Jabs and Jabber

A fun and freewheeling chat between Rahul Bose, Aseem Chhabra and TBIP editors Pragya Tiwari and Rishi Majumder on what the 14th Mumbai Film Festival got right and what it got wrong

 

Pragya Tiwari: Ok. Opening ceremony, since that is the one thing that we all watched, and opening film. Thoughts?

 

Aseem Chhabra (to Rahul): You want to start?

 

Rahul Bose: Well, I…. look just to have the opening ceremony at the Jamshed Bhabha (Auditorium) was something that, you know… it is a crying need for us to mount something well in the beginning. So I think that that auditorium, that entire complex being used, is a huge feather in their cap. I’m sure Mr. (Shyam) Benegal had something to do with it but I can’t swear by that.
So I thought that the venue was great, very well attended. As far as the actual Lifetime Achievement Award and things go, I think that, personally, Zhang Yimou, is somebody who in the beginning made films like Raise the Red Lantern which really, sort of, showed you a new lens. But I’m not so sure about his later work. Lifetime Achievement Awards will always remain bones of contention. I’m not… I don’t think I’m contentious about it. I think he deserves it for his earlier work and less for the big people-flying-across-the-air kind of work.

 

AC: People flying across the air was fine. I actually love them. I didn’t really care for his last film, The Flowers of War. It’s a very, sort of, important interesting theme but it just lacked the dramatic content. But, you know, people flying across the air with the swords, there was a lot of art in what he did.
But he evolved from those very important social themes.

 

PT: But when we’re talking about a Lifetime Achievement Award I also feel like we’re rewarding, or talking about a larger context in which this person worked.
They were known as the second generation?

 

AC: The Fourth Generation.

 

Rishi Majumder: The Fifth Generation, after the Cultural Revolution.

 

RB: I’m not even making a political comment on what he did in the Beijing closing ceremony (at the Olympics). Lets not even get into that. We’re talking about his achievement as a filmmaker. And as a filmmaker, I think there is no question that it’s a gigantic piece of work.

 

PT: And he’s also representative of that generation of filmmakers. The Fifth Generation that came out of the Cultural Revolution. And they were the first guys who were negotiating a new language for cinema and the new political conditions. So I think somewhere that is also a part of it. I’m not saying that’s at the centre of it, but I’m saying that it’s also a part.

 

AC: And also from China’s perspective, he is the first guy in the last two decades who actually brought forth Chinese cinema, it’s almost like the early (19)50s when Kurosawa brought Japanese films to world cinema. Of course, there were Japanese films being made before. And there have been many other Chinese filmmakers after him, but the scale at which he made the films, even the smaller ones, they had this appeal, they moved out of just being vis-a-vis Chinese films. They had, sort of, a universal unity. So, I don’t know why he was picked. I don’t want to be a cynic, but maybe because he was available.

 

(Laughter)

 

 

PT: You’re not being cynical. You know the story. You’re not being cynical…

 

AC: I’m a huge fan of his, so…

 

RB: I thought introducing the jury was a lovely idea which, maybe, happens at every festival. But somehow, here it seemed to have a ceremony that I don’t associate with other festivals. Does it happen every festival?

 

RM: Lighting the lamp?

 

RB: No, when they introduce the Jury.

 

AC: I don’t know. I’ve never been to Cannes, but i think they do it there.

 

RM: I think they introduced the Jury in other festivals as well.

 

AC: Berlin does that also.

 

RB: In that case, maybe they do it everywhere, but it’s very nice to see the faces behind who…

 

PT: That is wonderful. That is wonderful. I think the lamp-lighting and all of that, there was a lot of comic reverence there, including the plastic not coming off… (the lifetime achievement trophy at the time of presentation).

 

RB: Lamp lighting has, like many things in a secular country—where secularism means ‘being equally closed to every religion’ versus the French version of secularism which is ‘equally distant from every religion’—our country started with Mahatma Gandhi. The definition of secularism was: being very close. In a majority, in a society where the majority is Hindu, you are going to have a lot of the majoritarian cultural mores infiltrating into the so-called secular space. I have written a whole article about it. Why don’t we ever see an Islamic ritual that is permeated across the Indian spectrum of religions? Or for that matter, Zoroastrian. The answer obviously is that even in England, and most often in America, the Prime Minister goes to church. He actually goes to church every weekend or whatever. And says ‘thank you God’, and all that stuff happens, right? So there is a much greater connection between religion and state there. I’m not saying it’s great but it’s greater. Lamp-lighting is one of those things that has become ‘Ah, this is Indian’. And it seems very HIndu. And as Aseem says very rightly, it’s a Hindu tradition. You could actually just recite poetry for the opening ceremony.

 

RM: Which might have been preferable actually.

 

PT: But to be fair, there is a line, like with everything. See with lamp-lighting, for example, a lot religions in India, the way they are practiced, a lot of rituals are actually common. Like the lighting of fire is common. Parsis worship fire. I’m saying the act of lighting the lamp may not be, but Parsis worship the fire. Hindus light a lamp and most dargas have the same ritual of lighting a lamp, or lighting a dhoop (an incense stick), or whatever. So I think that in India, it’s what you are choosing. I was at the Habitat (the India Habitat Centre) for something and this was a function for street kids organized by street kids, the majority were Muslim, because they were from the slums, and the thing organized was to sing to Ganpati. So it was Jaidev Jaidev… (a Hindu hymn) and there was a Ganpati. There was an idol there, and the whole dance was organized. That I felt was perhaps…

 

AC: Obviously Hindu?

 

PT: Yes, because it doesn’t offend anyone’s sensibilities to light the lamp. I don’t think that it does.

 

RB: Again, its the lens you look at it from. For example, I know this lady who works for a friend of mine and she converted from Hinduism to Christianity and her name became Mary. But when it came to Diwali she asked for a Diwali holiday. So my friend said “but Mary you’re Christian”. She said: “naam badal gaya, iska matlab dharm nahi badla (just because the name has changed, it doesn’t mean thereligious duties/way of life have changed too)”.

 

AC: That’s a great quote.

 

RB: It’s a fantastic quote because there is a whole ocean of meaning beneath that. It could well be that so many idol makers are Muslim.

 

RM: The complexity of secularism…

 

RB: There are so many wonderful threads of actual secularism that takes place in this country which is not something that anybody is talking about. How does the flower get sold in a market? You see where it starts from, and you’ll see it goes through at least three different religions.

 

PT: As long as it’s a matter of choice, it’s perfectly fine. When it’s not then it’s a problem.

 

RB: I disagree. I grew up in a convent school, I said the Lord’s prayer everyday— but it’s not choice: the fact that I said the Lord’s prayer everyday and sang to Christ. I sang every single hymn to Christ.

