Dibakar Banerjee Curated

Film Director

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This profile has been added by users(CURATED) : Users who follow Dibakar Banerjee have come together to curate all possible video, text and audio interview to showcase Dibakar Banerjee's journey, experiences, achievements, advice, opinion in one place to inspire upcoming directors. All content is sourced via different platforms and have been given due credit.

  • Now Byomkesh is a character that of course a certain generation is familiar with because there were films made, the stories were very popular. So, you have got this tough job of making sure that the purists don't hate it and still make a film that reaches out to an audience that is unfamiliar?

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  • Dibakar, your new film Detective Byomkesh Bakshy is set in Calcutta of 1943 and it's based on the fictional detective character created by Sharadindu Bandhopadhyay back in the early 30s and yet you say that it's not a period film in the way that most hindi films set in a certain period are.

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  • Also speaking to change, one of the other things we see impacting everything not just filmmaking, advertising is the role of Technology. And I thought that I mean when I think about some of the ways you've made your film and then going back to not being slavish to expensive ways of doing it, I mean how has that influenced you and how have you benefited from technology?

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  • Do you see any inspiration or correlation or connectivity between you know your creative thinking and advertising and how you transformed into film making?

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  • When you think about the Indian Consumer, what is the appetite of the Indian Consumer for that kind of message or movie experience?

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  • And there's almost a risk factor, there's tension on the political scene, there's tension you know the gap between rich and poor.

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  • From an outside perspective there's a narrow view about what Indian Film is, so we always use the word 'Bollywood but Bollywood defines a certain genre.

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  • I know you just came back from Toronto where you did Shanghai, tell us a little bit about what the film is all about.

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  • How is Byomkesh Bakshy made by Dibakar Banerjee different from all the other Byomkesh Bakshys produced till date?

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  • How did you convince Actor Swastika Mukherjee to do the 'kissing scene'?

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  • Will there be any intimate scenes in the movie?

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  • Will Sushant as Byomkesh Bakshy romance in the movie?

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  • Do you think a Dhoti clad Detective will appeal to the Audience?

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  • What kind of a film is Detective Byomkesh Bakshy?

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  • And any reasons why detective films were not made in India?

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  • How do you think the Audience will like this film, even the ones who have never seen your movies before?

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  • So you have actually very intensively selected your actors?

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  • But then why did you even cast Sushant Singh Rajput and not an unknown actor?

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  • Why didn't you cast any other saleable names than Sushant Singh Rajput in the movie?

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  • We have heard that Sushant Singh Rajput, the lead actor, was asked not to wear ready-made dhotis in the movie.

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  • Has the thought ever crossed your mind that this Story has already been told on the television before, would the audience like to watch it again on the Silver Screen?

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  • You said a while ago that Mr. Aditya Chopra is highly involved in the movie. Is it because if it becomes successful then there is a chance of producing a series on Byomkesh Bakshy with different stories?

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  • So that the Audience is engrossed in the movie from start to end?

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  • And what efforts are you making to achieve that?

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  • This movie (Detective Byomkesh Bakshy) is the most expensive film in your entire career, are you scared about it?

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  • How would you define your type of films?

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  • So Dibakar, do you like making different kind of movies?

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  • Dibakar Banerjee and Aditya Chopra is a very unusual combination.

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  • You have once said that you are not a Man who stays still but who's moving forward and taking risks, so what have you moved forward to and what is the next risk that you are taking?

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  • But if you had to pick one Film which you made the least number of mistakes that you yourself enjoy watching, that's been made and directed by you, what would be that film?

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  • If in your little green house you could have a Film Festival of your Films, which Film would you premier with?

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  • There are a couple of other Filmmakers of the same school of thought like Anurag Kashyap, Zoya Akhtar, Habib Faisal and tons of other people. What is it about being a part of this clan that gets your creative juices flowing, that gets you thinking? What is it that you enjoy about the works of these other Filmmakers?

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  • Talking about the Sea of Change that has happened, now it's a numbers game, it's a hundred crore or two hundred crore club, people talk just numbers. You said recently in an interview rather interestingly that you don't want to be a part of these clubs, why is that?

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  • Now is it in your opinion, is it a taboo for Indian Films to be at a Festival like Toronto because a couple of years ago, Aamir had got Dhobi Ghat here and said to the press that when they put those leaves with your films they become untouchable. Do you agree with the sentiment, do you think it's true?

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  • So, you traveled with Shanghai all the way from Singapore where you premiered it to Toronto, do you feel that Shanghai is an international film?

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  • When do we see Dibakar Banerjee and Abhay Deol working together again?

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  • How easy or difficult was it to get Abhay on board for Shanghai?

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  • Dibakar, you just spoke on a very interesting panel 'India and Independence and how Bollywood fits in the scheme of things, how does Shanghai fit on the scale of Indian Cinema to Bollywood Cinema

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  • Shanghai is in Toronto and so is the Director of the Film, Dibakar Banerjee. How do you feel to be in Toronto with Shanghai?

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  • What do you think has changed in the horror movies made nowadays in comparison to the old horror movies?

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  • Which your favorite horror movie?

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  • This must have been a win for you as you have made a film on a subject that you were once scared of.

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  • You just said that you have overcome your fear of darkness and ghosts, can you give us a tip on how to do that?

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  • There are so many movies produced in this genre like Conjuring, The Grudge, etc. Where did you find the inspiration from?

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  • Have you encountered something in your real life that has inspired you to make a horror movie?

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  • They would start praying on the very first day itself then.

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  • Why did you select 1st January as a release date?

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  • What triggered you to foray into Ghost Stories?

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  • Are you comfortable with watching these Politicians play act on stage?

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  • So, we have titled this session Love, Hate, Politics- Art in the age of rage, you saw the rage of the Stage just now - Trinamool vs. CPM. vs. BJP?

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  • I thought that was the pre-Sourav Ganguly Bengal, then suddenly the Bengali came to life, took his shirt off in the Balcony of Lords. There was a new Bengali machismo emerging.

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  • How would a Bengali say the same thing?

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  • Essentially you are more comfortable with the world of the Khoslas than the world of the Chatterjees? What's the difference between a good Punjabi in Karol Bagh and you think like your film Detective Byomkesh about a sort of Bengal or Kolkata of the past? What's the difference?

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  • But is there a cultural sensibility that unites the Bengali diaspora, a sense of authentic art and culture? Is there a Bengali aesthetic that you are a part of?

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  • What do you think makes a good Bengali? What's the distinction you see between a probashi and an authenthic Bengali?

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  • As a good Bengali, Dibakar, you just saw at the moment, you are not a good bengali? No? You want to take the miq and say that loudly to our Bengali Audience?

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  • Thank you so much for joining us at Bollywood Hungama and we hope it keeps on doing well at the box office.

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  • One more question that I have is do you strongly believe in the usage of metaphor for telling your stories?

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  • Something about the humour aspect and I think it's a delightful humour somewhere.

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  • There have been questions that in terms of the way it spans out at the end of it, were the historical references any true or is it like more of a story or what possible permutation and combination could have been at that point of time?

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  • But Khosla ka Ghosla was very much loved in terms of entertainment quotient.

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  • For any kind of movie there will be two responses, now there have been people who have loved it and people who haven't, how do you deal with such diverse opinions?

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  • But you do have a sequel planned at the end of it?

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  • How do you feel about having an actor who can speak in Bihari dialect, English and pull off those costumes and that too at such a young age?

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  • Do you still have days when you think, ‘What the hell am I doing with my life?’

    Oh no, I think I’m one of the luckiest guys on earth. I live a blessed life.

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  • How do you overcome roadblocks in your profession?

    By being patient and coming cheap. Also since I have an alternate career as an ad filmmaker, it gives me the financial strength to refuse what I don’t want to do, and be patient.

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  • Is there any specific reading or informal learning that you engage in, which helps give you that edge in your profession?

    Observing, watching, listening, travelling, music, books, talking to people. Throwing myself into as many different circumstances as possible. And I’m reading all the time. On my desk right now – Edward Said’s Orientalism, Commando Comics 3-in-1, Insider’s Guide to Creating Comics & Graphic Novels, India after Gandhi by Ramachandra Guha, Kohima 1944. It’s tougher to do this as time passes, and I find myself getting complacent about people-watching or people-listening, and then I have to get out more.

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  • If you could do some time-travelling and go back to meet yourself at 17, 25, 35, what would you say?

    At 17: Travel. I started travelling since I was in Class X, but that’s what I would have said, ‘Travel, travel, travel more.’ The most important thing you can do at 17 is see the physical world and there’s no other way to do that but travel. At 25: Stop cribbing. At 35: Get organized, you’re getting old.

