An Interview With Anand Patwardhan

April 28, 2012 16:04

An Interview With Anand Patwardhan

By  Joshy  Joseph
It happened during the 1988 International Film Festival of India (IFFI) held in Trivandrum. I was trying to persuade Anand Patwardhan to agree to receive the first copy of a book on Malayalam cinema at an official ceremony from the reputed film critic of The Guardian, Derek Malcolm. The author of the book was a friend of mine. Anand agreed to receive the book but not without posing a question to me : “Why Derek Malcolm? Is it because he is a white man?”

Many years later when Films Division interviewed Anand for a curtain-raiser film on Films Division for MIFF (Mumbai International Film Festival for documentary, short and animation films), I heard him saying : “Luckily, we need not refer to Ben Kinsley as Gandhi, since FD has the original Gandhi footage !”

Anand speaks so lucidly through his films and in person. That is why, even while working for an official documenting agency, I always go back to Anand`s films for measuring the actual height and weight of Indian history.

Every time I wake up for a sunrise shoot or patiently wait to capture a clear-sky sunset shot, I cannot help envying Anand. I cannot recall a single `beautiful shot` in his films — a shot devised for the sake of achieving beauty. It is the political conviction that illuminates his skies without bothering about the acceptibility factor, that strikes me over and over again. It is not for nothing that Anand`s films have withstood so confidently the test of time. And about the wrath of a nervous officialdom towards him and his films, it is only a cinematic addition to the good old stories of flourishing court poets aplenty juxtaposed with one or two poets of destiny. 

Here is an interview with anand patwardhan.

Mathrubhoomi

JJ 1 : “My film-making was not born out of a love for cinema”, you said.  You also have said that, “If you try to get into film-making as a career, then I think its not worth it.”  And here we are talking to film-maker Anand Patwardhan. What pushed you to film-making?

I liked still photography and my mother had bought me a second hand enlarger, which we installed in the bathroom when I was about 15, but my love for cinema began after I started to make films and not really before this. In that sense I am an accidental filmmaker. The trigger for my first film footage was the anti-Viet Nam War movement in the USA, which I had become a part of.  I had a scholarship to study Sociology at Brandeis University, then a hot bed of anti-war protesters. We did many actions against the war and I borrowed a camera and filmed some ofthese.Later I also made a short film to raise awareness and funds for East Pakistan refugees who were pouring into India in 1971. This was just before the war of Independence that led to the creation of Bangladesh.  America, allied to Pakistan at the time, was in denial about the repression and murder launched by the Pakistani army and their collaborators, so our film was a reminder of what US policy was unleashing.

Filmmaking was far from my mind when I returned to India in 1972 and worked in a voluntary organization called Kishore Bharati where we tried to encourage scientific temper in rural education as well as tried to modernize farming techniques. In one of our fraternal organizations at Rasulia there was a clinic where doctors had noticed that Tuberculosis patients got cured but then often relapsed due to a lack of long-term care. So I made a 20 minute film strip using still photographs and a sound track on a cassette player to play for outpatients. Incidentally Dr. Binayak Sen had joined the clinic at Rasulia and worked there for several years not long after I left.

By 1974 I joined the Jayaprakash Narayan led Bihar Movement against corruption which escalated into a demand for Sampoorna Kranti (Total Revolution).  I fell into filmmaking again when in November 1974 a big demonstration was planned in Patna. Expecting police violence the movement asked me to take photographs that day. Instead I went to Delhi and recruited Rajiv Jain, a friend who had a Super 8 camera and an 8 mm camera. With this amateur equipment we filmed the November 4 Patna mass rally and the resulting police repression. I then went back to Delhi and projected the 8 mm footage on a small screen while another friend with a 16 mm camera filmed off this screen achieving a rough “blow up”. I returned to Bihar with yet another friend Pradeep Krishen who had recently bought an old Bell and Howell 16 mm camera that you need to wind up manually to shoot for 30 seconds at a time. All this led to the making of “Waves of Revolution” a film that went underground immediately after completion as by June 1975 a State of Emergency was declared by Indira Gandhi.

JJ 2 : So, your entry into films and your entity now as a film-maker were very much shaped up by your politics.  Does the search for your idiom of cinema and your ideology inter-twine? I will try to explain a bit. Although you do not mind being branded as “Indian Michael Moore”, I somehow find a major difference between your idiom of cinema and Michael Moore’s techniques. You have also expressed it – “He is guilty of striking too many blows even after his opponent is down for the count”.  Similarly, your observations about Fernando Solanas’  ‘Hour of the Furnaces’ – “I appreciated its directness and sympathies, but I remember not liking the form very much as it bombarded the viewer with slogans, rapid-fire cutting and authoritative textual interventions”. The operative words are ‘blows’, ‘bombarded’ and ‘authoritative’. Does the Gandhian in you search for a peaceful intervention through the medium of cinema? Does that define your idiom?

