Afternoon Voice

“Lack of ideas making Indian cinema regressive!”

Ananth Mahadevan is a man with bunch of talents, not only as an actor, director and screenwriter in Bollywood, but he has also proved his versatility in Tamil and Marathi cinemas as well. He has also been an integral part of Indian Television and theatres. National Award winner Ananth Mahadevan shared his views about progressing regional cinema, confined pattern of Bollywood, and Indian Cinema in general with our correspondent Twinkle Mehta.

What are your views on the current scenario of the Regional cinema?

Regional cinema during the 1960s to 1980s was dominated by Bengali and Malayalam cinemas. Stalwarts like Ray, Ghatak, Mrinal Sen, Adoor, K G George, Aravindan and Shaji Karun made movies elevated India on global platforms. The 90s and the new millennium however, did not match up to the earlier benchmark, but now there is a gradual revival with Marathi cinema too joining in the fray. Though, today’s regional films are more innovative and edgy that lack the touch of the earlier masters and need to be more accomplished in their approach to create a stir again in the world market.

As compared to Bollywood, Regional cinema is yet to reach on that level! What would be your inputs for regional cinema to outgrow?

Personally, I rate regional cinema as more thought-provoking and cinematically advanced than the stagnant and stubborn Bollywood material.

It is Bollywood that needs a re-think on concepts, economics and performances. Merely achieving hundreds of crores at the box-office is no way reflective of the quality of cinema available. But regional cinema like Bhojpuri and Telugu are painfully lacking in terms of both, innovators and risk takers. They continue, to languish at the bottom of the ladder, along with Hindi cinema.

It is often observed that most of the talented theatre actors in Bollywood are underrated, what is your take regarding that?

Theatre actors are far more superior to most of the star names in Hindi cinema. Given a chance, they will carry a film far more expertly on their shoulders. It is the star system that is to blame and the loss is entirely of the audience’s. Warped economic systems and the lack of a path-breaking task force at the helm of affairs at studios are mainly responsible for this blurred vision of actors who can really deliver. Names like Deepak Dobriyal, Pankaj Tripathi, Gulshan Devaiah are all relegated to the side-lines, when they deserved to play the lead. But this pandering to the high-risk star system has always been the norm. The studios would rather gamble on them and lose heavily, than bet on the thoroughbreds and lose marginally. In my view, an act of ‘safe-bets’ is preferable rather than the attempt to change the face of Hindi cinema.

What was that moment when you decided to get into filmmaking?

Cinema always fascinated me and as I was enjoying my acting stints in theatre, television and films, the urge was also to make films one day. The works of great masters from Europe, Japan, and Russia were huge inspirations. After considerable experience in directing television, the moment came when Viveck Vaswani mooted the idea of India’s first retro-musical Dil Vil Pyar Vyar. And that was the kick start of my filmmaking.

Being a filmmaker, don’t you wish to be on par with YRF or Karan Johar production, as these days 100 crore film is given more prominence than its acclamation at the box office?

The mindless priority being given to 100 crore plus collections merely reflects a parochial viewpoint of film makers and studios. Of course, anyone would be delighted to touch huge collection figures but that is being done by numbing audiences with circus-like trivialised themes in the name of cinema. The entire grammar is that of a “nautanki” on screen and does no one proud in the bargain. If they still wish to be blinded by the money and live in their vulnerable cocoons, then so be it, I have had my share of that glitz and glamour but it doesn’t appeal to me anymore.

Do you think that the audience of Bollywood isn’t ready for hard-hitting films as it fails to succeed at the box-office?

The tendency to evaluate the box office success of a film even before the script is done is the bane of Hindi cinema today. A good subject is weighed on projected sales that are more wrong than right. Why only hard- hitting subjects, even biopics of unsung heroes are taboo as they do not guarantee the multi-crore receipts. Till someone clears the entire rot underneath and then proceeds to give a new language and shape to cinema, as it is internationally known, our audiences too would be short-changed and given no choice, and no chance to be educated. Let’s not blame the audience alone for the low patronage. On a festival holiday, they have no option left, because a mindless potboiler of a star occupies every screen. So they step out and contribute to the film’s billions. The onus is now on the makers, are they intelligent and gutsy enough to change the trend?

It’s an era of remakes and rehashes in the Bollywood, do you think there is a lack of creative or talented artist in Bollywood is the reason for this remake trend?

A total cerebral drought has resulted in resorting to seemingly fool-proof remakes. Most of them are turnips but the lack of writers and ideas tempt the studios to revisit the hits. It is complacency of the highest order and actually makes our cinema regressive.

What kind of cinema would you like to see in future? What would be your contribution towards a good change in the Indian cinema as a filmmaker?

Indian cinema needs to toe the line of Iranian film makers…simple, thoughtfully relevant cinema. Easier said than done is the current scenario of the cinema. I have been taking my baby steps towards talking a global cinema language. From Staying Alive, Red Alert, Mee Sindhutai Sapkal, Gour Hari Dastaan, Rough Book and my latest Doctor Rakhmabai, the attempt has been to raise the bar each time. Mee Sindhutai Sapkal reinforced my faith with international acclaim and four National awards. The others too have had a great festival circuit acclaim. There is a sense of new born respect and differentiation of these films from the mainstream. I hope to challenge myself with films I will not be allowed to make and breach that international barrier mark. The going of course is nearly impossible as very few people would care to bother about taking our cinema to the globe.