 

PT: But, Rahul, I felt that too and I feel that still. But I’m saying, maybe that is our perspective as the majority. I mean, you and me are in the majority and it doesn’t threaten us in any way to go to church. But coming back to the question…

 

AC: I’m sorry. The point you made, the question you asked about the opening ceremony and the opening night film (Silver Linings Playbook). I want to touch upon the opening night film. I think it came from Toronto (the Toronto International Film Festival), hugely popular, won the Audience Award and I can see why. I mean, its not the greatest film ever made but I did laugh a lot. It was overstretched at times. I thought it was very romantic. But I think for the opening night of the film festival, it was the right choice actually because it’s not supposed to set the mood for the rest of the festival but it’s supposed to be a celebration of cinema and they picked, sort of a popular film… and the audience absolutely loved it. Even last year, Moneyball, which was a more… heftier film and was the right choice. Very impressive, the films they got even for the opening night.

 

RB: MAMI really came from being a little infant to this huge entity, I think 2 years ago. This year the selection of films was just incredible. I mean to get those films and filmmakers here is something with which India struggled. Kerala did it with a modicum of success, has been doing it. But now the festival really has done it. Suddenly, BOOM! It’s not just the infusion of money, I think it’s also got to do with taste. The kind of taste that they have shown. Today, I mean I was at the Jury at the Kerala Film festival, and I would be hard pressed to choose between the two, but the kind of quality they have actually shown… (Abbas) Kiarostami, (Mohsen) Makhmalbaf, you have everyone here and I agree with Aseem, that the opening night film at the festival was spot-on. It had big-ness, it had the crowd-pleasing-ness, yet it wasn’t Rocky 4. So it was a great choice.

 

PT: Yes I think it was a great choice.

 

RM: Actually what we’re saying about the opening night raises an interesting question which then links up to Zhang Yimou being awarded the Lifetime Achievement. It was Oliver Stone last year. One remembers 4-5 years ago it was Majid Majidi. Do you think that the focus is shifting to something which, like you said, is not Rocky, but far more mainstream, and the way the festival is projecting itself?

 

AC: The rest of the films are not necessarily, altogether, mainstream this year. They had some very… they had some brilliant… they finally showed Amour yesterday. Very serious, very important film…

 

PT: It’s how we define mainstream. I mean, I would say that (Michael) Haneke or Zhang Yimou are mainstream. Mainstream is actually a word that can be interpreted very differently.

 

AC: Mainstream in the art house circuits.

 

RM: Exactly.

 

PT: Yes. So he is mainstream in the art house sense.

 

RB: I have just watched 13 films and you don’t know any of those filmmakers.

 

RM: Right.

 

RB: It’s an extraordinary collection to have. So just because those 13 films don’t open the festival on the first night… Ultimately, as Aseem very rightly put it… Cannes (the Festival de Cannes) has had some shocking opening films. The tradition of opening films is that the selection doesn’t necessarily translate into the identity of the film. So one should be forgiving because it’s always in a big hall. Thousand people, two thousand people. There has to be an appeal to a certain broad spectrum. You know, you are not going to turn around and show some slit-your-throat Scandinavian film.

 

PT: Which you will be watching back to back in the next 5 days.

 

AC: Well I saw Holy Motors. Did you see that?

 

PT (laughs): Yes I saw Holy Motors. And I also know that you’re the only person on twitter…

 

AC: Well at least I had the courage to say: WTF (What The Fuck). What with people going ‘It’s brilliant… ‘

 

PT: Actually I liked it, but we’ll come to that.

 

RB: You like the film?

 

AC: It’s in my top ten list of most bizarre films I have ever seen.

 

PT: I find that director extremely intriguing but we will come to that for sure. Okay, the ‘sections’ and the ‘selections’. Whats the difference between the ‘sections’ and the ‘selections’ do you know? There are the competitive sections…

 

AC: There is the International Competition and the Indian Competition.

 

RB: I have no clue.

 

PT: There is India Gold.

 

RM: There is Dimensons Mumbai.

 

RB: Short film festival. Short film competition.

 

PT: Dimensions Mumbai that is the short films on Bombay by first time filmmakers.

 

RM: No, that’s just short films on Mumbai.

 

PT: Okay. Then there is the Celebrate Age which I am assuming is related to age or specific to elderly people, I’m not sure. Those are the four categories. Then you have Retrospectives, New Faces in Indian Cinema. Above the Cut which is basically films that did not make it to the International Competition and World Cinema, which I’m guessing is a catch-all category. But then there is something called the ‘selections’ which, if you go to their website, is Rendezvous with French cinema, Italian cinema, Restore Classics, India Film Worldwide, The Real Reel, The Pusan Selection, 100 years of Cinema.

 

AC: Afghan..

 

PT: …and the very unfortunately named Kabul Fresh. I’m not really sure what the difference is between the selections and the sections. Are they all different categories?

 

RB: I have no clue.

 

AC: I have no clue how all it is done but I personally feel that, as much as the programming is really really good—this is my second year here—I found the festival trying to be very ambitious. There is just way too many. I mean it’s remarkable that they have the silent films and the restored films. I think the MAMI should have those in many festivals through the year. I think the people should go see… some of the Italian films— the subtitles weren’t working, but the restored films— they were brilliant. And they are being shown only once this part of the town and they’ll never come to Mumbai. I think they are in New York. I live there so one can still see them. I think there was too much happening. One retrospective, two retrospectives is good. I don’t know. What do you think about it?

 

RB: I agree with you. I think it would be lovely if many of these selections/sections would be repeated. It’s like once you look at the buffet, and you’re so happy that next week there is just the rogan josh.

 

AC: You go to refill your plate only with two things.

 

PT: I completely agree there definitely should be mini festivals around the year. And you always face this. Even in (the) Jaipur (Literature Festival), it can be frustrating, there are times, when you go from one venue to other…

 

RM: Your three favourite authors talking at the same time.

 

PT: This is way too much. There is just no way.

 

AC: No matter which festival you go to, you never can watch all the films.

 

PT: But if they have such a wealth of selection then at least some of these… New cinema from Afghanistan or things they were showing from the (19)20s and the (19)30s which is priceless. I mean I have no idea of the Italian selection of films.

 

RB: Yes, the Italian selection was delectable. Oof!

 

AC: Yeah the Italian films, some of those films were pulled out, they had subtitling problems. I think what is even more important is that— last year I was at Versova Cinemax, and it’s the audience that I was seeing. Young 20-something, 30-something year old budding fiilmmakers. All of them, college students who are writing scripts, people who, like Rahul, have been in the film industry. There are so many people. But most people try and go for what is the most popular film. I mean I didn’t go for the Amour screening yesterday because I had already seen it but I think there was a huge demand for that. In the process what happens is that some of the old restored classics get neglected. Once Upon A Time In America was shown and I was dying to see it and I didn’t end up seeing it. I have seen it twice before. But there was another new film. Even I went for the new film. I think specially the restored classics should be shown in a space where people can only focus on that. People will (also) run to see the latest film from Cannes because that will never come here in any case. So some spacing needs to be done organizationally.

 

PT: It’s not just the fact that the film won’t come here. I think also the lure of the new films, or the foreign films, is also because of censorship. Because you know a lot of films are not going to… for example the reason I was really upset when I met you that day, when I couldn’t watch Miss Lovely, was because I had no idea what form it would finally take, when it is released. How much of it is going to be cut.

