Filmmaker features at Tongues on Fire Film Festival
ONE of India’s leading filmmakers, Shyam Benegal, is in the UK for a series of events exploring his vast career and celebrating his achievements in Indian cinema.
As part of the Tongues on Fire 12th Asian Film Festival, the director is attending a range of functions across London, including a BAFTA Interview, a Director’s Workshop at the University of Westminster, and a Talk on Women in Films at the Nehru Centre.
Festival-goers will also get the opportunity to preview Benegal’s latest film the Boman Irani, Sammir Dattani and Minissha Lamba starrer Well Done Abba, described as ‘a very contemporary comedy but also a political satire’, before its official 26th March release.
“Today our young audiences block themselves from films which have serious content, so I try to engage audiences by making them laugh. This is a new way of attempting to do what I’ve always done”, outlined the director.
The pioneer of Middle Cinema who helped establish a new genre of Indian film in the 1970’s, gave his thoughts on the current state of play.
“Today there have been so many changes in the film industry. The major cities now all have cinemas and multiplexes. This means you can release films for different audiences as being suitable for either multiplex or single screens. So if for example you release a Shah Rukh film you don’t have to worry about smaller towns or single screens.”
Benegal feels that more cinemas and a widening of audiences is a positive change for less commercial directors. “Corporates can now create a basket of films and get distribution for directors like Vishal Bhardwaj and Anurag Kashyap. Twenty years ago a film like Dev D might have got made but would never have seen a release.”
The director, who last scored at the box office with his Shreyas Talpade acted Welcome to Sajjanpur, spoke about the importance of adequate rehearsals before the camera comes out. “Once you are on the sets the meter is ticking, so I try to prepare as much as I can with the actors before I start shooting.”
The seven time National Film Award recipient also gave audiences a word of advice, a motto he first saw on a signboard thirty five years ago when making Ankur, ‘Bash on regardless’.
Steven Baker is a Hindi film journalist and post graduate in Indian cinema