajay Bijli, and Joint Managing Director, PVR Ltd. Sanjeev Bijli.
The festival is also a platform for independent filmmakers to showcase their work and reach out to a greater audience. But Akhtar objected to the term “independent” because she said that the lines had now blurred between mainstream and arthouse films. “There is no line now, there is no commercial and parallel cinema. Independent films were called so because they were not funded by the studio system. Now big producers are backing creative projects. So those lines are dissolving. The same people have expanded their bandwidth. So a Dharma Production can fund a Kalank alongside Raazi, or an Ae Dil Hai Mushkil with Kapoor and Sons,” she added. “Stars are also cross-pollinating. This is s good time for Indian cinema though we may not realise it,” she said.
Continuing on the same strain, she said that while everybody in the country knows about the Hindi film industry, the perception that it only held good in the north than the south is also changing. “For long we had been conditioned into thinking that the south has its own syntax, glamour, stars and the star system, but Bahubali showed how everything can cross over into national relevance.”
Akhtar felt filmmakers are always questioned about the message they’re sending in their movies and sometimes about the lack of one, but clarified that they were story-tellers first and that it was more important to engage the audience that had bought a ticket and given them 2.5 hours of their lives. “A filmmaker’s morality, value system, politics and point of view come out in the method of story-telling. You see a filmmaker’s work and will be able to tell how they think about women or other issues but there is no rule that we have to give a message. Engage an audience. That you must do. Hold their attention in whatever way,” she said.
Akhtar has broken compartments in the course of her career, offering an unpretty, inside view of the film industry and the shelf life of its characters in Luck By Chance, or male bonding in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and a dysfunctional family behind the riches in Dil Dhadakne Do. She has consciously not driven home the women orientation while presenting powerful women characters. Asked if she would work in a film on female camaraderie in the future, she said, “If I have a good idea, I would work on it. I don’t decide just like that. I decide a project on the basis of a script because it takes a long time to make a movie. It takes a long time to write the script, decide a cast... it’s a long process and the script must be so spectacular to hold you that long and keep yourself invested,” she said.
Before she begins wrapping up her next big project, Gully Boy, on street rappers, her short film called Lust Stories, in collaboration with directors Anurag Kashyap, Karan Johar and Dibakar Banerjee, will be released online. A candid look at urban relationships, Akhtar believes that Indians have indeed come of age when it comes to their depiction in the popular space and are comfortable about being themselves, warts and all, without referencing themselves against any popular culture.
What makes the Delhi edition of MAMI even more special is that it will happen at the newly launched PVR ECX, Chanakyapuri. The property holds great nostalgic value for Delhiites as it is the brand new avatar of the iconic Chanakya cinema showcasing a wide spectrum of great content. As both the PVR brothers, Ajay and Sanjeev Bijli, said, “We have always encouraged and facilitated people to build a relationship with a broad range of films, ensuring that film culture can be accessed and enjoyed by everyone across. We aspire to bring together distinguished industry specialists and discerning movie lovers through accessible screenings, panels, workshops and showcasing cinema that embraces diversity, innovation and unique perspectives. Aimed at featuring critically acclaimed filmmakers, industry professionals, and award-winning talent around the world, this programme is rich with opportunity – to stay informed, be challenged, feel the pleasure of escape and see the world differently.”
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