'I am a chronicler of my times'
Filmmaker Saeed Mirza gets candid ahead of a screening of his 1995 film, Naseem, about the impression of the Babri riots on a school girl
You note this down. There is an ex-President who gets a Bharat Ratna. His name is Pranab Mukherjee. But are you aware that he's a very close friend of the Ambanis? I find these sort of connections playing out across the board. And my point is that people who play a certain kind of role get the Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan and Bharat Ratna. It's a lovely game. But will you put this down in your paper?" eminent filmmaker Saeed Mirza asks us ahead of a screening of his film, Naseem, in the city.
We tell him that, yes, we will with his permission, when he replies, "Please do, my friend. I've got no skeletons in my closet." This candour that Mirza displays over a phone call reveals him to be a man who doesn't mince his words.That is in keeping with the cult movies like Mohan Joshi Hazir Ho and Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro he made, which painted a warts-and-all picture of Indian society across the ages. Take Naseem, too, as an example. The film was made in 1995, in the aftermath of the Babri Masjid being razed, and deals with how a 15-year-old girl and her grandfather come to terms with the world around them crumbling to pieces ahead of the incident. But would it be possible to make a similar film in today's day and age?
"I don't know. This is conjecture, but I don't think it would be made now. I, in fact, wonder if something can be made that honestly portrays what this Article 370 and 35A are really all about, and what the repercussions will be. It's really difficult to say these things," Mirza says, before we ask him about the National Film Awards, which he received for directing Naseem in 1996. Does he feel that the integrity and stature of the awards have remained intact as things stand?
He says, "It's difficult to explain. But I feel that the rigour that was involved in earlier times has lapsed a little. You can't take away from people who win a National Award, but it has lapsed. And you find at times that maybe people are being given awards for favours. Again, I don't know. But you do see connections, rather than genuine artistic excellence. So you start questioning these things."
On: August 18, 3.30 pm to 6.30 pm
At: The Habitat — Comdy and Music Cafe, first floor, OYO Townhouse, 3rd Road, Ram Krishna Nagar, near Khar railway station, Khar West.
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