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  • Filmmaking is a profession that’s a lot about collaboration. What are your views on collaborative thinking?

    CUT TO THE CHASE Dibakar Banerjee Filmmaker IT IS MY BELIEF THAT TO BECOME A GOOD FILMMAKER, YOU HAVE TO BE A GOOD READER, YOU HAVE TO BE A GOOD TRAVELLER, YOU HAVE TO BE INTO FOOD, YOU HAVE TO BE INTO MUSIC, YOU HAVE TO BE INTO PEOPLE, YOU HAVE TO BE A GOOD WATCHER, YOU HAVE TO BE A GOOD LISTENER… Turning around Bollywood on its corny head is second nature to this NID-dropout who’s a self-confessed movie junkie. No wonder then that the young boy who chanced upon Taxi Driver decades ago is today making movies that provoke, inspire and film after film, break norms and set new standards. Conferred with the National Award twice (Khosla ka Ghosla & Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!), he is counted among Indian cinema’s best and is respected and envied by his contemporaries. As part of the 100 Years of Indian Cinema commemoration, he was one of four chosen directors (along with Karan Johar, Zoya Akhtar & Anurag Kashyap) to make Bombay Talkies that was screened at the Cannes Festival 2013, and his latest, Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!, currently playing in movie halls, has been called a cinematic achievement. A career counselling tête-à-tête with filmmaker Dibakar Banerjee. Do you think a formal education is an absolute essential for your profession? And if so, what should it be? Better have it than not. If I had gone to a film school and come out as a film professional, I would probably have made my first film a little earlier. So I would say that if you have a film education to go for, go for it because now there are a number of good institutes all over the country: In Delhi there’s Jamia; in Calcutta, there’s SRFTI; in Pune there is FTII; and in Madras there is the Prasad Academy. I’d say do not underestimate the value of institutional education, but sometimes what an educational institute does is that it takes you away from reality and as you come out into the real world you get a big jolt and sometimes that jolt takes the strength of your inspiration. So do not also underestimate the value of coming out into the world and working in the industry because that is where you learn the real skills, within the real environment where you also learn how to survive with your inspiration intact. Having said that, I think if you are mad about films and if you have been into films since the age of five as I was, then you are already educating yourself by watching films and reading about films. I was fortunate that I went to National Institute of Design in a way because they have a very active film club, which I was a member of and so we used to see world classics on big screen. The ones nobody in India could have seen. And my absolute informal education advice would be to travel. Young people in India do not travel much and they should. I want to say that to young people today – ‘Travel, travel, travel.’ MY ABSOLUTE INFORMAL EDUCATION ADVICE WOULD BE TO TRAVEL. I WANT TO SAY THAT TO YOUNG PEOPLE TODAY – ‘TRAVEL, TRAVEL, TRAVEL.’ BOLLYWOOD SELLS THAT DREAM OF FAME AND GLAMOUR TO EVERYBODY BECAUSE IT NEEDS TO, TO SURVIVE. BUT ACTUALLY THE STORY IS TOUGHER… I WOULD NOT WANT TO PAINT A ROSY PICTURE FOR YOUNG PEOPLE ASPIRING TO BE HERE. What kind of internship would you recommend? Try and join a film company, or a film director. Lots of students have joined me as a Director’s Assistant and that’s usually the first step you take. Of course, this is if you are doing a direction course. If you are writing, then you can be an assistant writer or a researcher. A lot of young people joined our team for research on Shanghai, for the research of Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! (DBB!) A lot of research for DBB! was in Calcutta, so a lot of students from Jadavpur University came and joined us. Of course, one must keep in mind that a majority of the film industry is still in Bombay, so you have to find that typical PG and live in horrible circumstances, because Bombay is a very shitty city and you have to somehow grit your teeth and go through the struggle. Once you’ve got a foothold, I also think that the main thing to do is to see a lot of films and figure out for yourself which kinds of films you would like to make and then to target those filmmakers and try and start working with them. That’s where your independence of thought matters. If you had to draft an elevator pitch for what you do, what would it say? DSCN3697 ‘A world of hurt awaits you baby, because I can only promise you a lot of pain!’ I would not want to paint a rosy picture for young people aspiring to be here. See, the film industry is disproportionately visible and disproportionately hyped for the amount of people it can sustain, for the amount of capital base it has. For example, for the steel industry it could be a few lakh crores, divided into the number of people it can sustain and so there will be millions working in the steel industry. But the film industry is a very low capital base industry; it’s really not very big in terms of the money it operates with when you compare it to banking, or manufacturing, or FMCG, marketing or whatever. But the problem is that the film industry is visible disproportionately and because in India particularly the film industry is hugely star-oriented and Bollywood has figured out a way of being in the news continuously, so it becomes easy to over-estimate the financial strength of the industry. But the truth is that it is not that big and there isn’t room for a huge number of people. Bollywood sells that dream of fame and glamour to everybody because it needs to, to survive. But actually the story is tougher. So I would rather shatter illusions. Only if you say, ‘I want to make a film because I want to say something,’ should you attempt it. Because only then can you survive. If it’s for any other reason, you won’t. It is my belief that to become a good filmmaker, you have to be a good reader, you have to be a good traveller, you have to be into food, you have to be into music, you have to be into people, you have to be a good watcher, you have to be a good listener… all these things are very important because that’s what you funnel down into the screen in front of you. If you haven’t heard how a Jat in Delhi talks or seen how fights break out in DTC buses, and if you haven’t carried that in your head and you have not obsessed about that, then you will not be able to make Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! For instance, I used to travel in buses all the time in Delhi, even when I had a car, just to be in touch, just to hear the language, just to hear the sound and just to see people interact. But if you are just looking for fame and if you are looking to hobnob with the stars and get your face on page 3, then really, don’t bother. So I think I would push you to go through a lot of introspection before making this decision. _MG_1542What’s rewarding about your profession? Well, what I have realised is that every last person on earth wants to express himself or herself, but a banker or an engineer expresses himself/herself, on an average basis, far less than a filmmaker, or a writer, or a lyricist, or a script writer does. The number of times I have had my school friends saying to me – ‘Yaar, I have this story, you make a film.’ Everybody has got a story, everybody has got things hidden in their heart, everybody has got emotions, but modern life does not allow you to unlock them really, in other professions. And I think the main reward is that there is a chance that you could be a little more unlocked, a little freer than your average successful banker… By the way, the banker who loves banking would be as free as me. But there are far more bankers, far more engineers and far more system analysts who are doing it because they are just doing it, it’s a job. Filmmaking cannot be a job, it is a true calling. All the directors, singers, writers, lyricists, music directors, production designers, cinematographers, who are known for their work and who are famous are pursuing it as a way of life first and then as a bread-winning job. And you know, once in a while, the craft of cinema ends up as art. For me, art is supposed to communicate a feeling or an emotion that you can’t say with words and which lingers with you. And art is not reality, art is not truth, art is not social comment, art is not protest, art is art. Take any late Fellini, or a few of Ritwik Ghatak films, or a few sequences of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s films. There is something in them that’s bigger or beyond the sum total of the song, the story, the music, the shot, the actor. Raging Bull for me, for instance, will always be art. And that’s worth aspiring for, though you can never consciously try and do it. What’s also rewarding is that you are your own boss. What about those looking to pursue acting? IMG_8138 It’s true for actors as well, but there’s a lot more ego and self-projection involved, because an actor uses his or her physical self – body, voice, face. For aspiring actors, I would advise that they be clear about this – That what an actor does is provide an average human being a vision of life that he cannot himself have. And this is the way it has been for the last 10,000 years. 10,000 years ago, near a village or a cave somewhere, there would be one storyteller who would write the story, sing the story, act the story and tell the story. So he would be all rolled into one and he would make all those villagers sitting around a fireside go through the emotions of a hero flying through the sky. Because they can’t fly through the sky. And that night of imagining a hero flying through the sky makes the next day better, or more bearable. It makes existence a little less painful. So what an actor truly does is that he makes the burden of normal, average Joes a little lighter. It’s a deep, deep job but what happens is that in a society like India, which is deeply disempowered and unjust and which is very, very poor, a lot of people start hanging their dreams and their fascinations and their obsessions onto you. And therefore the phenomenon of the star emerges. That is why a poorer country will always have a more powerful star than a richer country. So I would advise them to be mindful of that. What are the new trends you see that are changing the complexion of filmmaking today? To answer that, let’s place it in some context. The cinema industry all over the world is going through a churn on what kind of films to make so that you can make money. The problem is that the more people you want to reach, the less specific you can be. One way to see it is that you can be more universal but I also think that it tends to be emptier. The more people you want to reach out to, the more you have to mean nothing. So instead of saying something to a fewer number of people, you end up saying nothing to a huge number of people. And you basically catch them by the scruff of their necks, take their money and run. And that’s the kind of film making that has happened over the last 10 years. The young people who are reading this must know that this has got to do with the absolute rise of the new economy, the new capitalism, which all started in the mid-80s with Thatcher and Reagan, and later in India, with Narasimha Rao. The space for intimate and sensitive and penetrative things slowly began to be taken over by big bloated giants. To tell you the truth, today it is far more difficult to make Khosla ka Ghosla than it was 10 years ago, though one would assume that it would be easier now that filmmakers like us who have known to have brought in that new wave, have been working, working, working, but it’s actually becoming harder for individual voices to come through. It is still happening though, and I don’t think one needs to lose hope but be realistic and aware of where things are coming from. And where they’re headed. The biggest thing that is changing today is the way a film is seen, I don’t know how long the phenomenon of seeing a film on the big screen will last. I GENUINELY HOPE THE PRASAR BHARTI BILL OPENS UP, WHICH WILL LEAD TO A LOT OF TARGETED PROGRAMMING, WHICH WILL LEAD TO A LOT OF YOUNG, FRESH MINDS GIVING THE YOUNG, FRESH AUDIENCE CONTENT FOR THEM. How do you see it playing out over the next 10 years? If broadband opens up and that’s a very real possibility, then this picture changes immensely, and for the better. As an example, we only need to look at the rise of television in the US, which has resulted in such an explosion of creativity – people have taken giant steps forward in cinematic storytelling, characterisation, right from Sopranos to Game of Thrones to Breaking Bad. And these shows are making money and they have a huge fan following. In India, though there’s been a lot of talk to free up TV for DTH programming, successive governments haven’t done anything about it. Because of that, the TV industry in this country has not grown the way it has in the US and is still largely confined to afternoon soaps, which we look down upon. I genuinely hope the Prasar Bharti bill opens up, which will lead to a lot of targeted programming, which will lead to a lot of young, fresh minds giving the young, fresh audience content for them. If broadband improves in India, there will be democratization and you’ll be able to get movies on the internet. Lots more people will be able to see movies on their computer screens and big screens connected to broadband. And that’ll be the real revolution. If that happens, it’ll really be a nice party to be in. And I think it should happen in India because films are the prime entertainment source here. What would you say to someone looking to create independent cinema, such as when you started out? I would tell them, ‘You have to be ready to fight it out. You have to be ready to be tough. And most importantly, you have to be happy with an Innova or a Volkswagen rather than an Audi or a Mercedes. It really boils down to that – you will have less money.’ The basic difference between me and a commercial director is money – that’s really it. Now since I enjoy living on the edge and thumbing my nose and since I’m a provocative, disruptive kind of person anyway, it works for me & I enjoy it. But if you want to be accepted and want to have visible markers or indicators of success, then no, I would not advise it. ANYBODY WHO THINKS I’M GOING TO SIT IN AN IVORY TOWER AND MAKE A FILM ALL BY MYSELF, IT AIN’T GONNA HAPPEN! Filmmaking is a profession that’s a lot about collaboration. What are your views on collaborative thinking? Oh, I think filmmaking is one of the most truly collaborative arts – it’s not even an art, it’s a craft actually. You collaborate with the actors, cinematographers, production designers, production managers, writers. As an example, for DBB!, we actually managed to get two of the oldest trams, which were lying in the Calcutta Tram Depot, in working condition. We painted it in the colors of that time and the Calcutta Tram Corporation actually ran it on the tram lines that were diffused. And that’s how we got our credits scene. Now this needed a collaboration of some 100 people. And a smaller example would be if I hadn’t sat down with Urmi Juvekar and written the screenplay, I wouldn’t have a film. Simple. Anybody who thinks I’m going to sit in an ivory tower and make a film all by myself, it ain’t gonna happen! When you go out on set and the meter is ticking, every last person on the set should ideally know what it is that you want to get done. Because if they don’t, you’re going to waste a lot of time and money while the meter is ticking, explaining things to people.