It is true that I am drawn most to non-violent struggles for justice because I feel that violence even in a good cause ultimately dehumanizes us, but I wasn’t quite aware that this preference influences my approach to cinema or my appreciation of cinema form. Now that you say it, it seems plausible. I never want to hit my audience on the head with a sledgehammer but am delighted if by pointing them in the right (or rather, left) direction my film makes them feel that it is they who came to these conclusions on their own. My job then is not the job of a bully who brainwashes them into submission but of a lawyer who slowly persuades them on the strength and weight of the evidence placed before them.

JJ 3 : Where should today’s viewer locate your cinema with its tilt towards the Latin-American school of thought of ‘Imperfect Cinema’ and in the backdrop of today’s much hyped school of ‘Artistic Cinema’? Answer me in a detailed manner as these are aesthetic questions very much related to the political positioning of film-makers and their times?

Just as I prefer to avoid labeling myself philosophically and politically as a Gandhian or a Marxist or now, an Ambedkarite, I also find the labels attached to cinematic form somewhat stifling and claustrophobic. “Imperfect Cinema” was a theory that grew out of the conditions of filmmaking prevailing in the 60’s and 70’s in Latin America where those fighting against brutal, oppressive regimes worked without funds and without good equipment and always under the threat of being caught, tortured and killed. This cinema bore the marks of its own birth passage so that scratched film, out of focus, hurriedly taken shots and jerky movements were worn proudly as a badge of courage under adversity. Working in India the threat to life was not so acute but I did face a similar paucity of equipment and funds, had to be secretive for fear of arrest and my early films reflect this. Later as I bought or borrowed better equipment and my own technical abilities improved by trial and error, my films began to have a different look and feel. Today the technology itself has changed dramatically so that even a newcomer to cinema can shoot brilliantly sharp and attractive images at a relatively low cost. There is no “imperfection” left except that, which is deliberately created and therefore quite artificial.

As for “artistic cinema” in truth I am rather allergic to the term. If there is such a thing as art, it is an unconscious activity and not a self conscious one. To me the self-conscious creation of art is not art, it is usually another three letter word starting with the letter ‘C’.  Adivasis who paint on their mud huts or artisan potters do not call themselves artists. Their work is declared as art only when we put such objects into a frame and invite a certain kind of gaze. So I am wary of people who call themselves artists because I think that while this indefinable entity known as art may exist, it is the job of history and geography to recognize it.  When something transcends time and space and is appreciated over decades and centuries and across cultures and national boundaries, it must have touched a universal truth, which we can, for want of a better word, call art.

JJ 4 : You were a fellow-traveller of Jayaprakash Narayan’s anti-corruption movement in Bihar and also documented it with an 8mm camera in the black & white film, ‘Waves of revolution’.  What was J.P.’s answer to your question, that even Gandhians recognize and emphasize the class question.  Since you could observe the JP Movement from within, I should ask you a question of the core difference between the anti-corruption movement of J.P. and Anna Hazare. What, how and why?

Those were heady days for a 24 year old who had returned from an idealistic peace movement in the USA and then spent a few years in the intractable Indian countryside where the pace of change was terribly slow. The Bihar Movement was in contrast exhilarating with its promise of social, economic and political revolution. I saw people breaking their caste threads, landed families parting with land, students who vowed never to take dowry. The signs of danger were present though. JP had tried to rehabilitate the RSS because he had seen their dedication and commitment during famine relief work a few years earlier. In the national imagination the RSS was still the ideological force that killed Mahatma Gandhi. JP however was convinced that he and the Bihar movement could wean the RSS away from its religious hatred of minorities and forge a vibrant youth movement for social change. I was skeptical and even wrote articles in Everyman, a paper run by the movement, warning against the entry of the RSS. History has shown that while JP made no real headway in changing the RSS, the RSS was able to use JP to rehabilitate itself and become a national power to reckon with. In time the BJP was created, the Babri Mosque destroyed and India has never really recovered from that process of polarization.

In the post Emergency period JP became a figurehead that no one listened to. While he himself remained somewhat of a left socialist, talking of class struggle and arguing for the release of all political prisoners including Naxalites, Nagas and Mizos, he was soon sidelined and made irrelevant.