 

RM: Or Shahid.

 

PT: Shahid I don’t know. I think Shahid should get away.

 

AC: There may be some language issues but there is no sex in it.

 

RM: Before watching it we were scared— what if it doesn’t release or they cut certain parts of it…

 

PT: Also, because I’m not sure the case (with Shahid) is subjudice in that extreme way, so it should be fine. So I think that also becomes a big concern. These are films we are not going to be able to see on the big screen because they are going to be, if they are ever going to be released, there are going to be with so many cuts that, you know…

 

AC: All people who are aiming to be filmmakers should see (Luchino) Visconti’s The Leopard. The three hour version of it.

 

PT: Of course. Of course. Anybody should be able to see it.

 

AC: I don’t know how many went to see it. Film festivals are also part of educating…

 

PT: Or Kalpana

 

AC: Kalpana. I don’t know how many people went to see them.

 

PT: So what could be done differently? What do we think could be done differently?

 

AC: I have a few things but Rahul can talk first.

 

RB: No, no. You are a programmer, you have a clearer perspective.

 

AC: I think that the programming was very very strong, the selection was very strong this year and even last year. I think organizationally there are some major issues and I’ll say so openly. Practically everyday screenings were being cancelled. I went the first day, the first day was last Friday. The first film I went to see was an Iranian film. Nira Benegal was with me and we were very excited to see that. Ten minutes into the film and: no subtitle. The subtitles would not come. And yesterday it happened with another French film and I have heard many people complain about the aspect ratios of the subtitles. You know, it’s very important that every print should be tested. You should get the prints in advance and, you know, these multiplexes can show Hollywood films and Bollywood films but they also need to be trained to show other foreign language films with subtitles. Very important. All of that requires a different kind of skill set than just selection and I think, from the organizational point of view, this festival needs to grow up more. I know it will because it’s a very ambitious festival.

 

PT: Specifically, in relation to technical glitches, the technical side needs to, sort of…

 

AC: The many many technical glitches or prints arrived that didn’t have subtitles, when they should have arrived 2 weeks ago, 3 weeks ago, so you should have been able to see them.

 

PT: Also Taste of Money, just right before the climax the film went off.

 

AC: Right, and people left. And I actually came back and realized the film was still going on.

 

PT: Yeah, actually, a lot of people thought the film was over. Then they came back.

 

RM: Also in Girish Kasaravalli’s film (Kurmavatara) some of the actors’ heads got sort of chopped of, a bit…

 

PT: Yeah stuff like that.

 

RM: Thats something, you know, when you have a festival that is so ambitious and you have fabulous films then I feel it’s the finishing touch, it’s about the last mile…

 

RB: Look it’s the little things that can happen and you can’t predict it. I mean, in my debut film, its a film called Everyone Says I’m Fine, and my debut screening was in Toronto, at TIFF (the Toronto International Film Festival). And the sound went off. Its a 6.1 mixed film and the entire sound collapsed and they refused to acknowledge (it). I went to them and I said: you’re actually playing it from the front two speakers, mono style, literally from the 1920s. I said people couldn’t hear anything because it was mixed. There was the sound of salon machines going on, there was music in the salon, the sound of the person talking, the sound of traffic outside as the door opens and shuts. So there were four levels of sound that were all mixed up and presented in the front two speakers. And the projectionists, they refused to… they said “it cannot happen, our system cannot collapse” and I told them “it definitely has, what are you going to do about it” and they said “there is nothing we can do about it”. The whole film, completely, I mean, there is no defence. We got distribution, we got some wonderful reviews, and some not good reveiws, forget all that. The point is that it happened in Toronto. It slaughtered a guy’s opening film on the opening night. Do I hold it against them? Of course not. It’s a technical issue. The next day they came and said the whole box had burnt down. It’s never happened in their history. So I said… what can you do? So those little issues of heads being cut off and stuff, I think we can be forgiving about. Aseem makes the larger issues. Subtitling the film, you obviously expect, because you want people to see and understand the movie. It’s as simple as that. The only aspect I can speak of about the festival is as the member of the Jury and how that whole thing has been handled. It’s been flawless, really flawless. Its unbelievable how well planned they are.. they are juggling four juries going to four venues, watching approximately 70-80 films.

 

AC: Have you seen the films in the hotels or in the theatres?

 

RB: In the theatres. All in the theatres.

 

AC: Oh with the audience.

 

RB: No separate jury screenings at mini-theatres across the city, South Bombay. So, for them to juggle—and we keep bumping into other juries—it must have been a logistical nightmare in itself, this little thing. But exquisitely organized without the shadow of a single glitch. Everything happened on time, everybody is waiting and at all the venues the screenings have been going really well. So if I was to look at it, because I haven’t been anywhere else, I haven’t had a moment to breathe, I would say that these guys really know their stuff on this side. Of course, I’m aware…

 

PT: Which is absolutely great to hear. But coming back to subtitling for a minute, I was wondering what the subtitling policy is. Because I know the Hindi films are subtitled, the regional films are subtitled, the foreign films are subtitled but the English films are not subtitled which I’m not sure…

 

RB: Where are they subtitled anywhere in the world?

 

AC: No, in India, now, Hollywood films are being subtitled in India.

 

PT: If you want to watch The Dark Knight Rises in Delhi or Bombay, there’ll be ‘n’ number of screens..

 

RB: My question is where else in the world? I have never seen English films be subtitled anywhere else in the English speaking world…

 

AC: Except in India and what’s happened in India is that, I guess the studios have realized…

 

RB: You can’t understand the American accent.

 

AC: Well, yeah and you can really access a larger audience, people who think they understand English and if you give them the chance… Hey I like subtitles also. If you show me an Irish film, I want subtitles although they speak in English.

 

PT: I like subtitles. Even when I get it. I think I don’t like missing dialogues. But that apart, I’m wondering… if we’re subtitling Hindi films, we’re subtitling Shahid and showing it at MAMI, I’m not sure why On The Road was not subtitled or Silver Linings Playbook. English films are the only films which I have seen that have not been subtitled in the festival, which is obviously making the assumption that anyone coming to the festival understands English as a common language. Every other language, including Hindi, is not common to everybody else. I was actually afraid the Hindi films would not be subtitled which, fortunately they were, but that is a very strange decision.

 

AC: I don’t think that it’s a strange decision because that’s what’s happening in the commercial market in India. As Rahul said, where else are English films…

 

RB: They assume that if you can read English, you can understand English also. Why are you making a distinction? I’m saying they assume that if giving subtitles helps you— if you can read the damn thing, you can definitely understand the damn thing. The people who can understand spoken English are far greater than the people who can read English.

 

AC: Well, the other thing is…..

 

PT: But I’m saying there are so many filmmakers who cannot speak English very well.

 

AC: There are a few, well like Zhang Yimou, who probably cannot speak it very well. Is he still around? Has he left?