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  • What would you say to someone looking to create independent cinema, such as when you started out?

    I would tell them, ‘You have to be ready to fight it out. You have to be ready to be tough. And most importantly, you have to be happy with an Innova or a Volkswagen rather than an Audi or a Mercedes. It really boils down to that – you will have less money.’ The basic difference between me and a commercial director is money – that’s really it. Now since I enjoy living on the edge and thumbing my nose and since I’m a provocative, disruptive kind of person anyway, it works for me & I enjoy it. But if you want to be accepted and want to have visible markers or indicators of success, then no, I would not advise it.

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  • How do you see it playing out over the next 10 years?

    CUT TO THE CHASE Dibakar Banerjee Filmmaker IT IS MY BELIEF THAT TO BECOME A GOOD FILMMAKER, YOU HAVE TO BE A GOOD READER, YOU HAVE TO BE A GOOD TRAVELLER, YOU HAVE TO BE INTO FOOD, YOU HAVE TO BE INTO MUSIC, YOU HAVE TO BE INTO PEOPLE, YOU HAVE TO BE A GOOD WATCHER, YOU HAVE TO BE A GOOD LISTENER… Turning around Bollywood on its corny head is second nature to this NID-dropout who’s a self-confessed movie junkie. No wonder then that the young boy who chanced upon Taxi Driver decades ago is today making movies that provoke, inspire and film after film, break norms and set new standards. Conferred with the National Award twice (Khosla ka Ghosla & Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!), he is counted among Indian cinema’s best and is respected and envied by his contemporaries. As part of the 100 Years of Indian Cinema commemoration, he was one of four chosen directors (along with Karan Johar, Zoya Akhtar & Anurag Kashyap) to make Bombay Talkies that was screened at the Cannes Festival 2013, and his latest, Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!, currently playing in movie halls, has been called a cinematic achievement. A career counselling tête-à-tête with filmmaker Dibakar Banerjee. Do you think a formal education is an absolute essential for your profession? And if so, what should it be? Better have it than not. If I had gone to a film school and come out as a film professional, I would probably have made my first film a little earlier. So I would say that if you have a film education to go for, go for it because now there are a number of good institutes all over the country: In Delhi there’s Jamia; in Calcutta, there’s SRFTI; in Pune there is FTII; and in Madras there is the Prasad Academy. I’d say do not underestimate the value of institutional education, but sometimes what an educational institute does is that it takes you away from reality and as you come out into the real world you get a big jolt and sometimes that jolt takes the strength of your inspiration. So do not also underestimate the value of coming out into the world and working in the industry because that is where you learn the real skills, within the real environment where you also learn how to survive with your inspiration intact. Having said that, I think if you are mad about films and if you have been into films since the age of five as I was, then you are already educating yourself by watching films and reading about films. I was fortunate that I went to National Institute of Design in a way because they have a very active film club, which I was a member of and so we used to see world classics on big screen. The ones nobody in India could have seen. And my absolute informal education advice would be to travel. Young people in India do not travel much and they should. I want to say that to young people today – ‘Travel, travel, travel.’ MY ABSOLUTE INFORMAL EDUCATION ADVICE WOULD BE TO TRAVEL. I WANT TO SAY THAT TO YOUNG PEOPLE TODAY – ‘TRAVEL, TRAVEL, TRAVEL.’ BOLLYWOOD SELLS THAT DREAM OF FAME AND GLAMOUR TO EVERYBODY BECAUSE IT NEEDS TO, TO SURVIVE. BUT ACTUALLY THE STORY IS TOUGHER… I WOULD NOT WANT TO PAINT A ROSY PICTURE FOR YOUNG PEOPLE ASPIRING TO BE HERE. What kind of internship would you recommend? Try and join a film company, or a film director. Lots of students have joined me as a Director’s Assistant and that’s usually the first step you take. Of course, this is if you are doing a direction course. If you are writing, then you can be an assistant writer or a researcher. A lot of young people joined our team for research on Shanghai, for the research of Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! (DBB!) A lot of research for DBB! was in Calcutta, so a lot of students from Jadavpur University came and joined us. Of course, one must keep in mind that a majority of the film industry is still in Bombay, so you have to find that typical PG and live in horrible circumstances, because Bombay is a very shitty city and you have to somehow grit your teeth and go through the struggle. Once you’ve got a foothold, I also think that the main thing to do is to see a lot of films and figure out for yourself which kinds of films you would like to make and then to target those filmmakers and try and start working with them. That’s where your independence of thought matters. If you had to draft an elevator pitch for what you do, what would it say? DSCN3697 ‘A world of hurt awaits you baby, because I can only promise you a lot of pain!’ I would not want to paint a rosy picture for young people aspiring to be here. See, the film industry is disproportionately visible and disproportionately hyped for the amount of people it can sustain, for the amount of capital base it has. For example, for the steel industry it could be a few lakh crores, divided into the number of people it can sustain and so there will be millions working in the steel industry. But the film industry is a very low capital base industry; it’s really not very big in terms of the money it operates with when you compare it to banking, or manufacturing, or FMCG, marketing or whatever. But the problem is that the film industry is visible disproportionately and because in India particularly the film industry is hugely star-oriented and Bollywood has figured out a way of being in the news continuously, so it becomes easy to over-estimate the financial strength of the industry. But the truth is that it is not that big and there isn’t room for a huge number of people. Bollywood sells that dream of fame and glamour to everybody because it needs to, to survive. But actually the story is tougher. So I would rather shatter illusions. Only if you say, ‘I want to make a film because I want to say something,’ should you attempt it. Because only then can you survive. If it’s for any other reason, you won’t. It is my belief that to become a good filmmaker, you have to be a good reader, you have to be a good traveller, you have to be into food, you have to be into music, you have to be into people, you have to be a good watcher, you have to be a good listener… all these things are very important because that’s what you funnel down into the screen in front of you. If you haven’t heard how a Jat in Delhi talks or seen how fights break out in DTC buses, and if you haven’t carried that in your head and you have not obsessed about that, then you will not be able to make Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! For instance, I used to travel in buses all the time in Delhi, even when I had a car, just to be in touch, just to hear the language, just to hear the sound and just to see people interact. But if you are just looking for fame and if you are looking to hobnob with the stars and get your face on page 3, then really, don’t bother. So I think I would push you to go through a lot of introspection before making this decision. _MG_1542What’s rewarding about your profession? Well, what I have realised is that every last person on earth wants to express himself or herself, but a banker or an engineer expresses himself/herself, on an average basis, far less than a filmmaker, or a writer, or a lyricist, or a script writer does. The number of times I have had my school friends saying to me – ‘Yaar, I have this story, you make a film.’ Everybody has got a story, everybody has got things hidden in their heart, everybody has got emotions, but modern life does not allow you to unlock them really, in other professions. And I think the main reward is that there is a chance that you could be a little more unlocked, a little freer than your average successful banker… By the way, the banker who loves banking would be as free as me. But there are far more bankers, far more engineers and far more system analysts who are doing it because they are just doing it, it’s a job. Filmmaking cannot be a job, it is a true calling. All the directors, singers, writers, lyricists, music directors, production designers, cinematographers, who are known for their work and who are famous are pursuing it as a way of life first and then as a bread-winning job. And you know, once in a while, the craft of cinema ends up as art. For me, art is supposed to communicate a feeling or an emotion that you can’t say with words and which lingers with you. And art is not reality, art is not truth, art is not social comment, art is not protest, art is art. Take any late Fellini, or a few of Ritwik Ghatak films, or a few sequences of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s films. There is something in them that’s bigger or beyond the sum total of the song, the story, the music, the shot, the actor. Raging Bull for me, for instance, will always be art. And that’s worth aspiring for, though you can never consciously try and do it. What’s also rewarding is that you are your own boss. What about those looking to pursue acting? IMG_8138 It’s true for actors as well, but there’s a lot more ego and self-projection involved, because an actor uses his or her physical self – body, voice, face. For aspiring actors, I would advise that they be clear about this – That what an actor does is provide an average human being a vision of life that he cannot himself have. And this is the way it has been for the last 10,000 years. 10,000 years ago, near a village or a cave somewhere, there would be one storyteller who would write the story, sing the story, act the story and tell the story. So he would be all rolled into one and he would make all those villagers sitting around a fireside go through the emotions of a hero flying through the sky. Because they can’t fly through the sky. And that night of imagining a hero flying through the sky makes the next day better, or more bearable. It makes existence a little less painful. So what an actor truly does is that he makes the burden of normal, average Joes a little lighter. It’s a deep, deep job but what happens is that in a society like India, which is deeply disempowered and unjust and which is very, very poor, a lot of people start hanging their dreams and their fascinations and their obsessions onto you. And therefore the phenomenon of the star emerges. That is why a poorer country will always have a more powerful star than a richer country. So I would advise them to be mindful of that. What are the new trends you see that are changing the complexion of filmmaking today? To answer that, let’s place it in some context. The cinema industry all over the world is going through a churn on what kind of films to make so that you can make money. The problem is that the more people you want to reach, the less specific you can be. One way to see it is that you can be more universal but I also think that it tends to be emptier. The more people you want to reach out to, the more you have to mean nothing. So instead of saying something to a fewer number of people, you end up saying nothing to a huge number of people. And you basically catch them by the scruff of their necks, take their money and run. And that’s the kind of film making that has happened over the last 10 years. The young people who are reading this must know that this has got to do with the absolute rise of the new economy, the new capitalism, which all started in the mid-80s with Thatcher and Reagan, and later in India, with Narasimha Rao. The space for intimate and sensitive and penetrative things slowly began to be taken over by big bloated giants. To tell you the truth, today it is far more difficult to make Khosla ka Ghosla than it was 10 years ago, though one would assume that it would be easier now that filmmakers like us who have known to have brought in that new wave, have been working, working, working, but it’s actually becoming harder for individual voices to come through. It is still happening though, and I don’t think one needs to lose hope but be realistic and aware of where things are coming from. And where they’re headed. The biggest thing that is changing today is the way a film is seen, I don’t know how long the phenomenon of seeing a film on the big screen will last. I GENUINELY HOPE THE PRASAR BHARTI BILL OPENS UP, WHICH WILL LEAD TO A LOT OF TARGETED PROGRAMMING, WHICH WILL LEAD TO A LOT OF YOUNG, FRESH MINDS GIVING THE YOUNG, FRESH AUDIENCE CONTENT FOR THEM. How do you see it playing out over the next 10 years? If broadband opens up and that’s a very real possibility, then this picture changes immensely, and for the better. As an example, we only need to look at the rise of television in the US, which has resulted in such an explosion of creativity – people have taken giant steps forward in cinematic storytelling, characterisation, right from Sopranos to Game of Thrones to Breaking Bad. And these shows are making money and they have a huge fan following. In India, though there’s been a lot of talk to free up TV for DTH programming, successive governments haven’t done anything about it. Because of that, the TV industry in this country has not grown the way it has in the US and is still largely confined to afternoon soaps, which we look down upon. I genuinely hope the Prasar Bharti bill opens up, which will lead to a lot of targeted programming, which will lead to a lot of young, fresh minds giving the young, fresh audience content for them. If broadband improves in India, there will be democratization and you’ll be able to get movies on the internet. Lots more people will be able to see movies on their computer screens and big screens connected to broadband. And that’ll be the real revolution. If that happens, it’ll really be a nice party to be in. And I think it should happen in India because films are the prime entertainment source here.

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  • What are the new trends you see that are changing the complexion of filmmaking today?

