‘I wish cinema could go back to being an accessible medium’

Shonali Bose (right) with Konkana Sen Sharma (left) on the sets of Amu

   Filmmaker Shonali Bose, known for her ’05 National Award winning film Amu (starring Konkana Sen Sharma), in a candid conversation about the unfair censorship of Amu, the untrustworthy Indian Censor Board and more

Your win at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival has brought back focus on your National Award winning film Amu after seven years. How does it feel?
Its fantastic since Amu was made before the multiplex boom in India. The film was based on the 1984 genocide against Sikhs in Delhi. And it was a tragedy that the film was censored without any sex or violence in it. Unlike other National Award winning films, which are supposed to be aired on Doordarshan, I can’t even get it on Indian television. So it angers me but nevertheless I will continue fighting for it.

We believe crucial scenes and dialogues were cut despite the A certification. In that case what purpose did the film serve?
No, I didn’t agree to the cuts and that’s why my film got an ‘A’. The dialogues were silenced but that, in a way worked powerfully. Although the answers were silenced, the questions conveyed it all. Also, since the questions were posed by widows in the film, it worked metaphorically. But Amu getting censorship was outrageous. I still can’t get over the statement that the Censor Board threw at me at that point: ‘Why should young people know about a history that’s better buried and forgotten?’ And when I showed the film to the children of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel School in Mumbai, they turned to their teachers and asked them why they weren’t taught this. Children lost their parents too in that incident. So what are you trying to conceal?

But there’s also a perception now that the Censor Board has become quite liberal and it’s the society that’s become intolerable as films are constantly threatened by political pressures.
‘A’ certificate is politically driven. And political parties are not a part of society. I think people have a memory lapse when they say that Indian cinema has evolved over the past few years. They forget films like Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron, Garam Hawa and Pather Pancheli, which have always worked with the audience. Jaane Bhi… was a political film but it did well and is still remembered. Audiences have always loved all kinds of films and I never doubt them. It’s the distribution mechanism that has changed today. It’s about how you get to release a film. No doubt smaller films are getting visibility because of multiplexes now but there’s a flipside to that too --- it’s unaffordable with movie ticket prices in multiplexes soaring sky high. I really wish cinema could go back to being an accessible medium.

Your next project revolves around a woman yearning to have sex. Yet another bold theme.
Yes. And I am anticipating the same trouble with this film that I encountered with Amu.

But don’t you think Indian films today are more pro to portraying women’s sexuality in comparison?
That’s the whole problem. A lot of mainstream Hindi films nowadays are coming up with objectionable viewing in terms of item songs and they are all passed with an ‘U’. I am the biggest lover of item numbers but I am in my 40’s. Imagine five-year-old girls watching them and I have also seen tiny tots for that matter, gyrating their hips in the most crude manner after watching item songs. So there’s no discrimination there. It’s an absurd thing!
 That’s the reason why I don’t trust the Censor Board in India. The US certification, in comparison, is still trustworthy but here, the Board doesn’t give the right kind of certification. As for Margarita, I don’t know what it deserves yet as I haven’t started shooting for it. I plan to start shooting next year and it’s only after I complete the film that I would be able to decide whether it’s fit for ‘A’ or ‘U’.

As a filmmaker, it’s difficult to make eye-openers in a country where one wants to show everything through rose-tinted glasses. How do you motivate yourself to make real films?
I wouldn’t have been a filmmaker if the issue of life didn’t sustain in films. I have always been an activist and for me, films are about telling stories of real life packaged in a fictional format. Crafted in a way that it reaches out to the maximum people. A film is a carrier of human emotions. Therefore, the content of my cinema comes from whatever moves me.

Since freedom of expression remains a big concern for Indian filmmakers, most, especially offbeat ones, have started depending on the international market for viewership. It must be disturbing to make films on India and then to see the Indian audience losing out on the opportunity to know and understand what’s happening in their own country.
That’s my biggest issue. And I want to connect with like minded people like Anurag Kashyap on this. I am not satisfied at all and I will be miserable if I can’t show Margarita to people in India for whatever reason.


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