 

PT: No, but I’m saying, I’m just wondering if it makes sense because you are subtitling everything. How can you not subtitle that as well? Because you’re subtitling everything else in English…

 

RB: And I can counter argue that I hate subtitles because it makes me look here when the filmmaker wants me to look there. So, if it’s a language I understand, take them off. Let me see the cinema. I might miss a word or two. But, you know, I actually try my best to watch a film without subtitles because which filmmaker wants a guy to spend half his time looking at the words.

 

AC: I have seen, in Puerto Rico (The Puerto Rico International Film Festival), films—some Hollywood… some Tom Cruise film, I forget, and there subtitles were in Spanish and I don’t read Spanish, I don’t understand Spanish but I’m also trying to read that than listening to the film.

 

PT (laughs): That is way more distracting…

 

AC: Can I make one more point about the operational point? I think, one of the things that the festival needs to do is that, at the festival there were many glitches—I keep hearing from people—they were often because of the poor manager at INOX who is clueless about what is happening, and people want to know, to talk to the people who are running the operations. I think the festival needs to have more responsible people who actually can make decisions and are there and can handle technical issues and can give answers to the audience. Because the audience is very confused about what is happening. Why are the screenings being cancelled again and again? The Conformist screening was cancelled.

 

PT: The Miss Lovely screening was cancelled at Versova.

 

RB: Oh really?

 

AC: Yeah

 

RB: Why was that?

 

PT: Well the festival issued a statement saying that Ashim (Ahluwalia) did not want to show it again.

 

RB: Then how come they programmed it?

 

AC: Well, they programmed it. I don’t know…

 

PT: It eventually went on. Somebody said that Ashim wasn’t happy with the slot. Nobody really knows, but that’s what the festival said. Yeah, lots of cancellations but its always nice to know why. I’d gone there at 10, in the morning, woken up at 7 in the morning, stood in line, only to find that…

 

RB: Which were the cinema halls in the North in the festival?

 

PT: It was Cinemax Versova, Cinemax in Sion. INOX in town. Liberty… and Liberty lot of the screenings were cancelled because of technical issues.

 

RM: One whole day at Liberty.

 

AC: It’s been pretty odd how many cancellations have been happening. Everyday, practically. And yet, people are still patient, people are still lining up. It’s just such a rare opportunity to see these films.

 

RM: And the spread (of films).

 

AC: That’s why I was saying, that if there was any way to get across to the audience and explain to them what is going wrong, I think people would be a little bit calmer.

 

PT: Yeah, of course. It’s always better, which I think they were trying to do it on Twitter, on Facebook— they had a note by the festival Director saying what went wrong where, which is, I think, very graceful. But one issue that, if I had an issue with the festival, would not be the with festival itself. I feel like there was room to have more interactions, you know. I wish there were more interactions, more seminars, more talks because you have a lot of people coming down and I would also like hear them. I would also like to hear panel discussions. So if things like that could go on in the side, or if there was more scope to perhaps meet them formally and informally. I mean, festivals like Cannes have a lot of parties that are organized by corporates, so there is a lot of scope to network as well. That’s also an important aspect of festivals, The business part of it, to be able to sell your film. I mean, there is the Film Mart, the one formal space. But I think that is one thing. Because there was a whole bunch of people here, and a lot of people were like “oh this one is here as well. I couldn’t meet them”. So I think that would also be a…..

 

AC: There has to be space where you can have that. It doesn’t have to be parties or things like that. It could be this concept of an open bar— which we have in America, where in the little festival I organized (the New York Indian Film Festival) and Rahul has been there and we do it at the Tribeca cinemas— where there is a bar at the back and some nights, events are sponsored by restaurants, there is some food, there is some beer, other than it’s just an open bar. And people just want to be able to mingle.

 

RB: It’s not a little festival, it’s a wonderful festival.

 

AC: Thank you. But there, if you look at the Bhabha theatre (the Jamshed Bhabha Theatre, at the NCPA), there people are mingling in the lobby right there and I actually ended up….

 

RB: I think that what Aseem does very successfully at NYIFF is what the really big film festivals have already done for years, every morning in Toronto we used to walk into the Festival badge holder’s lounge, before you went to all your screenings, you have your festival brochure with you, everybody would come, get a cup of coffee, get a croissant or something. And there was food, like 18 hours a day, in that place. So you’ve met, touched base: ‘Kya dekh rahe ho (what are you watching)? Where are you going? Okay fine, lets meet up.’ So there was a place to touch base and then you again touched base in the evening at a party.

 

PT: Which is what Osian’s (The Osian’s Cinefan Film Festival) also does.

 

RB: It’s really simple for them to do. And, god knows, MAMI is so well-funded, they just need to have that space where everyone who is an accredited festival goer can walk in and walk out of. There is a… what do you call them… the ones who have a delegate pass, and an industry pass. So you have two— where the business of cinema is conducted, that’s a lounge, and there are two lounges. And you just go there every morning, yawn wake up there and then take off.

 

PT: Because that’s what’s so great about Jaipur (The Jaipur Literature Festival), right? That you can actually ….. the literature festival.

 

RB: Is there a lounge there?

 

PT: Well, there isn’t a (special lounge)… they keep it extremely egalitarian. So they don’t reserve spaces

 

RB: One of the amazing things about book festivals is that you can have it in little rooms all over the place.

 

PT: Yes

 

RB: Here, in cinema, you have to travel to cinema houses. That’s where the great need for a place arises where everybody can come in the morning, start, eat a little…

 

PT: But Jaipur had that Flow, that part, that café, you know right at the back where…

 

RB: I know. Pragya I don’t think that you can compare a book festival with a film festival.

 

PT: No, I’m just talking about the fact that there’s this space to mingle and talk and interact and that adds so much.

 

RB: Jaipur’s Flow is, you pay at the restaurant. I’m making a different point. I’m saying here is a place where you walk in for free, you’re there because you’re a delegate either with the artistic side of cinema or the business side. You walk in everyday, there’s always coffee and tea, and beer, in fact, sponsored by whoever it maybe. So even between screenings when you go in there just to go to the restroom, come out, stuff like that, it’s always central. I would position this one at NCPA.

 

AC: And that’s why NCPA has been… and you know what I find very important for me, for instance in those kind of settings, is that you talk to somebody… Anurag Kashyap for instance, has influenced me so many times, to change what film I’m going to see. He said “Horror film dekni hai” and you go to see the horror film or something like that. Last minute, you know, your plans change because somebody else recommends something and you’re like, okay, maybe I should go check that out.

 

RB: And you know a lot of business is done there, because in this business it’s about relationships. It’s about…

 

RM: Keeping it very free flowing…

 

RB: If a director likes an actor, he will repeat that actor in three or four films despite that actor not being the best person for that role. A producer works with a director although the director’s new film is of a genre the producer’s never touched— because there’s a relationship. He (Aseem) will program, and I’m not saying this is partiality, it happens, he will look forward to programming X filmmaker’s work because he loved the previous piece of work and they had a coffee together and they walked and saw a horror film together. You know, this is how it works, but it’s splendid. These are the little tendrils that happen. The industry has always worked on this. You turn around and say my film didn’t turn out well— Aseem, you gave me 10 crores to make my film, I can give you 5 back now. On the next film, which you would have paid 10 crores for, only pay me 5.