    CUT TO THE CHASE Dibakar Banerjee Filmmaker IT IS MY BELIEF THAT TO BECOME A GOOD FILMMAKER, YOU HAVE TO BE A GOOD READER, YOU HAVE TO BE A GOOD TRAVELLER, YOU HAVE TO BE INTO FOOD, YOU HAVE TO BE INTO MUSIC, YOU HAVE TO BE INTO PEOPLE, YOU HAVE TO BE A GOOD WATCHER, YOU HAVE TO BE A GOOD LISTENER… Turning around Bollywood on its corny head is second nature to this NID-dropout who’s a self-confessed movie junkie. No wonder then that the young boy who chanced upon Taxi Driver decades ago is today making movies that provoke, inspire and film after film, break norms and set new standards. Conferred with the National Award twice (Khosla ka Ghosla & Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!), he is counted among Indian cinema’s best and is respected and envied by his contemporaries. As part of the 100 Years of Indian Cinema commemoration, he was one of four chosen directors (along with Karan Johar, Zoya Akhtar & Anurag Kashyap) to make Bombay Talkies that was screened at the Cannes Festival 2013, and his latest, Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!, currently playing in movie halls, has been called a cinematic achievement. A career counselling tête-à-tête with filmmaker Dibakar Banerjee. Do you think a formal education is an absolute essential for your profession? And if so, what should it be? Better have it than not. If I had gone to a film school and come out as a film professional, I would probably have made my first film a little earlier. So I would say that if you have a film education to go for, go for it because now there are a number of good institutes all over the country: In Delhi there’s Jamia; in Calcutta, there’s SRFTI; in Pune there is FTII; and in Madras there is the Prasad Academy. I’d say do not underestimate the value of institutional education, but sometimes what an educational institute does is that it takes you away from reality and as you come out into the real world you get a big jolt and sometimes that jolt takes the strength of your inspiration. So do not also underestimate the value of coming out into the world and working in the industry because that is where you learn the real skills, within the real environment where you also learn how to survive with your inspiration intact. Having said that, I think if you are mad about films and if you have been into films since the age of five as I was, then you are already educating yourself by watching films and reading about films. I was fortunate that I went to National Institute of Design in a way because they have a very active film club, which I was a member of and so we used to see world classics on big screen. The ones nobody in India could have seen. And my absolute informal education advice would be to travel. Young people in India do not travel much and they should. I want to say that to young people today – ‘Travel, travel, travel.’ MY ABSOLUTE INFORMAL EDUCATION ADVICE WOULD BE TO TRAVEL. I WANT TO SAY THAT TO YOUNG PEOPLE TODAY – ‘TRAVEL, TRAVEL, TRAVEL.’ BOLLYWOOD SELLS THAT DREAM OF FAME AND GLAMOUR TO EVERYBODY BECAUSE IT NEEDS TO, TO SURVIVE. BUT ACTUALLY THE STORY IS TOUGHER… I WOULD NOT WANT TO PAINT A ROSY PICTURE FOR YOUNG PEOPLE ASPIRING TO BE HERE. What kind of internship would you recommend? Try and join a film company, or a film director. Lots of students have joined me as a Director’s Assistant and that’s usually the first step you take. Of course, this is if you are doing a direction course. If you are writing, then you can be an assistant writer or a researcher. A lot of young people joined our team for research on Shanghai, for the research of Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! (DBB!) A lot of research for DBB! was in Calcutta, so a lot of students from Jadavpur University came and joined us. Of course, one must keep in mind that a majority of the film industry is still in Bombay, so you have to find that typical PG and live in horrible circumstances, because Bombay is a very shitty city and you have to somehow grit your teeth and go through the struggle. Once you’ve got a foothold, I also think that the main thing to do is to see a lot of films and figure out for yourself which kinds of films you would like to make and then to target those filmmakers and try and start working with them. That’s where your independence of thought matters. If you had to draft an elevator pitch for what you do, what would it say? DSCN3697 ‘A world of hurt awaits you baby, because I can only promise you a lot of pain!’ I would not want to paint a rosy picture for young people aspiring to be here. See, the film industry is disproportionately visible and disproportionately hyped for the amount of people it can sustain, for the amount of capital base it has. For example, for the steel industry it could be a few lakh crores, divided into the number of people it can sustain and so there will be millions working in the steel industry. But the film industry is a very low capital base industry; it’s really not very big in terms of the money it operates with when you compare it to banking, or manufacturing, or FMCG, marketing or whatever. But the problem is that the film industry is visible disproportionately and because in India particularly the film industry is hugely star-oriented and Bollywood has figured out a way of being in the news continuously, so it becomes easy to over-estimate the financial strength of the industry. But the truth is that it is not that big and there isn’t room for a huge number of people. Bollywood sells that dream of fame and glamour to everybody because it needs to, to survive. But actually the story is tougher. So I would rather shatter illusions. Only if you say, ‘I want to make a film because I want to say something,’ should you attempt it. Because only then can you survive. If it’s for any other reason, you won’t. It is my belief that to become a good filmmaker, you have to be a good reader, you have to be a good traveller, you have to be into food, you have to be into music, you have to be into people, you have to be a good watcher, you have to be a good listener… all these things are very important because that’s what you funnel down into the screen in front of you. If you haven’t heard how a Jat in Delhi talks or seen how fights break out in DTC buses, and if you haven’t carried that in your head and you have not obsessed about that, then you will not be able to make Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! For instance, I used to travel in buses all the time in Delhi, even when I had a car, just to be in touch, just to hear the language, just to hear the sound and just to see people interact. But if you are just looking for fame and if you are looking to hobnob with the stars and get your face on page 3, then really, don’t bother. So I think I would push you to go through a lot of introspection before making this decision. _MG_1542What’s rewarding about your profession? Well, what I have realised is that every last person on earth wants to express himself or herself, but a banker or an engineer expresses himself/herself, on an average basis, far less than a filmmaker, or a writer, or a lyricist, or a script writer does. The number of times I have had my school friends saying to me – ‘Yaar, I have this story, you make a film.’ Everybody has got a story, everybody has got things hidden in their heart, everybody has got emotions, but modern life does not allow you to unlock them really, in other professions. And I think the main reward is that there is a chance that you could be a little more unlocked, a little freer than your average successful banker… By the way, the banker who loves banking would be as free as me. But there are far more bankers, far more engineers and far more system analysts who are doing it because they are just doing it, it’s a job. Filmmaking cannot be a job, it is a true calling. All the directors, singers, writers, lyricists, music directors, production designers, cinematographers, who are known for their work and who are famous are pursuing it as a way of life first and then as a bread-winning job. And you know, once in a while, the craft of cinema ends up as art. For me, art is supposed to communicate a feeling or an emotion that you can’t say with words and which lingers with you. And art is not reality, art is not truth, art is not social comment, art is not protest, art is art. Take any late Fellini, or a few of Ritwik Ghatak films, or a few sequences of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s films. There is something in them that’s bigger or beyond the sum total of the song, the story, the music, the shot, the actor. Raging Bull for me, for instance, will always be art. And that’s worth aspiring for, though you can never consciously try and do it. What’s also rewarding is that you are your own boss. What about those looking to pursue acting? IMG_8138 It’s true for actors as well, but there’s a lot more ego and self-projection involved, because an actor uses his or her physical self – body, voice, face. For aspiring actors, I would advise that they be clear about this – That what an actor does is provide an average human being a vision of life that he cannot himself have. And this is the way it has been for the last 10,000 years. 10,000 years ago, near a village or a cave somewhere, there would be one storyteller who would write the story, sing the story, act the story and tell the story. So he would be all rolled into one and he would make all those villagers sitting around a fireside go through the emotions of a hero flying through the sky. Because they can’t fly through the sky. And that night of imagining a hero flying through the sky makes the next day better, or more bearable. It makes existence a little less painful. So what an actor truly does is that he makes the burden of normal, average Joes a little lighter. It’s a deep, deep job but what happens is that in a society like India, which is deeply disempowered and unjust and which is very, very poor, a lot of people start hanging their dreams and their fascinations and their obsessions onto you. And therefore the phenomenon of the star emerges. That is why a poorer country will always have a more powerful star than a richer country. So I would advise them to be mindful of that. What are the new trends you see that are changing the complexion of filmmaking today? To answer that, let’s place it in some context. The cinema industry all over the world is going through a churn on what kind of films to make so that you can make money. The problem is that the more people you want to reach, the less specific you can be. One way to see it is that you can be more universal but I also think that it tends to be emptier. The more people you want to reach out to, the more you have to mean nothing. So instead of saying something to a fewer number of people, you end up saying nothing to a huge number of people. And you basically catch them by the scruff of their necks, take their money and run. And that’s the kind of film making that has happened over the last 10 years. The young people who are reading this must know that this has got to do with the absolute rise of the new economy, the new capitalism, which all started in the mid-80s with Thatcher and Reagan, and later in India, with Narasimha Rao. The space for intimate and sensitive and penetrative things slowly began to be taken over by big bloated giants. To tell you the truth, today it is far more difficult to make Khosla ka Ghosla than it was 10 years ago, though one would assume that it would be easier now that filmmakers like us who have known to have brought in that new wave, have been working, working, working, but it’s actually becoming harder for individual voices to come through. It is still happening though, and I don’t think one needs to lose hope but be realistic and aware of where things are coming from. And where they’re headed. The biggest thing that is changing today is the way a film is seen, I don’t know how long the phenomenon of seeing a film on the big screen will last.

    View Source:

  • What about those looking to pursue acting?