What is the similarity with Anna Hazare’s movement? While Anna is in no way an equivalent of JP either in stature or in intellectual capacity and unlike JP is probably a votary of “honest” consumer capital development, there are unmistakable parallels and the distinct possibility that mistakes of the past shall be revisited. Today, as it was in 1974, there is undeniable public disgust with high and low levels of corruption. There is the iconic old man of integrity who is the symbol of the fight back. There is the RSS in the wings, the only organized force that may gain from all this. There are also those at the side of the old man who are warning him against falling prey to the RSS. Let us see what unfolds.

JJ 5 : Now in your latest film, ‘Jai Bhim Comrade’, you asked poet and activist Vara Vara Rao that while addressing the class question, the left ignored the caste question. Without pausing there, the film further commented about the left leadership being dominated by the upper caste comrades. How do you further your long quest and ‘tryst with caste-destiny’ in India, in ‘Jai Bhim Comrade’?

I am not trying to pass judgment on any individual or party nor do I want to undermine the tremendous contribution made by people who were not born in poverty and stigma but still chose to side with the oppressed.The film is an attempt to create the space for a dialogue on caste not just with the Left in all its myriad forms, but within the Dalit movement and with upper caste elements who are not even aware that a caste problem exists in this country. I think different sets of people will take away different things from the film. What I am happy about is the number of people across the class, caste and political spectrum who have told me that they could not sleep at night after watching the film.

JJ 6 : The Dalit Movement in Maharashtra is depressingly fragmented and is bereft of any vision ignoring the Dalit identity itself. One time rebel poet Namdeo Dhasal and Republican Party of India’s Ramdas Athavale are co-opted by Hindutva forces. Your film has several real life episodes of the suicide of your friend and poet Vilas Ghogre and the cold blooded murder of fire-brand leader Bhai Sangare, which are also depressing.  Unlike other ‘festival circuit film-makers’, since you took the depression in your film straight to the people (like BIT Chawl and Ramabai Colony in Mumbai) by premiering there, you addressed and engaged this depressive scenario, both in your film and in the Dalit unity, head-on. What then?

The response from the Dalit community at large has been phenomenal. Not only are the numbers in the audience huge, 800 at BIT chawl and 1500 at Ramabai colony, people have stood up for 3.5 hours as chairs were not available. Everyday there are calls from different parts of the state and country to do more screenings.

The film is obviously fulfilling a felt need. People have seen their leaders fall prey to venality and compromise and yet they have no alternative but to join one or the other compromised political entities. So the dissatisfaction is great. I have shown many films to working class audiences in the last 40 years. This is the one film that draws huge crowds and rapt attention. Perhaps it is the language, the Marathi that is spoken in this region, perhaps it is the music but most likely it is because people feel betrayed by their leaders and identify with the clear voice of the dynamic youth in the film who speak uncompromisingly for radical change.

J 7 : Lets talk about literature for a while. Dalit writing in Maharashtra has got a deep-rooted strong presence unlike the Bengali Literature.  The ‘Dalit’ word itself is alien to the Bengali dictionary. Although my friends like Palash Chandra Biswas are questioning the caste hegemony in Bengali literature, the general perception is that in a post-Tagorean period, the marginalized were brought to the mainstream discourse by writers like Mahasweta Devi. Writers are public intellectuals. What is the scenario in Marathi? In your film ‘Jai Bhim Comrade’, playwright Vijay Tendulkar attacks the Shiv Sena in a common man’s language and tone. Do writers make their presence felt in public life? Does Marathi Dalit writing impact beyond literary circles?

Here I have a confession to make. I read Marathi literature quite infrequently and with difficulty. My parents never spoke Marathi at home as my mother was from Hyderabad, Sindh. I grew up more or less with English as my mother tongue (except when speaking with my father’s relatives), went to schools where the language of instruction was English. I really began to learn and speak Hindi well only when I joined the village project, Kishore Bharati in Madhya Pradesh and then later in the Bihar movement. My Marathi remains basic but has improved in the 14 years it took to make this film, though even now I grope for words when having to make a public speech in Marathi.

So it would be wrong to think that I approached this film from a literary perspective. What triggered it was my specific love for Vilas’s poetry and music and later the poetry and music of others like him, like the dynamic Kabir Kala Manch.