 

AC: Right.

 

RB: But that only happens when you have an actual one to one relationship.

 

PT: Absolutely.

 

RB: Festivals are… I know Andre Turpin, the French-Canadian, from Montreal, because we drank all night one weekend. That is where the actual sense of community and business and exciting collaborations happen. So I really think that that’s one thing that needs to be done.

 

PT: And can be easily done.

 

AC: Then there were quite a few panels, I think one or two may have gotten cancelled because of Yash Chopra’s death. So there was that, and I actually went for half an hour for a panel on film restoration.

 

RM: Which was actually very good I heard.

 

AC: Which I found very interesting. I had to leave early because in between films I had lunch. And it was very interesting to hear different perspectives from people from outside India. There were quite a few filmmakers. I mean, it would have been great… I don’t know, did they have just one on one conversations?

 

PT: They had something called the Masterclasses, which were also with Indian filmmakers or Indian film personalities— Jaya (Bachchan) for instance.

 

AC: Yeah Jaya Bachchan and Geoffrey Gilmore.

 

PT: And just, not really, not any panel discussions or any…

 

AC: The director of Taste Of Money was here, he was on the jury also.

 

RB: Im Sang-soo. Declan Quinn is here. He’s a fantastic resource.

 

AC: He’s worked in Indian cinema, he’s done lots of Indian films.

 

RB: Mira’s (Nair) films

 

PT: Imagine all the young filmmakers who’d absolutely love to come and listen to him talk and just listen to him, and what he has to say and even if he was on a panel, if there was an open interview format with Declan talking to somebody about his work and about what he thinks about stuff. I think I would…

 

AC: Geoff Gilmore who really built Sundance to where it is today and is heading Tribeca, again he is busy with his jury duty. But it would have been fantastic.

 

RB: We finish our duties by 6. So an evening session…

 

AC: It would be fantastic if he had just just talked about film festivals, what they do to cinema, independent cinema movements, it would be fantastic.

 

PT: I would have attended those over the films because I can still watch…

 

RM: You can catch the films (later) possibly. I think the film restoration session is a case in point something very interesting happened there, which I heard about—I didn’t attend the session—which is that Dev Benegal stood up from the audience and shared his own story and spoke about…

 

AC: There’s a film called English August, with this gentleman also (Rahul Bose), which Dev is desperately trying to restore.

 

RB: Oh is he?

 

AC: Yeah the print is in a bad state

 

RM: …so he spoke about a Satyajit Ray film which he found just lying under some producer’s bed in a very bad state. But the point being that it’s that kind of interaction that really makes a festive space come alive. To have an interaction there, that has people reacting from the audience. It sort of creates that atmosphere.

 

PT: That’s what gives you stories, you know…

 

RM: …to tell, and that’s what makes you remember festivals.

 

PT: One thing that I found curious, and this is not a good or a bad thing, this not a criticism, is that given that this festival is in Bombay, which is the capital of film glamour in India, when you compare it to a glamourous festival like Cannes, glamour is not something you associate with this festival and I found that very, very curious

 

AC: We had Sridevi the first day and that is quite glamourous.

 

RM: And there was a red carpet.

 

PT: That’s because we love Sridevi.

 

AC: Are you trying to say that there’s no Shah Rukh Khans and Aamir Khans is that what you’re saying?

 

PT: I don’t think I’m trying to say that the presence of X star or Y star… I’m talking about glamour on the whole, stars, of course, are a part of that.

 

RB: It’s to MAMIs’ credit that it’s never needed glamour to be a powerful festival and it continues to be to its credit. Glamour can only add. But at a certain point it can even detract. And you might have asked another question, like: Weren’t there just too many Bollywood film stars at this festival? Hasn’t it skewed the whole seriousness? Look how it was in 2012. So I’m saying at this point in time I think they’ve got it just right. It’s about the cinema. It’s about the films, it’s about the films, it’s about the films. All we do is we talk, if you read or hear anything about MAMI it’s about the films, about the conversations…

 

PT: It’s open to all. I mean if there were actors, stars whoever, if they were interested in watching films they can come and check it out.

 

AC: You know Pragya, sorry for cutting you but when you talk about glamour, you know to me… I guess the presence of star makes a difference but the opening night, there was a point where I had stepped out and some friends were smoking, I don’t smoke, because smoking kills.

 

 

(laughter)

 

 

PT: Well done

 

AC: And within minutes, there were Shridhar Raghavan, there was Sriram Raghavan, there was Sudhir Mishra, there was Vikramaditya Motwane, there was Rahul Bose. There was a lot of star power, in that sense there. That’s what makes the festival interesting, we don’t need to do… you can have… and all these people are accessible, people were walking up and talking to them. I was talking to Ranvir Shorey the other day and people kept walking up and asking to take pictures with him. That’s what makes glamour also.

 

PT: Of course it does.

 

RB: I would fundamentally disagree with you, because I don’t think any of us, any of the names you mentioned, are remotely glamourous.

 

AC: But that’s what makes it so glamourous, that you guys are there to be able to talk…

 

RB: We’re different kind of guys and this question comes from the obvious, like look: is it a good thing, is it a bad thing? I think neither. It’s a thing. And Cannes went one way and Toronto made a very conscious decision to go that way. About a decade ago, before that when I first went in 1995, it was a different feel when David Overby and all were running it. These are decisions that you take.

 

PT: It’s about the focus, you know Aseem I’d like to reiterate that it’s not about… there could have been a Shah Rukh Khan watching a film, it’s not a Shah Rukh Khan’s presence, it’s not about lesser rated star, it’s about the emphasis. Cannes has that whole thing where there will be a whole section of people, who wore what, the red carpet, you know all of that, which is a huge draw at a festival.

 

RB: Don’t we have enough of it in this city?

 

PT: Exactly. I’m not saying it’s a good or bad thing. It’s just interesting to me that it’s not a part of MAMI.

 

AC: I went to FICCI FRAMES last year, 2011. And some of it was very good, some of it was whatever. There was a panel which Karan Johar moderated with the young actors and there was a presence and that was the first time I met Vikram Motwane for instance. Closing night, Shah Rukh Khan turns up and it’s hysteria. Journalists were clamoring to be in the first row, everybody wanted to dance with Shah Rukh, I mean what happens is that that’s the other part of it. If you bring these stars it takes the total attention away from what this event is because we have… I also wanted to sit close to watch Shah Rukh dance… and I’m not saying that it was just other journalists. It sort of also takes the mood away from what we are here for, if you bring them.

 

PT: I agree, because there’s no such thing as controlled hysteria in India. Perhaps there is a degree of control to hysteria or star hysteria when we go to Cannes.

 

RB: It can happen but in Bombay, you have massive glamourous occasions. The Filmfare Awards, for instance. So you get… we get our dose of glamour. I don’t think we’re lacking it.

