Interview of the Month – Goutam Ghose

An award-winning filmmaker from India, Goutam Ghose has made ten feature films and a number of prominent gautamdocumentaries and numerous ad films, corporate and other short films.Ghose has won 14 National Awards (excluding 2008) besides Filmfare Awards and many International awards. He is the only Indian to win the coveted Vittori Di Sica Award. He was also awarded the Knighthood of the Star of the Italian Solidarity in July 2006.
He was present in our Spring fest to talk about his film. Read his interview as he speaks to our staff Neha Mahajan.

Here follows the complete interview.

I was very anxious while waiting for Goutam Ghose in a New Jersey hotel lobby. Having had a hectic day, I wanted everything perfect for the interview with this eminent filmmaker. It was not difficult to distinguish him amongst the crowd in the New Jersey hotel. His tall, dark, lean and a very confident persona stood out. For the next one hour, I could hardly keep a tab on time. Read on to know what DE SICA AWARD winner Goutam Ghosh had to say about his movies, Bollywood, National awards and his next projects. I wanted to ask him more, but time was short. Here is an excerpt of the interview with this very noteworthy filmmaker.

NM: Kaalbela is a film about turbulent 70s. How did you come across making this film and how nostalgic was the experience.

GG: This movie is based on a popular novel from the 80’s. The writer gave me the freedom to comprehend the story in my own way. It is about the student movement and I have special memories attached to the era of late 60’s and early 70’s where this film is based. While making this movie, my memories of that era just came alive.

Actually, this movie was planned to be a 5 hrs long ten part mini series for DD. But when Mrinal Sen, saw previewed, he wanted me to make a feature film out of it. It was very difficult for me to chop 2 hrs off, hence the length of the movie is about 3 hrs.

NM: You have been and avid follower of Satyajit Ray. Tell us about the close bond that you share with the legendary filmmaker.

GG: I admire Satyajit Ray. He was a unique man of the 19th century, the period which we call of renaissance and enlightenment. He was a great mind. I respect him as a brilliant mind.

NM: You were a strident political activist, an entertainer and director in theatre and photo journalist when you ventured into film making. How has that influenced your work?

GG: I was never a political activist. Born and brought up in upper middle class family. The people of that age were full of sheer romanticism. Without understanding the situation, they’d just jump in. We had an abstract poet in college. Me and my friend, we used to tease him that in times of rage and anger, you write about love and beauty. One fine day we came to know that he too had become a naxalite and was killed a few days later. This was the kind of craziness that youth had at that time.

From a very young age I had a fascination for technology. I believed science to be a part of philosophy. I had a keen interest in music theater and painting. This is what brought me to film making. Music was in my blood. All my siblings were taught at least the basic music. So I also know basic music.(I interrupted him here as he not only knows music much better than he claims but also composes for all his movies.)

NM: Your earlier films were about social issues. I read in one of your interviews that making Maa Bhoomi was quite a learning experience for you. How was the experience and how did you come up with the idea of making film in a language not so familiar?

GG: I met some producers from Hyderabad. It was some time after my first documentary Hungry Autumn. They wanted me to make a movie about peasant rebellion in the Telangana region. So I came across this short story by Kishan Chander. We were really short on budget and this film had a huge war sequence. The villagers were really supportive. They would tell us exactly how the clothes were worn in those times. I learnt a lot from them. Language definitely was an issue, but we had interpretors. One advantage about being in Hyderabad is that it has a heavy Nizam influence so the language is somewhat similar to Hindi, so we could understand most of it. The movie turned out to be a huge commercial success.

NM: Why all the rebellion in the films through protagonists?

GG: There is anger everywhere. If you see some injustice happening in front of you, you feel angry. It is romanticism, youth want change, something new. In 60’s this was dominant in Paris, US and Asian countries. Anger is the sign of the sensible human being. I do not believe in violence. We get angry when we see something wrong. The anger is in heart. We need tolerance in the society, violence cannot solve any problem. When I see terribly uncivilized people, I become angry.

NMWould you like to make a masala Bollywood movie?

GG: I do not understand the term Bollywood. They have money and expertise but the content is the same. If one formula works, they start following it and you’ll see many movies on the same subject. You cannot predict which film will be liked by the audiences. But young people are trying new content and style I have faith in young generation. I recently saw Delhi 6 and really liked the movie.

NMWhat is your take on movies being classified like multiplex, cross over, middle of the road cinema?

GG: Cinema is an intense language. You can write masala type, personal poetry or even the type relevant to the society. Cinema is flexible. When art and aesthetics come together, you’ll find good cinema. Not all my works are the ones that can be termed as great classics from the masters. The classification is more or less based on the economic definition, you really cannot define cinema. Mixed audience is a wonder, you have to work hard make a film for the mixed audience.

NMIs it necessary that cinema be the image of the society?

GG: It is not necessary. Directly or indirecty, you do get a reflection. After all, the characters, the stories are all part of the society. Cinema across the world is reflective of each culture. Indian culture is not homogeneous. It is difficult to define. Ours is a scattered culture. Bollywood along with regional cinema is incredible.

NMIs talent limited to only Bollywood? I mean why is it that Padma Shri (s) go to Aishwarya Rais and akshay Kumars? There is a hoard of talent around, is there something a miss or are we just blind to the right kind of films?

GG: Much to be blamed is the lobby of the strong groups. In the first place why was Hindi chosen as the national language of India? People speak more regional languages than Hindi. So whenever a lobby is strong, it tends to have its influence. Talent is there. I think per say that regional cinema has more talented actors. I personally feel Malyalam films is where the true super stars are. Even in the most ordinary Malyalam film, the acting is exceptional. It is in their blood, from all the Kuchipudi and Kathakali. But concentration is more on Bollywood– the popular cinema. Money and media both play an important part here. They manufacture the same content.

NM: National Film festival awards have always been shrouded in controversy over lobbying and preferences. What is your take on this issue. How will this be best dealt?

GG: National awards were once confirmed for serious type of films. It has become a commodity now. It’s a kind of a medal that everybody wants around their necks. There are a lot of games., lobbying and pressurizing. It depends a lot on the jury. I myself have been in the chair and can say that they don’t get true professionals. It needs three to four weeks of watchign movies, one jury member ends up watching over four full length feature films in a day and becomes an easy victim for the lobbyists. We have seen that in Oscars too for the past many years. Slundog didn’t really deserve to win, but with the media hype, it becomes a different ball game all together. They need to first shortlist at the regional level then be fair in bringing out the right talent.

NMYou acted in Buddhdeb das gupta’s Grihajudda way back in 1982, any plans of coming in front of the screen again?

GG: (laughs) No. I am happy making my cinema.

NMWhat are your next projects?

GG: I love making documentaries, scholarly, academic type of movies. I am currently working on two projects– one is a Indo Italian venture and the other is a Indo-Bangladesh. Until recently there was no bilateral agreement between India and Italy. Now that the agreement is being signed, I thought it was only relevant to make this movie. It is about a young boy and his love for his parents. It is an east-west encounter.
Our country is fascinating. I want to show people smiling, rural people who have nothing but that intoxicating smile.
The second project is about the Philosopher Lallan. It is a must to bring Lallan to the intolerant societies of today.; he was neither a Hindu nor a Muslim.

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