    CUT TO THE CHASE Dibakar Banerjee Filmmaker IT IS MY BELIEF THAT TO BECOME A GOOD FILMMAKER, YOU HAVE TO BE A GOOD READER, YOU HAVE TO BE A GOOD TRAVELLER, YOU HAVE TO BE INTO FOOD, YOU HAVE TO BE INTO MUSIC, YOU HAVE TO BE INTO PEOPLE, YOU HAVE TO BE A GOOD WATCHER, YOU HAVE TO BE A GOOD LISTENER… Turning around Bollywood on its corny head is second nature to this NID-dropout who’s a self-confessed movie junkie. No wonder then that the young boy who chanced upon Taxi Driver decades ago is today making movies that provoke, inspire and film after film, break norms and set new standards. Conferred with the National Award twice (Khosla ka Ghosla & Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!), he is counted among Indian cinema’s best and is respected and envied by his contemporaries. As part of the 100 Years of Indian Cinema commemoration, he was one of four chosen directors (along with Karan Johar, Zoya Akhtar & Anurag Kashyap) to make Bombay Talkies that was screened at the Cannes Festival 2013, and his latest, Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!, currently playing in movie halls, has been called a cinematic achievement. A career counselling tête-à-tête with filmmaker Dibakar Banerjee. Do you think a formal education is an absolute essential for your profession? And if so, what should it be? Better have it than not. If I had gone to a film school and come out as a film professional, I would probably have made my first film a little earlier. So I would say that if you have a film education to go for, go for it because now there are a number of good institutes all over the country: In Delhi there’s Jamia; in Calcutta, there’s SRFTI; in Pune there is FTII; and in Madras there is the Prasad Academy. I’d say do not underestimate the value of institutional education, but sometimes what an educational institute does is that it takes you away from reality and as you come out into the real world you get a big jolt and sometimes that jolt takes the strength of your inspiration. So do not also underestimate the value of coming out into the world and working in the industry because that is where you learn the real skills, within the real environment where you also learn how to survive with your inspiration intact. Having said that, I think if you are mad about films and if you have been into films since the age of five as I was, then you are already educating yourself by watching films and reading about films. I was fortunate that I went to National Institute of Design in a way because they have a very active film club, which I was a member of and so we used to see world classics on big screen. The ones nobody in India could have seen. And my absolute informal education advice would be to travel. Young people in India do not travel much and they should. I want to say that to young people today – ‘Travel, travel, travel.’ MY ABSOLUTE INFORMAL EDUCATION ADVICE WOULD BE TO TRAVEL. I WANT TO SAY THAT TO YOUNG PEOPLE TODAY – ‘TRAVEL, TRAVEL, TRAVEL.’ BOLLYWOOD SELLS THAT DREAM OF FAME AND GLAMOUR TO EVERYBODY BECAUSE IT NEEDS TO, TO SURVIVE. BUT ACTUALLY THE STORY IS TOUGHER… I WOULD NOT WANT TO PAINT A ROSY PICTURE FOR YOUNG PEOPLE ASPIRING TO BE HERE. What kind of internship would you recommend? Try and join a film company, or a film director. Lots of students have joined me as a Director’s Assistant and that’s usually the first step you take. Of course, this is if you are doing a direction course. If you are writing, then you can be an assistant writer or a researcher. A lot of young people joined our team for research on Shanghai, for the research of Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! (DBB!) A lot of research for DBB! was in Calcutta, so a lot of students from Jadavpur University came and joined us. Of course, one must keep in mind that a majority of the film industry is still in Bombay, so you have to find that typical PG and live in horrible circumstances, because Bombay is a very shitty city and you have to somehow grit your teeth and go through the struggle. Once you’ve got a foothold, I also think that the main thing to do is to see a lot of films and figure out for yourself which kinds of films you would like to make and then to target those filmmakers and try and start working with them. That’s where your independence of thought matters. If you had to draft an elevator pitch for what you do, what would it say? DSCN3697 ‘A world of hurt awaits you baby, because I can only promise you a lot of pain!’ I would not want to paint a rosy picture for young people aspiring to be here. See, the film industry is disproportionately visible and disproportionately hyped for the amount of people it can sustain, for the amount of capital base it has. For example, for the steel industry it could be a few lakh crores, divided into the number of people it can sustain and so there will be millions working in the steel industry. But the film industry is a very low capital base industry; it’s really not very big in terms of the money it operates with when you compare it to banking, or manufacturing, or FMCG, marketing or whatever. But the problem is that the film industry is visible disproportionately and because in India particularly the film industry is hugely star-oriented and Bollywood has figured out a way of being in the news continuously, so it becomes easy to over-estimate the financial strength of the industry. But the truth is that it is not that big and there isn’t room for a huge number of people. Bollywood sells that dream of fame and glamour to everybody because it needs to, to survive. But actually the story is tougher. So I would rather shatter illusions. Only if you say, ‘I want to make a film because I want to say something,’ should you attempt it. Because only then can you survive. If it’s for any other reason, you won’t. It is my belief that to become a good filmmaker, you have to be a good reader, you have to be a good traveller, you have to be into food, you have to be into music, you have to be into people, you have to be a good watcher, you have to be a good listener… all these things are very important because that’s what you funnel down into the screen in front of you. If you haven’t heard how a Jat in Delhi talks or seen how fights break out in DTC buses, and if you haven’t carried that in your head and you have not obsessed about that, then you will not be able to make Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! For instance, I used to travel in buses all the time in Delhi, even when I had a car, just to be in touch, just to hear the language, just to hear the sound and just to see people interact. But if you are just looking for fame and if you are looking to hobnob with the stars and get your face on page 3, then really, don’t bother. So I think I would push you to go through a lot of introspection before making this decision. _MG_1542What’s rewarding about your profession? Well, what I have realised is that every last person on earth wants to express himself or herself, but a banker or an engineer expresses himself/herself, on an average basis, far less than a filmmaker, or a writer, or a lyricist, or a script writer does. The number of times I have had my school friends saying to me – ‘Yaar, I have this story, you make a film.’ Everybody has got a story, everybody has got things hidden in their heart, everybody has got emotions, but modern life does not allow you to unlock them really, in other professions. And I think the main reward is that there is a chance that you could be a little more unlocked, a little freer than your average successful banker… By the way, the banker who loves banking would be as free as me. But there are far more bankers, far more engineers and far more system analysts who are doing it because they are just doing it, it’s a job. Filmmaking cannot be a job, it is a true calling. All the directors, singers, writers, lyricists, music directors, production designers, cinematographers, who are known for their work and who are famous are pursuing it as a way of life first and then as a bread-winning job. And you know, once in a while, the craft of cinema ends up as art. For me, art is supposed to communicate a feeling or an emotion that you can’t say with words and which lingers with you. And art is not reality, art is not truth, art is not social comment, art is not protest, art is art. Take any late Fellini, or a few of Ritwik Ghatak films, or a few sequences of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s films. There is something in them that’s bigger or beyond the sum total of the song, the story, the music, the shot, the actor. Raging Bull for me, for instance, will always be art. And that’s worth aspiring for, though you can never consciously try and do it. What’s also rewarding is that you are your own boss. What about those looking to pursue acting? IMG_8138 It’s true for actors as well, but there’s a lot more ego and self-projection involved, because an actor uses his or her physical self – body, voice, face. For aspiring actors, I would advise that they be clear about this – That what an actor does is provide an average human being a vision of life that he cannot himself have. And this is the way it has been for the last 10,000 years. 10,000 years ago, near a village or a cave somewhere, there would be one storyteller who would write the story, sing the story, act the story and tell the story. So he would be all rolled into one and he would make all those villagers sitting around a fireside go through the emotions of a hero flying through the sky. Because they can’t fly through the sky. And that night of imagining a hero flying through the sky makes the next day better, or more bearable. It makes existence a little less painful. So what an actor truly does is that he makes the burden of normal, average Joes a little lighter. It’s a deep, deep job but what happens is that in a society like India, which is deeply disempowered and unjust and which is very, very poor, a lot of people start hanging their dreams and their fascinations and their obsessions onto you. And therefore the phenomenon of the star emerges. That is why a poorer country will always have a more powerful star than a richer country. So I would advise them to be mindful of that.

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  • What’s rewarding about your profession?

    Well, what I have realised is that every last person on earth wants to express himself or herself, but a banker or an engineer expresses himself/herself, on an average basis, far less than a filmmaker, or a writer, or a lyricist, or a script writer does. The number of times I have had my school friends saying to me – ‘Yaar, I have this story, you make a film.’ Everybody has got a story, everybody has got things hidden in their heart, everybody has got emotions, but modern life does not allow you to unlock them really, in other professions. And I think the main reward is that there is a chance that you could be a little more unlocked, a little freer than your average successful banker… By the way, the banker who loves banking would be as free as me. But there are far more bankers, far more engineers and far more system analysts who are doing it because they are just doing it, it’s a job. Filmmaking cannot be a job, it is a true calling. All the directors, singers, writers, lyricists, music directors, production designers, cinematographers, who are known for their work and who are famous are pursuing it as a way of life first and then as a bread-winning job. And you know, once in a while, the craft of cinema ends up as art. For me, art is supposed to communicate a feeling or an emotion that you can’t say with words and which lingers with you. And art is not reality, art is not truth, art is not social comment, art is not protest, art is art. Take any late Fellini, or a few of Ritwik Ghatak films, or a few sequences of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s films. There is something in them that’s bigger or beyond the sum total of the song, the story, the music, the shot, the actor. Raging Bull for me, for instance, will always be art. And that’s worth aspiring for, though you can never consciously try and do it. What’s also rewarding is that you are your own boss.