 

PT: My question was more about the emphasis. The same actress, one actress who attended Toronto and who was also watching all the films at MAMI was obsessing for 2 months before Toronto about what she’s going to wear every morning, every evening and she was here in jeans, in a T-shirt, for every screening.

 

RB: Fantastic, fantastic…

 

PT: And this is the same actress, who’d just come from Toronto. So I’m saying that is the difference. It’s not about the presence of that actress, it’s about how she…

 

RB: Lovely, that’s a compliment to MAMI.

 

AC: To me the greatest thing that I noticed this year and last year when you see the faces of people standing in the lines, and they’re young students, college students. This festival is 8 days long. So thousand plus rupees for 8 days of— you can see 5 times 8, that’s 40 films you can possibly see. It is remarkable how egalitarian this festival is. I mean I know other film festivals abroad also, when you talk about Cannes— those are expensive tickets…

 

PT: That’s very important… I think it’s a very well priced festival.

 

AC: And the films are reaching people who should be seeing them.

 

PT: Absolutely. I think that’s a very good point. That for 1200 rupees you could buy a season pass and you can actually watch (out of) 100 movies if you like, I think that’s fantastic.

 

AC: That’s really great, I mean obviously (that) Reliance is (behind this is) very well, the festival is very well funded. But it’s good that they’re making it available to everybody. Because film festivals can be very elitist also.

 

PT: I wanted to talk a little bit about the standing of this festival internationally, which you guys are in a much better position to talk on. So there’s not much, I think we can add. But my question really is about how it compares with festivals abroad, but more than that is it on it’s way to, and on the right way perhaps, to make its… to position itself as one of the big international festivals worldwide? Because it really matters if people also want to start saying alongside selection at Cannes, selection at Sundance, they also want to say film selection at MAMI and not just Indian films but films abroad as well. That is what will…

 

RM: To market them…

 

PT: To market them, because that is what will give it that standing.

 

RB: Look, one would like to believe that the heart of a great festival is great programming. But the heft of the festival, as opposed to the heart of the festival, is in the business. So people will come here saying this is a place to do business in. If you don’t have that, it’s never going to be one of the top festivals of the world. Be very certain about that. Because everybody including the stars now, will go into a place because they know that once they’re there, there’s going to be enormous business being interacted for that film. The business end of festivals, I think Indian festivals in general have not laid emphasis on this much. I was discussing this with the jury in fact yesterday, quite informally, and the first thing to get right is the heart of the festival: you have Amour, you have Makhmalbaf, you have Zhang Yimou, whoever it might be, right? You have these people, you have their films, so when somebody looks at the brochure and says ‘Huh, this is a pretty decent festival’. But what about the guy who’s doing business? Then you start working on the business side. It takes time for festivals. It took time for Toronto also. How do we organize it in a way that people can come in here and do business? Where is the lounge? Where is the place where they meet? Where are the industry screenings? Where are the industry panels? Where are the industry conversations? Where can those money boys, the suits, sit and crack deals? How do we make it attractive for the suits to come here? It could not just be your film— we can programme your film at MAMI. It has to be something else. What it is— I don’t know. Some people throw in free trips, some people throw in this and that. But you have to make it attractive because they’re always going to say: I’ll come if he comes, he’ll come if she comes, she comes if he comes and then they make a decision, they talk to each other. These guys will talk and say: “Are you going to be at Cannes? I’m gonna see you at Cannes, I’m gonna give Venice a skip.” This is how they talk. Aseem knows about this from the inside. That part of it, the heft of the festival, is defined by the business it does. It is never defined by the films that it gets. The heart is there. It’s very important to have that first. MAMI has the first part, is well on it’s way to doing the first part. The second part is where now, it’s tough work, it’s really hard work and it requires a different kind of noose.

 

AC: What I’m finding very interesting is, as the Indian market is becoming more and more important. I mean Tom Cruise did come here to promote his Mission Impossible 4, I believe Ang Lee is supposed to come here later this week or early next week to promote Life of Pi. Ang Lee doesn’t need to come here to promote Life of Pi but he’s still coming here, thinking the Indian market is important enough. If that is so, that could certainly translate eventually into a film festival of this size to be able to have more presence of industry and, as Rahul was saying, people who may not even have films showing here.

 

RB: No Aseem, it’s different. San Sebastian (where the San Sebastian Film Festival is held) is not a market for films. Ang Lee doesn’t go to San Sebastian because the Mexicans or the Spanish want to see it. My point is, even if Bombay was in the middle of nowhere, it was in the middle of the Indian ocean, it could be a great place to do great business. It’s not about the box office of India, it’s a different dynamic that is a separate creature unto itself, which the artistic director of the festival, like Aseem, might not have the nose to understand how to do that. It’s a different animal. And I’ve seen those guys, I mean look at Piers (Handling— the Director & CEO of TIFF) and the work that these guys have done in Toronto. It’s a totally different strategy.

 

AC: That day will come when you open the Silver Linings Playbook and Bradley Cooper and David O’ Russel and the entire cast, also comes for the screening.

 

PT: And they want to come to the screening because they’ve seen the audience react.

 

AC: Because they’re saying after Toronto we’re going to show our film in India.

 

RB: And you have distributors from all over the world coming to see— we wanna pick up that, we want that. We’re gonna meet Ang Lee here, we’re gonna meet this producer here, Harvey and Bob (Weinstein) are going to be here, that’s the thing you want.

 

RM: That’s where all the deals will be struck.

 

RB: Correct.

 

AC: So this is the very early stages, baby steps have been taken— the fact that they’ve got Geoff Gilmore to be on the jury and some of the other prominent film personalities. So they’re starting to invite people, people are coming and that’s what happens. People are going to go back and talk more about…

 

RB: Right now it will be a respected artistic festival, but as he said for them to go back and start talking about this they have to be assured that business will be conducted here. It also depends on the appetite of the festival organizers— one wonders which way they want it to go, who knows?

 

AC: I go to Telluride (the Telluride Film Festival) every year, and there’s no market at Telluride, but all the directors and all the stars still come from around the world because they just want to be there for 4-5 days and talk about cinema. So there’s that kind of a thing and Mumbai can be a nice place to talk about cinema, if it wasn’t so muggy here.

 

RB: Is Telluride a better place to go and hang out in terms of weather?

 

AC: It’s in the middle of the mountains.

 

RB: I guess that also helps interaction. It’s like having a festival in Kasauli. We had it last month and everyone came, 700 people were there. And I was like, this is going to be massive in the future because just to come to Kasauli… Aseem come to Kasauli for 3 days, stay at the quaint Kassauli club, overlooking the valley and just…

 

AC: I’m going to spend the whole year in India, the Delhi book festival, Mumbai film festival…

 

PT: I can draw up an itinerary for you right now.

 

RB: I think that Bombay is ready for a festival with industry heft. Seriously.

 

PT: I hope it happens.

 

RB: It is where every other kind of business is conducted.

