Film festivals bring studios closer to indie films: Hansal Mehta

Hansal Mehta, director of National Award-winning film, Shahid, on how film festivals can play an instrumental role in changing the face of Indian cinema

National Award-winning film, Shahid, was screened on day five of the ongoing Jagran Film Festival. Post the screening, director Hansal Mehta received a standing ovation. In a freewheeling chat with hitlist, Mehta talks about how film festivals can help audiences understand the nuances of filmmaking and expose to them to a wide range of movies.

National Mehta
Hansal Mehta. Pic/Nimesh Dave

Q. What do you feel about the rising number of film festivals in the country?
A. Every city in our country should have a film festival of its own. It's not just about showcasing movies but about building a breeding ground for new ideas to be exchanged. While doing so, it also helps us understand our culture better. Are we open to new ideas? Are we really as sorted out as we think we are? These are the questions that are quietly answered during a film festival. Also, we keep saying that our audiences don't evolve. How will they if we don't expose them to a different kind of cinema? An event such as this (Jagran Film Festival), in the process, trains them in understanding nuances, which they are generally alien to.

Q. Do you think the quality of movies selected for a film festival is compromised to ensure the quantity is maintained?
A. It all depends on the people who are in the selection committee. Many a times, more deserving films are overlooked just because there was a lack of contact between the concerned parties. But I’ve seen a steady influx of appreciable cinema in our film festivals, which is a good sign. Mumbai Film Festival, for years, has come up consistently with a nice mix of world cinema.

Q. Have you enjoyed being a part of any film fest jury?
A. I was heading the jury of last year's Mumbai Film Festival and I enjoyed the process thoroughly.

Q. Maybe directors are more cut out for a jury than actors.
A. (Laughs) I think it has something to do with sharing similar sensibilities with your co-jurors. Even our disagreements were healthy. I remember we laughed a lot during our film discussions. Since I was the head of the jury, I was in control and as a director, I like being in control (laughs).

Q. Shahid travelled across the globe on the film festival circuit before getting picked up by a distribution company. But there are very few films that can boast of a commercial release.
A. All kinds of change take time. But still, I feel 2012 witnessed many encouraging movies and we are seeing the trend continue in 2014 too. Films such as Ship of Theseus, Miss Lovely, Shahid, later, Fandry have earned commercial releases in recent time. But then about 30 per cent of the films that travel globally manage a Friday release so there is space to improve upon.

Q. Do you see independent cinema flourishing in the future?
A. Indie cinema doesn’t exist. As a filmmaker, you can be an independent spirit and maintain freedom of mind. But when you reach the public domain, you depend on the infrastructure, which is not accessible to an individual filmmaker. So an indie filmmaker can try to be as non-mainstream as possible by not adhering to the set formulas. However, if he or she wants the film to reach bigger audiences, then major studios help. A film festival brings studios closer to indie films.

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