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  • If you had to draft an elevator pitch for what you do, what would it say?

    ‘A world of hurt awaits you baby, because I can only promise you a lot of pain!’ I would not want to paint a rosy picture for young people aspiring to be here. See, the film industry is disproportionately visible and disproportionately hyped for the amount of people it can sustain, for the amount of capital base it has. For example, for the steel industry it could be a few lakh crores, divided into the number of people it can sustain and so there will be millions working in the steel industry. But the film industry is a very low capital base industry; it’s really not very big in terms of the money it operates with when you compare it to banking, or manufacturing, or FMCG, marketing or whatever. But the problem is that the film industry is visible disproportionately and because in India particularly the film industry is hugely star-oriented and Bollywood has figured out a way of being in the news continuously, so it becomes easy to over-estimate the financial strength of the industry. But the truth is that it is not that big and there isn’t room for a huge number of people. Bollywood sells that dream of fame and glamour to everybody because it needs to, to survive. But actually the story is tougher. So I would rather shatter illusions. Only if you say, ‘I want to make a film because I want to say something,’ should you attempt it. Because only then can you survive. If it’s for any other reason, you won’t. It is my belief that to become a good filmmaker, you have to be a good reader, you have to be a good traveller, you have to be into food, you have to be into music, you have to be into people, you have to be a good watcher, you have to be a good listener… all these things are very important because that’s what you funnel down into the screen in front of you. If you haven’t heard how a Jat in Delhi talks or seen how fights break out in DTC buses, and if you haven’t carried that in your head and you have not obsessed about that, then you will not be able to make Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! For instance, I used to travel in buses all the time in Delhi, even when I had a car, just to be in touch, just to hear the language, just to hear the sound and just to see people interact. But if you are just looking for fame and if you are looking to hobnob with the stars and get your face on page 3, then really, don’t bother. So I think I would push you to go through a lot of introspection before making this decision.

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  • What kind of internship would you recommend?

    Try and join a film company, or a film director. Lots of students have joined me as a Director’s Assistant and that’s usually the first step you take. Of course, this is if you are doing a direction course. If you are writing, then you can be an assistant writer or a researcher. A lot of young people joined our team for research on Shanghai, for the research of Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! (DBB!) A lot of research for DBB! was in Calcutta, so a lot of students from Jadavpur University came and joined us. Of course, one must keep in mind that a majority of the film industry is still in Bombay, so you have to find that typical PG and live in horrible circumstances, because Bombay is a very shitty city and you have to somehow grit your teeth and go through the struggle. Once you’ve got a foothold, I also think that the main thing to do is to see a lot of films and figure out for yourself which kinds of films you would like to make and then to target those filmmakers and try and start working with them. That’s where your independence of thought matters.

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  • Do you think a formal education is an absolute essential for your profession? And if so, what should it be?

    Better have it than not. If I had gone to a film school and come out as a film professional, I would probably have made my first film a little earlier. So I would say that if you have a film education to go for, go for it because now there are a number of good institutes all over the country: In Delhi there’s Jamia; in Calcutta, there’s SRFTI; in Pune there is FTII; and in Madras there is the Prasad Academy. I’d say do not underestimate the value of institutional education, but sometimes what an educational institute does is that it takes you away from reality and as you come out into the real world you get a big jolt and sometimes that jolt takes the strength of your inspiration. So do not also underestimate the value of coming out into the world and working in the industry because that is where you learn the real skills, within the real environment where you also learn how to survive with your inspiration intact. Having said that, I think if you are mad about films and if you have been into films since the age of five as I was, then you are already educating yourself by watching films and reading about films. I was fortunate that I went to National Institute of Design in a way because they have a very active film club, which I was a member of and so we used to see world classics on big screen. The ones nobody in India could have seen. And my absolute informal education advice would be to travel. Young people in India do not travel much and they should. I want to say that to young people today – ‘Travel, travel, travel.’

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  • Who are some of the film-makers you admire most?

    Whatever I know of cinema and film-making comes from watching interesting films. When I was 16, I watched with a few friends a video of Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver We thought it was full of sex (laughs), that it was a porn film. But as the film was progressing, we were stunned to see it was a great film. We were breathless at the end, and soon we were watching it all over again, completely astonished by the craft and the performances. Another film-maker who has made a big impact is Ketan Mehta, especially with Holi. And I admire Vishal Bharadwaj's Maqbool. These two film-makers in particular showed me that one can afford to be daring and different and still be around to make more films.

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  • What are some of the most important factors you have discovered while working on your two films?

    I have realized that there is a difference between pleasing the audiences and connecting with them. Many writers, directors and producers start with the thought that they should please the audiences. But I feel that the audiences want to be touched, they want to be connected. They are smart and they respond to honest and good story telling.

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  • How was your experience working with Paresh Rawal?

    When the script was ready, it was just one part but I changed my mind, and persuaded him to do another role. And then came the third part. He thought it was all very complicated. I had to work hard to persuade him that he could do justice to the three distinct roles within the allotted time. And he was extraordinarily cooperative. But there was one big problem. He is a very big phobia of sticking a beard on his face.

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  • Are you against working with movie stars?

    Not really. But for Oye Lucky I needed a good actor who would endure rough shooting. The pace of shooting this film was intense. We shot at 75 locations in 55 days in and around New Delhi. The standard movie star would not have been able to cope well with the pressure. We had excellent cooperation from Abhay Deol. He is relatively new to the movie industry and yet he has done an excellent job of playing a complex thief longing for social celebrity.

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  • Your first film was an unexpected success; it was also well received by the critics. Did you have any worries when you began working on Oye Lucky Lucky Oye?

    By the time Khosla was released, I had come to know more about how the system works. I had also come to know more about the business and the risks inherited. My writer Jaideep Sahni and I had gone into the first film project with an air of innocence. We did not think that we were breaking some of the rules of the Hindi language movies. The man who produced the film was also new to the industry. Jaideep and I have been friends for a long time and he knew I was longing to make a film away from the traditional milieu. It was he who told that he had found a producer who was willing to make a film on a tiny budget Things worked out very well with our first film but on the second film, initially there was some fear in my heart. Jaideep was not there this time as he was busy with Yash Raj projects; he was contractually bound to work on certain films for Yash Raj. By the time I was finalising the cast and crew for the new film, Khosla had become even a bigger success on video and TV. So there were higher expectations for me. In the previous film we had turned away from the safety measures that are so inherent in most Hindi films; there were no item songs in the film, no typical romance or hype. I was worried how I would be able to handle the pressure on the new film. But instinctively I decided I was not going to be pigeon holed and run after safety measures like having stars play the leads.

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  • Some people think that Oye Lucky Lucky Oye is an outright comedy.

    It surely has comedic touches but it also has a deep and darker story. I have not made a preachy film but it is a fable of modern India. True, it is the story of the meteoric rise of a young thief who wants to have a glamorous life. On the surface it is an often funny and thrilling ride. But at its core it is about what the new and 'liberated' India is. I see the country as a pressure cooker of unrealized dreams and ambitions. On one hand there is a class that has made great progress and earned a lot of money. It flaunts its new found wealth all the time. On the other hand, there is stark poverty. It is not easy for a common man, and particularly a poor person, to break through the innumerable barriers and achieve success. Of course there are some people who manage to succeed despite these barriers; they do so by being honest, enterprising and hardworking. But there are also people who want to do things in a quick way. They are also aware that many super rich and super successful people haven't reached the top playing by the rules. The rush to get rich and have a glamorous life has an awful effect on our society. Despite these concerns, I did not want to make the film didactic. I have told it as an entertaining satire. I have made the new film with the same honesty as I used in Khosla Ka Ghosla!. But I am also a bit anxious to see if the audiences will see fully below the laughs and the adventures of my thief. I hope they will see what I am trying to show -- the darker side of the new India.

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  • Some people think that Oye Lucky Lucky Oye is an outright comedy.