As for the public role of Marathi writers, in recent times not many have passed the bravery test. While in the past Marathi writers, specially Dalit writers, had their glorious days of speaking for the masses and speaking out against injustice, in later years many so-called progressive writers who had been radical in their writings ended up kowtowing to whichever party came to power. Vijay Tendulkar and P. L. Deshpande are amongst the exceptions who withstood the wrath of fascist forces without blinking.

JJ 8 : “I liked literature until I started to take it up academically and then I got bored with it”. Is it the case even now? If so, why? You think academics are boring people?

You could put it that way. Sometimes they are not necessarily boring as people but their output is boring. They have learned the fine art of cross-referencing with or without using footnotes. For me a work of literature or even literary criticism falls flat on its face if it depends entirely on familiarity with another body of knowledge to which it endlessly refers. To understand T.S. Eliot you have to read Ezra Pound and to understand Pound, you read some Chinese texts and so on and on and anon. Why? I want works to speak to me here and now, to feel and smell and taste it. Then if I get excited enough I will bother with the back-story.

What happens in the world of academics is not very different from what happens in the world of art. Big words and incomprehensible sentences pose as signifiers of brilliance. I confess to being bewildered at first, giving the work a large benefit of doubt and then slowly finding myself getting irritated because I trust the fact that I am not plain stupid and that if I just do not get the point of something there is a possibility that there is actually no point of import being made; that the beauty everyone is awed by lies merely in the dress up.

As a documentary filmmaker I constantly have to grapple with how to represent the complexity of everyday life. If I use a cinema language and code that is only accessible to a select few I could do rather well in circles that celebrate such an approach. But it would mystify and alienate others whom I want to reach out to. So while I never try to over simplify what I see, I do endeavour hard to bring out the most important aspects of a situation in a cinema language that is clear and direct so that I am confusing only when the material in front of me is actually confusing.

JJ 9 : Are you an Atheist?

I am an agnostic. ie I don’t know if there is a thoughtful Creator or it all happened by accident. When one looks at Nature and how intricately inter-dependent all creatures are, the sheer genius of it makes you want to believe that we are all a part of a grand design. On the other hand how thoughtful can our Creator be if he/she also created evil and sorrow and suffering and death ? If he/she had such super powers why not create a happier world ?  So I like what Bhai Sangare says at the end of Part One in Jai Bhim Comrade when he quotes the Buddha: “If God exists it won`t make any difference to you. If he doesn`t exist it still won`t make a difference. So the Buddha didn`t speak of God or of the soul or of the Supreme. He spoke about the existence of Man. He didn`t even speak about what happens after death. The Buddha only spoke of how we should conduct ourselves on the journeybetween birth and death.”

JJ 10 : I do not think that hell is God’s idea and in that sense the binary of hell and heaven vanishes for me.  Christ is an experience and that helps from my mundane anxious moments like the take-off and landing moments of the aircrafts I travel, to all the other travels in life.  How do you keep your calm at your testing moments as a film-maker, like the most humane face I love to remember in ‘Ram ke Naam’, the Head Priest of the Ayodhya Temple who was so articulate, convincing and compassionate – priest Laldas – who later got murdered and the news reaches you … every time I see this film, I am gripped by that take-off / landing tremor. But Christ experience helps. What about you?

I think it is possible to be spiritually and psychologically grounded without being at all religious. My father was like that. He had no irrational religious beliefs and yet he was more secure even at the age of 94, when death was around the corner, than anyone else I have met. He loved life but was ready to embrace death without the slightest regret. I am not like that. I think my lack of spiritual belief leaves me vulnerable and yet I cannot exchange it merely for the sake of comfort.

On the other hand though I have made many films against religious bigotry I am not intolerant of people who are genuinely religious specially if their religion teaches them to be just and tolerant to others as Gandhi’s take on religion did, or Lincoln’s did.

JJ  11 : You are so miserly with the first person singular, ‘I’ or ‘me’ in your films except in ‘War and Peace’, where you talk about your family roots in national politics and even the subsequent disillusionment. It was for the first time, viewers got to see Patwardhan universe with Patwardhan family. But in your writings (eg. Committed to the Universal, India and Pakistan : Film Festivals in contrast, The battle of Chile, Terror : The aftermath, The Good Doctor in Chattisgarh, The Messengers of Bad News, How we learned to love the Bomb, and Republic Day Charade), the connect between the narrator and the reader is so effortlessly established by ‘you’ (or ‘I’) being there. I do understand that ‘you’ don’t have to be there in the narration in all the films, as you are very much present through your questions and the images you shoot – you handle the camera and you edit.  Still this doubt lingers on. Is it something to do with the differences of the medium of cinema and the medium of writing? In cinema you have multiple tools and in writing, the only tool is words.  And ‘you’ throw yourself more concretely.  Am I making any sense to you?