 

AC: Can I say one more thing, I’m sorry? But one of the more remarkable things about this festival is that since there’s no government involvement, there’s no babugiri (bureaucracy) in this festival. When I was growing up in Delhi in the 70s, you know we started the International Film festival in Vigyan Bhavan in Delhi and in old Goa. And when I was talking to Namit Khanna, ’cause he also remembers those days where within 5 minutes all the tickets would be sold out because all the babus (bureaucrats), they were so much obsessed with seeing all these, sort of slight nude scenes etc. And it became a festival just for that. Every minister had to come to make speeches. It was so good that there wasn’t any minister who made any speech. There was no minister there right?

 

RM: No, not at all.

 

RB: I remember wintry evenings in Siri Fort, watching films and coming out and it was great fun.

 

AC: That’s a big part of it, because as students we were…

 

RB: Because also it was a nice, well not Telluride, but it was nice, the winter in Delhi, when you go out…

 

PT: And again I come back to Jaipur, and that’s what works for Jaipur, that sunlight, you just want to be there…

 

RB: And wherever you go you stumble into some palace in some state of disrepair or repair so you are always enthralled.

 

PT: William (Dalrymple— one of the directors of the Jaipur Literature Festival) keeps saying that in fact. That he doesn’t have to really work hard. Everyone asks him how do you get this guy and how do you get that, and he says: the big turks? They’re ready, they’re like I’ll come. I don’t care who you have, who you don’t have. Of course he’s being humble, he’s being William but it’s a big part of any festival. You know, I’m going to come to the films we watched finally. How many films did we all end up watching? You of course, had to watch 13 films.

 

RB: 13 films

 

AC: I guess I’ve only seen about 10-12 films, about 2 or 3 a day. Many of the films showing I had already seen because living in New York itself you get to see them. But there are some really wonderful discoveries. There’s a film that I missed, it’s been running in New York for a while, it’s a documentary on Aie Weiwei: Never Sorry. I had heard it was good. It was absolutely stunningly brilliant, it’s an amazing, amazing documentary about this man and his spirit and his art itself is remarkable… challenging the Chinese authorities where you can be banned and everything else. It’s a terrific, terrific film. There’s some really wonderful discoveries. I saw a Korean film called Architecture 101. It was such a sweet romantic film, I had no idea what to expect and it was just lovely. It was a great way to start, a film at 10 in the morning.

 

RB: Our jury films have been pre-selected. There was a huge number of films and they send up 13 films for this jury and 20 films for that jury. Obviously there were two groups of people who were selecting for our… And we’ve seen some absolute… just enthralling films. One or two have been very, very strange and puzzling but that’s what a film festival is about. You can turn around and say confidently that 11 of these 13 films  will have five people sitting in the theatre whether they’re enthralling, good and whichever way it is. Only one of them was a true… you can say this is a box office success and well that’s fine but that in itself, it showed us who the people behind this festival are, you know, it shows your taste. So it shows the taste of the festival. We were very satisfied.

 

PT: I’m sure you can’t talk about it.

 

RB: Yes, we had to give seven prizes so we were sitting yesterday and we’ll probably sit again today but…

 

PT: But you can’t talk about some of your favourite films?

 

RB: No absolutely not.

 

AC: There was this film… it’s in competition is it, Valley of Saints?

 

RB: It is…

 

AC: And Ship of Theseus is also in competition?

 

RB: Yes…

 

AC: Both are absolutely stunning films. Valley of Saints, I’ve known the film for more than a year because of the New York film festival. Such a quiet amazing story about Kashmir, and you see the conflict on the side and you see the impact of the conflict… But it’s just the lives of these ordinary people. How they manage to survive and live and love and they smile and they sing and they go into a love triangle. Beautifully done. Ship of Theseus is just unbelievably amazing when I saw it in Toronto, I walked out and the director is standing there and usually you go and say hello, it’s very good and all. I couldn’t talk because I thought I would start to cry. There was something in that film which just triggered something in me, which really touched me. There’s a lovely film that I saw that’s called Kauwboy.

 

RB: Which is also in our selection

 

AC: It’s in selection? And I’m so glad I saw it although against that was a 4 hour long Once Upon a Time in America. What a simple little story about a boy growing up without his mother, and done in such a genuine artistic style. People stood up and they were clapping. It touched a lot of the people in the audience. So there’s some very good stuff.

 

PT: I mean for me Valley of Saints and Shahid, watching both these films was again finding… again, both are nuanced, talking about Indian politics in a nuanced way and political events— more so in a nuanced way, which was very very heartening because when we talk about political films in India, it’s usually the Rajneetis that we’re talking about, so we’re not really talking about… you know, there’s this massive gap. In the first issue of The Big Indian Picture, I don’t know if you guys have had a chance to see it but Mahmood Farooqui wrote a piece on the complete absence, again, he argued that Kaala Pathar was a lot more political than the self conscious political cinema that we’re trying to make…

 

AC: The Chakravyuhs of the world.

 

PT: The Chakravyuhs of the world. But coming back to… lovely, for me, Shahid.

 

AC: I like Shahid a lot.

 

PT: As a journalist, for us to see a film that did justice to his story was fantastic.

 

RM: I think it meant a lot for that story to be told and that counterpoint, and a current counterpoint, to be raised. I remember when Shanghai was out and everyone was talking about why can’t we have our Z. I’m not saying this is our Z. But it’s great to have a political story that belongs to your present.

 

RB: You made a very good point and I kept saying this in the screenings: I kept saying how amazing that this guy got funding for this film. How incredible that this lady got funding for this film. She had just gone there and said this is a story about a flower that grows and a little child who’s fascinated by it. Really you want a million dollars for this? You know, like screw off. Whether it’s Shahid, I’m wondering who funded Shahid because the way you guys are talking about it…

 

AC: Well it’s Anurag’s (Kashyap) production.

 

PT: Anurag and Sunil Bohra.

 

RB: Yeah so I mean, it’s fantastic in this festival to see that there are still people out there, in what is known as dark times for art house cinema, who are funding movies that are so incredibly out there and wow! And you look and see 1.3 million dollars. They actually got 1.3 million dollars for this film.

 

PT (to Rishi): You know you and me were talking about the milieu of Shahid and how well it was detailed and it was little things. When Shahid is studying for his law exams he’s studying, he’s not studying from a thick text book he’s studying from Pathan (a tutorial law notebook). You know we’ve all studied law so…

 

RM: Tutorial law notes.

 

PT: So the level of detailing, which is something that you miss. I don’t know who it is for but it’s there, and the courtroom scenes, the way… every single thing and it’s nuanced. That’s a very important factor.

 

RB: I’ve spent 6 years trying to raise money for Moth Smoke. And now Anurag and Guneet have come on board. So… one Anurag can spawn a summer of Anurags, you know, but it has to start somewhere…

 

PT: You know it’s about what we were talking about earlier. Whether Easy Rider gives birth to a Weinstein or whether a Weinstein…

 

RM: Do you need a producer to back a movie or… (a great movie to get that producer)

PT: We’re very glad that we can do that now. You remember when I was talking to you (to Aseem), I was writing an opinion piece on Chittagong and I was telling you about how…

 

RB: How is that?

