It’s been almost a decade since Govind Nihalani hasn’t come up with a feature film. Anyway, the National Award-winning cinematographer who is known for directing movies like Aakrosh, Ardh Satya and Thakshak, promises to cut short the hiatus before the end of 2013. On the eve of Film Writers’ Association’s annual session, the 72-year-old shares his thoughts on working behind the camera, cinema and comeback.
Your last film was Dev (2004). What’s happening on the filmmaking front?
I know, right? (Laughs) Actually I started an animation film in between and it consumed a lot of time, as the genre was new for me. There were several reasons for the delay but I’m glad that we’re wrapping up soon and it will release this year itself. There are other projects as well. You can’t find a more restless soul than me!
What do you enjoy more — direction or cinematography?
(Pauses) Both. However, when I make a film and if there is a conflict, the director in me wins. But when I’m working for another filmmaker, I enjoy myself as a cinematographer.
Do you think cinematographers are better off working behind the scenes with virtually zero publicity?
Well, we are generally happy working behind the camera. Having said that, I’ve seen film-posters in Chennai where they prominently display the cinematographer’s picture. I’m pretty sure that doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world, definitely not in Mumbai!
You’ve been active with the writers’ association, how does it help new talents?
A writers’ association is not just about getting the members’ contracts. Besides, nowadays, the scriptwriters are relatively better off than they were earlier. New courses and set-ups are available today. It all started with the Salim-Javed team who turned things around by establishing themselves as excellent writers.
In Hollywood, script makes all the difference...
The script is like the seed where you start. At least Hollywood has always functioned that way. In India — not only in Bollywood but all across the country — the script is tailored around the stars, who have agreed to do a given film. However, young filmmakers are heading in the opposite direction by keeping the script at the centre.
There are several remakes happening in Bollywood. Your comments?
It simply shows a couple of things. Lack of original scripts is one. Again, investors are prone to the tried-and-tested methods. They are ready to put their money on something that has worked in other part of the country. It’s all about security because nobody wants a failure. Also, it’s a two-way traffic. Bollywood films have been remade in South Indian languages too.
Like your early films, do you still think that cinema should reflect realities?
The 80-20 rule probably applies here where both escapist as well as realist films can co-exist. There’s no such thing as a good genre or a bad genre. Who knows there might be more genres than we’ve been able to identify till date?