At the best of times I have tried to avoid or minimize commentary or narration. I really prefer the images and sounds I have captured to tell their own story, albeit with help from me as an editor. On rare occasions I achieved this as in “Bombay Our City” where there is no voice over at all for the full 82 minutes. At other times when the images and sounds I had captured needed some explanation or some important backgrounding, I provided this through narration. In “In memory of friends” I used the words of Shaheed Bhagat Singh to comment on the India and Punjab of the 1980’s.

In ‘War and Peace’ there was a special reason for using a first person narrative. BJP was in power and I knew I would be branded as an anti-national for making a film that questioned India’s nuclear nationalism. So I began the film by telling the audience that my uncles had fought for India’s Independence and spent many years in British jails. ie think twice before writing me off as a traitor.

Again when making “Jai Bhim Comrade” I chose not to have a voice over but used more impersonal inter-titles to give information or pointers throughout the film. This was because I did not want to become the focus of this film as there were far more important events and people that deserved attention. Of course as you say I am in the film, through questions, through camera, through editing and through the friendships I made.
 
JJ 12 : After the ‘iron curtain’ which existed during the cold war period, today there is a ‘velvet curtain’ in the world media which is a very tricky curtain. You fought and won many wars against state censorship and you wrote about ‘velvet curtain’ – “In many ways the censorship that is practiced in democracies today is much more insidious because the public is blissfully unaware of it. They are sucked in by the ‘choice’ of a 100 channels that serve up the same fare, sell the same soap and cola, provide virtually the same infotainment and the same Page 3 news, 24 x 7.  They are so conditioned by this fare that they do not mind or even realize the total absence of the vital stories of our times”.  How to tear down this velvet curtain? Even after recording the other missing stories for almost four decades by now with a missionary zeal, don’t you feel lost and somewhat preaching just to the church choir?

Not at all. Everyday and at every public screening I attend brings with it the vindication that it has all been worth the effort. I get a huge amount of positive feedback from viewers. What I confess is frustrating is the low levels of distribution normally available to documentaries and consequently the fact that millions of Indians have never seen these films. Let us see how it goes. I think with ‘Jai Bhim Comrade’, at least in Maharashtra we may make a real breakthrough in terms of getting this film out to the masses.
 
JJ 13 : “It doesn’t have to be high art for it to be useful”, you said.  Will you be embarrassed, if I tell you that in my viewing experience, your film ‘War and Peace’ transcends as high art?

I do think that if there is art, it is there in everyday life. There are times when one gets lucky and is able to capture such moments. I told you the example of the Pakistan schoolgirls debating nuclear war in “War and Peace”. My camera viewfinder was not functioning. So I put the camera on auto focus and wide angle and blindly moved it to wherever the next voice came from. It became the best sequence in the film!
 
JJ 14 : You think fascism in India won’t actually become full-blown fascism because of our centuries old democratic traditions and Arundhati Roy believes its not much the  democracy, there is a kind of inherent anarchism which will save India.  We just haven’t the order and organization that fascism seeks in order to thrive.  But when Arundhati spoke despairingly about virtually all existing non-violent movements and termed Mohandas Karachand Gandhi as ‘perhaps our first NGO’, you reacted sharply to that. You don’t negate Marx for Gandhi and Gandhi for Marx. You have admitted that your ideal was always mixed. You wrote a paper in 1971 to integrate Fanon and Gandhi; for Fanon violence was necessary to overcome the sense of inferiority that the black man had internalized and for Gandhi only through non-violence could you dispel this inferiority.  Don’t you think our tribal uprising today, though in expression it is Maoist violence, but in essence, it is desperate in that expression, desperate to negotiate with the state which only responds to violence? Don’t you think that violence is only its nature of expression, an attribute, not its essence? To quote our Pastor John R. Higgins, very similar to the Ayodhya priest Laldas – “The essence of water would be H2O; an attribute of water would be transparency”. May be Arundhati was trying to make her point forcefully regarding this ‘attribute – essence’ core involved in the Maoist issue. What do you think?