 

AC: I liked Chittagong

 

PT: It’s a lovely film but…

 

AC: It’s a very lovely story

 

PT: There were a couple of questions that come from there, which is about how we look at our history and how we look at our political present and the distinct contrast between that…

 

RB: You know I’ve actually been there. Do you know that Bangladesh denies it completely?

 

AC: Really?

 

RB: Do you know there’s no monument, there’s nothing.

 

AC: They claim their history started in 1971 or in…?

 

RB: Yeah. From (19)50, whatever, from the first uprising. Do you know that for Bangladesh as a country their history starts in the (19)’50s but actually picks up in (19)’71. And I got to know why. I went to Bangladesh and I spent three days and I said hey Chittagong massacre, it’s film is coming out Jee Jaan Sey Khelein Hum, I think at that time, whatever it is… And they said I don’t know where it is. I said you really don’t know where this place is, where this professor and all this… They said no. Till finally I spoke to somebody who’s in the police and he said of course I know where it is, but we don’t really talk about it. I said, why? He said because all those boys were Hindus. And the Muslims were oppressed by the Hindus at the time. So there is one round thing with white writing on the thing, at the armory. There’s an office inside, you don’t get to see the armory. I went there, I even took a photograph, I tweeted about it. It’s not that it’s a shameful blot, it’s just that if it’s not Muslim it doesn’t exist.

 

AC: The Hindu-Muslim issue can be a very complicated but it’s…

 

RB: It’s nationalism.

 

AC: It’s a state… it’s like in Pakistan for instance, there’s no history, those kids are not taught about Ashoka and the Maurya period.

 

RB: In Maharashtra they almost wiped out the Mughal empire, which for us is a text book in itself. There was the English but the Mughal empire was reduced to a footnote. All 5 emperors were cut-cut-cut. One, one paragraph on Aurangzeb, phat phat phat.

 

AC: For instance, there are all these Buddha sculptures which are just being smuggled out because people just don’t seem to have the value for that.

 

RB: This is the thing, the history, historiography of things, global warming in Canadian textbooks is cyclical. I actually read that, I went to Canada to campaign against climate change and it’s like, they say that it comes and goes, it comes and goes. So you never know what our kids are taught. I know I’ve just taken off somewhere else…

 

PT: No but that links up, that’s what we were talking about how—and this is not to make a very simple comparison—but when we were talking about Surjo Sen, we were talking about Surjo Sen being a hero. We’re not talking about Surjo Sen as a grey figure. Some of these kids were 13 year olds. They were thrust into a war they were not likely to win. And yet not even the most left liberal commentator today is going to look at the Maoist uprising in the same way, even though their leader, commander in chief Ganapathi used to be a school teacher, is an ideologue—very similar to Surjo Sen’s trajectory—claims to be fighting a just war against imperialistic attitudes. But, there’s no way we’re talking about the kids in Kashmir who were pelting stones in the same way in 2010— not even the most left leaning political commentators. But we’re all looking at Surjo Sen in a particular way where there’s no question raised. And I’m all for that. I still think that Chittagong is still a beautiful film. However I think that there’s—and this is what I wrote in this piece—when I was talking about how, maybe, it’s just the fact that how we were all Jhunkus back
then and today, at least some of us are Wilkinsons or his dissenting powerless wife. But the other thing is that his aide, one of Surjo’s main aides, Ananta Singh, lived on. He was jailed, he was in Kala Pani for many, many years. He lived on post independence. Most of the guys who participated, the leaders of the uprising, who were not martyred, went on to become CPI members, MLAs, join the government. Ananta Singh went on to form an extremist Communist Party and was jailed by the Indian government as a traitor post independence. So I feel that Ananta’s story would be a lot more difficult to tell than Surjo Sen’s story, who fought against the British, fought the ‘good war’.

 

RB: I also thought about why Bangladesh had done what it has done. I said every nation does it, in the beginning…

 

PT: We’re doing it.

 

RB: In the beginning, being teenagers, you don’t want to be anything but what you want to be perceived as: I’m the rebel in the school, I’m the one with the black nail polish and the tattoo, I’m the one who’s the good girl. You know, you’re so obsessed that you’re making sure that everyone gets your image right and young nations do that and initially there’s an immaturity and an over enthusiasm to be perceived as one thing and then later on they chill out and open out. So it’s a process.

 

PT: But it’s also us, we love the stories that make us feel good, we always do. It doesn’t depend on which way we lean politically. We all love the stories that make us feel good which is why Stories We Tell was such a beautiful film…

 

AC: I loved Stories We Tell.

 

PT: Two lovely documentaries in this festival which were great to watch.

 

AC (to Rahul): It’s Sarah Polley’s documentary about her own life, discovering that her father was not her biological father, it’s a lovely film.

 

RB: Oh lovely.

 

PT: It always intrigues me about how we get material like that. I remember watching an Egyptian documentary called Salata Baladi. Again, I don’t know how you put cameras in the face of your father and you talk about things like this, you conduct interviews, you always have a camera. I don’t know how you do it, but the outcome is absolutely fantastic. Even if you feel like a voyeur, it’s beautifully done. So recommendations, finally, your film recommendation from the festival would be?

 

AC: I have a list of my 10 favourite films.

 

PT (to Rishi): Your one recommendation

 

RM: It would be Shahid probably

 

PT: For personal reasons?

 

RM: For personal reasons as well as it’s an Indian film, that’s just come out…

 

PT: Mine would not be On the Road. If I had to ‘not recommend’. Very extremely, extremely betrayed personally about what’s been done with the film. Really disappointed in that film…

 

AC: I made that list, a separate article that I had to write. Did you guys see Beasts of the Southern Wild?

 

PT: Yes, of course.

 

AC: Is that in competition also?

 

RB: Yes

 

AC: All the great films are in competition. Rahul can’t comment on them but obviously he’s seen some of them. I haven’t seen the film here…

 

RB: It won the Camera d’Or in Cannes

 

AC: And it won the Grand Jury Award at Sundance

 

PT: Sorry to cut you, but are the marks revealed? Is it made public as to who voted and what marks (were given)?

 

AC: By the Jury?

 

PT: Yeah and how voting was done or which film got the lowest points or which…

 

RB: Nothing, no.

 

PT: Because for Cannes, I was reading an article about how Taste of Money got the lowest points.

 

AC: Those things are revealed? Or somebody just leaks them out…

 

PT: It’s been leaked, it’s not officially…

 

AC: I was surprised. I wish I had known that before… But Beasts of the Southern Wild was such an imaginative, amazing story about this child who’s trying to survive in a world which will probably… her father won’t be there. As it is it’s about how these people are living on the extreme edge of society, trying to survive also but she brings up all these thoughts and ideas in our minds and the beasts keep following her and she finally stops them and… how remarkable it was.

 

RB: Did you see it?

 

PT: Yes. I have the soundtrack. It is stunning.

 

AC: You’ve got the soundtrack? I’ve got to figure how you got that…

 

PT: I’m not going to tell you on record but I’ll tell you off it…

 

 

 

 

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TBIP Jabs & Jabber

Opinion
October 2012