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India is a victim of Bollywood: Dibakar Banerjee

Dibakar Banerjee on why regional cinema are in need for succour and how film festivals can contribute to it

He comes from an advertising background and is, no wonder, succinct. Dibakar Banerjee doesn’t shy away from speaking his mind. In a tête-à-tête with hitlist, Banerjee shares his thoughts on the significance of film festivals and regional cinema’s fluctuating fortunes on day two of the Jagran Film Festival (JFF)...

Dibakar Banerjee. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi
Dibakar Banerjee. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi

There’s been a steady rise in the number of film festivals in the country, especially in Mumbai...
The more the merrier, because you never know which festival will find its identity. The selection of films makes all the difference, but it would be nothing without proper management and curation. However, a film festival in Mumbai assumes significance as it would be under the direct shadow of Bollywood. We need film festivals because if it is a single dominant film festival, the drive to compete and come up with better films diminishes a bit.

What, according to you, should an event like JFF aim for?
It should try to be around for as long as possible. That would be a challenge indeed but say, 10 years down the line, we will see the quality of films screened are going to be of the highest level. Film festivals that started as an enthusiast and a critic event 60 years ago — Cannes, Venice or Berlin — are among the most revered in the world today. A festival prepares the market, the audience and the talent of tomorrow.

Where exactly does the commercial viewpoint enter a film festival?
Film festivals will eventually have a commercial pull. The greatest film distributors, exhibitors and sales agents are spotted at international film festivals like Cannes because they know their purpose is best served with proper attention. A film festival is a language of cinema and it’s not the only one. There are different types of film fests and different films are appreciated by different people with different sensibilities. What this situation demands is a promise that no new talent or idea would be overlooked.

But isn’t there a ‘stigma’ attached to film festival with the audience expected to be fans of artsy films?
Do you associate automobiles with art? I don’t think we do but that doesn’t change the fact that every design that an auto company comes out with is a manifestation of art. Auto shows put out designs that won’t hit the market until two or three years and the same applies to film festivals. I don’t think I would have made it on the film fest circuit had my work not been appreciated at international film festivals. Do you think the distributors, who eventually picked my films on the global film fest circuit, did it just like that? I don’t. They were clued in and wanted to be part of something they thought would be interesting. A film fest attracts those at the forefront of cinema, the ones who experiment and others. You can call them artsy at your own risk because you never know what’s going to click in, say, five years and turn commercial.

Why do you emphasise on workshops before getting down to shoot?
When you’re making a film, you tend to forget that there is much more to a script than the technical angle. You set things up, put the light in order and want to do your best with camera. But what happens mostly is that we forget that the actor is a human being too and not just a tool to be employed. So, I feel an actor should be interacted with properly before s/he turns into a tool.

Don't you feel that regional cinema is not given much attention unless a film festival highlights them?
India is a victim of Bollywood and Tollywood... just like the world is a victim of Hollywood. So there is a huge hegemony in place and this monopolistic approach grounds out the talent. Regional cinema tends to come up with the freshest stories. No wonder the Hindi film industry has been constantly stealing stories from regional cinema. To ensure we continue to steal good stuff, it’s necessary that we encourage regional cinema. And as audiences, where else would you get to watch them first hand if not at a film festival?

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