I don’t have fundamental differences with Arundhati except that I have absolutely no romance of the gun. While my opposition to violence is gut level and instinctive I think violence has no pragmatic value either. I do not believe that in the 21st century a sophisticated Indian State can be overthrown by an armed struggle launched through the forests of India. So I fear for the lives of the bravest and brightest of our people who choose to make revolution by the force of arms as I see it as a form of suicide. I see adivasis being caught between State violence and the violence of the Maoists. Of course it is the State that must take the major blame for having expropriated the lands and livelihoods of the people. But the answer provided by the Maoists will not bring long term relief. I also see ordinary people, mostly Dalits, adivasis or other sections of the working poor who protest systemic violence being branded as Maoists as has happened with the Kabir Kala Manch. It is the unfolding of a tragedy.
 
JJ 15 : Let me slow down and ask you certain short and personal questions. Tell us about your association with ODESSA and your friendship with John Abraham and later with Sarat (C. Saratchandran).

John had seen my films Prisoners of Conscience and A Time to Rise and invited me to join his Odessa team and travel through Kerala with a 16mm projector doing screenings from village to village. Later I did the same thing with Bombay Our City. It was a wonderful experience although my conversations with John were always funny as he was usually drunk and yet somewhere continued to make profound sense.

With Sarat there was a longer relationship which developed from our common desire to take cinema to the people. Sarat was one of the most selfless filmmakers I know, promoting the work of others without talking about his own substantial work that had documented all the major environmental and peoples’ struggles in Kerala including the most famous one to oust Coca Cola from Plachimada.  Sarat brought me to screen my films in Kerala several times and with his limited resources he even made a Malayalam version of my film Ram Ke Naam.
JJ 16 : I know Aravindan’s ‘Thambu’ is one of your favourite films. I have a non-sub-titled copy with me which I will present to you. Why do you like ‘Thambu’?

Never thought about it, but initially perhaps because it so resembled a documentary. It was beautifully shot in dramatic black and white in what appeared to be available light, the plot was minimal and yet the characters in this working class traveling circus grew on you.
 
JJ 17 : Art and Politics were integrated in your family. Your mother was a Shantiniketan trained potter and your father was from a socialist family immersed in the struggle against British Rule.  I had seen you accompanying your father in Pandit Bhimsen Joshi concerts.  You lost both of them recently. You have dedicated ‘Jai Bhim Comrade’ to the memory of Sarat, Tarique Masud and your parents which is very touching. Tell us about your parents and your upbringing.

It is hard for me to speak about my parents now as no day passes without me wishing they were still here. In consolation everyone tells me how lucky I am for having had them for so long but in a way when you spend 60 years of your life attached to two people their sudden absence becomes that much more difficult to bear. My mother passed away from cancer at 80 in 2008 and I have still not even put away her things, not made a memorial website for her as I intended to do. She was one of India’s first “artist” potters who specialized in glazing. Her book “Handbook for Potters” can be found with almost all glaze potters in India because she experimented on thousands of glazes, clays and temperatures with her immaculate chemistry work and hard physical labor and rather than keep the “secrets” she had discovered, she shared the fruits of her work in this recipe book of her experiments with glaze.

My father’s absence I feel even more acutely. He passed in 2010 at the age of 94, perhaps from a common cold, which may have become pneumonia because his old heart was too weak to pump out the fluid. He was cheerful to the end and we had no inkling that these were his last days. He had always said that when the time came for him to go, he would go in an instant and he did exactly that. His brain remained sharper than mine right to the end. He could remember even cell phone numbers if you said them aloud just once so he was our directory and our encyclopedia. He cried when he saw movies and he laughed aloud at the drop of a hat and yet he was the calmest and gentlest person I have ever known, one who never once raised his voice in anger.

Needless to say I was lucky to have such parents. The other day I chanced to look at my birth certificate dated February1950. In the column where caste had to declared is written: Indian.
 
JJ 18 : One last question again expecting a lengthy answer – you like a diarist form in films but not a confessional one. “I haven’t got to the stage where I want to bare my soul on camera.” Why this aversion to confession? You think being confessional is a fashion with ‘artistic cinema’ and doesn’t get along with your ‘imperfect cinema’? But Gandhi was confessional. May be Richard Attenborough glossed over those aspects. Even your review in ‘Economic and Political Weekly’ entitled ‘Gandhi : Film as Theology’ had an intimate confessional quality of writing, from a film-maker. Why not to bare your soul on camera?

I am definitely neither as honest nor as self aware as Gandhi. Nor do

I believe that everything I do, good or bad, is a lesson others can learn from one way or the other. So I do not want my personal life on air. I don’t want to live in a fish bowl with people gazing in. My films are another matter. I do want people to gaze on them. That is the difference.

April 28, 2012 16:04