    It surely has comedic touches but it also has a deep and darker story. I have not made a preachy film but it is a fable of modern India. True, it is the story of the meteoric rise of a young thief who wants to have a glamorous life. On the surface it is an often funny and thrilling ride. But at its core it is about what the new and 'liberated' India is.

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  • If not a director, you’d be?

    Children’s Illustrator.

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  • What do you have that none of your contemporaries have?

    I have a life outside of my films- a deep, deep engaging life outside of my films. I’m very proud of that.

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  • An attack on freedom of expression is something an artist fears the most. What do you think of this self-appointed moral police?

    Moral policing is there in every country and every society. I think what has happened is that over the last five or six years, people who want easy and quick fame have seen that it is easier to get fame if you become the moral police and try and raise a controversy over a film just before its release or just after, because it gets into the newspapers. So if newspapers and media stop writing about the moral police, then moral policing will go away; it is more or less a campaign for publicity for their own party line or for their own agenda.

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  • You’ve also been quoted saying that Anurag is the only guy who ‘prevents me from being complacent’. What is this interesting equation that you share with him

    You see Anurag basically is a very restless soul and I can sometimes be very complacent. I wouldn’t have thought of LSD the way I did, if I wasn’t encouraged by the response to Anurag’s DevD. Anurag himself said that his wish to make DevD got amplified when I took Abhay for Khosla Ka Ghosla. We were almost making it together. So we kind of feed off each other. There are certain things that Anurag has that I don’t have. I can’t go out and face so many odds and be as vocal and upbeat as Anurag is. So because he’s there, the scene is so interesting. And because he’s there, and I never know what he’ll do tomorrow, you’re always on your feet and that’s good. Because I’m deeply dissatisfied with my work and I use Anurag as a tool to be even more dissatisfied, and try and do something else.

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  • You’ve been quoted saying that we need to distinguish Indian films, which may or may not be Bollywood films. Why do you say that?

    Because in the international arena, Bollywood is a freak show. It’s a sub genre. If you really want to cross barriers of culture and say something which is universal, then you will have to go a bit away from the regular tropes of Bollywood and try and make something that connects to the real India that we see ourselves in. Bollywood is basically an entertainment delivery machine to an audience which wants to escape. If the international audience wants to find that escape, they’ll see Batman, or Twilight. So when they want to see Indian cinema, they want to see what’s happening inside of India’s skin. They will need stories and narratives which are not escapist. So that’s where we separate.

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  • What do you think about this Robin Hood syndrome of big production houses?

    That’s great! Actually that is the best thing that has happened in the last 10-15 years, because with the growing number of audience in cinema and films becoming more profiting, all the studios are willing to experiment a bit with different kinds of cinema, and that really is good for filmmakers like us. If there were no Dhoom, there would be no Byomkesh Bakshy.

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  • How have you managed to do that, enjoy commercial success while maintaining the art house cinema essence?

    By needing less money. You see, if I need less money, then I can take less money for a film; and if I take less money for a film, then that film can be made for lesser money. The lesser money I make a film for, the more independent I would be. And the lesser money the film is made for, the more the chances are for the film being a commercial success. Because films don’t flop, budgets flop. Any film has a relative size of audience which will come and see it. If you make a film for a little less than that relative budget, then you stand to make some money. So I’m trying to do this, because I know that the kind of films I make will never have an audience huge enough that it can be everything to everybody. Nor do I want to have that huge audience! Because then I won’t be able to think the very personal and the very intense things that I want to say. So I need to keep it small and I need to keep it cheap. I live a cheaper life than many directors and that’s how I want to continue .

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  • So what drives you to constantly keep exploring new genres?

    Mistakes! Every film that I do is so full of mistakes that I definitely want to walk away from it and then try and do something else, so I can actually really redeem myself. That’s why I keep walking away from what I’ve done because I get bored of it. A film takes two years to get made and by the time you finish, you’ve already outgrown the film. And it is a terribly torturous process for me to live with something that is so full of inconsistencies for my own consumption. So I generally try to forget it and move on to something else. It’s just running away from my mistakes.

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  • What are the memories or associations with Kolkata and Bengal that you’ve endowed Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! with?

    I have no memories of Kolkata because I never grew up there. So Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! is a result of two years of intense research-visual and literary. We read up on what Calcutta was at that point. We interviewed probably 50 to 60 people who were in their eighties or nineties as to how Calcutta used to be like (in the 1940s) and we had a visual reference book of about 5000 pictures. We went there, we saw a lot of old Calcutta which even exists today and matched it to what it could be – which are the sounds of the ferrywalas, the details of the ghoda-ghaadi, the tram of 1943, the clothes of 1943, the films of the time, the magazines… all of this has been a part of the research and that will come across in the film.

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  • Hindi cinema is getting a new audience - people who only say Hollywood movies or world cinema before…

    Yes, in the early '90s, India got divided into people watching MTV and Channel V, and the ones who saw Karan and Aditya's movies (those who were not overtly West oriented) movies. The latter were taking leadership of New India. But eventually, the music channels also started playing Hindi movie songs because that was profitable. The migration from smaller towns to urban areas increased, reflecting a change in Bollywood. And these supposed 'urban elite' were starting to feel left out. The elite need to belong to something to survive, so now they are trying to get back to watching Hindi films.

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  • What would make you go to the cinema?

    A good trailer! I would any day go Gangs Of Wasseypur, because it shows me another world, I would see a Gangs Of New York, Salaam Bombay, Bandit Queen, Maqbool, and a Band Baaja Baraat (Anushka portrays the best ever screen kiss. She is sleeping but she is kissed, she wakes up to the fact that she loves this guy. It is so well layered).

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  • Women are kind of non-existent in your films

    I haven't a clue. I think I need to get myself examined (laughs), because 60 to 70 per cent of my team - scriptwriter, assistant director, art director - comprises women. Maybe, because in my head I don't see men and women as separate entities, but again I feel women are more organized and structured than men. Also, the men I work with have a feminine side. My director of photography Nikos looks like a Greek God, and he's as masculine anyone can get (and he will kill me for saying this) but like women, he communicates very well. If I tell him to do something, he will take his time to explain to me why it cannot done. That's the synergy I like on my set. I don't like mysteries. On a lot of sets, the assistant would be running around guessing what the director wants, but on my sets, everyone's on the same page.

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  • So making your first movie, Khosla Ka Ghosla was a cakewalk?

    Savita Raj Hiremat owned an advertising agency and she was militant about making a movie about Delhi and its people. Jaideep put her through me. He told her, 'he has an interesting take on the city'. I came from an advertising background, I had shot 50 commercials, so I pretty much knew the mechanics of filmmaking. But the struggle started when I moved to Mumbai in 2004. There were no takers for the film. Every distributor had seen the film but no one wanted to take it. I was in wilderness then. I was sort of in a black hole. But when that two-year period ended, I knew I was invincible, I had learnt most things about life and films in that time. I had become negative and I was going to give up (a friend had told me that the moment you stop expecting, things happen), and just when I did, it got taken by UTV Motion Pictures.

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  • Is your story of struggle very romantic?

    Unfortunately, no (laughs). I was never on the sadak. When I was working in the advertising world in Delhi, it was at its peak. Pradeep Sarkar, Jaideep Sahni, we all were working together. I was this hotshot Ad guy, making a good amount of money. Even after I shifted to Mumbai, my wife, who's into the corporate world was making enough and while Anurag was struggling and making ends meet, I was living in a posh flat. And have never worked under anyone or struggled for money since I was 26.

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  • The industry is celebrating outsiders…

    Yes, people from film families and outsiders are co-existing. The reason the audience watches a Dibakar or Anurag film is same as Zoya and Karan films - good filmmaking. Karan made his first film when his father wasn't doing too well, he had to go through a number of hardships. And these people have to prove themselves much more. I have nothing to lose, it's like someone pointed out to me, 'Even if your film fails, you will be put on a pedestal and stories will be written about your edgy way of filmmaking'. But people are very harsh on these guys. So, everyone's working with some or other handicap. For one Karan Johar who has made it, there are five who haven't. The basics for survival are standard for everyone - a little more passion, a lot more hard work , a much better vision - than the other person.

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  • You signed a three-films contract with Yash Raj. Is that a rite of passage into the elite club?

    What rubbish! This is what I don't like. This bracketing of people. What is elite about working with YRF? I discovered that Aditya Chopra and I are very similar- we both are extremely professional, prefer our films to speak for themselves, don't give interview to be in newspapers every other week, and are passionate about films. We were very clear since the first meeting that I have the creative controls and YRF will be in-charge of marketing the film. It will be my vision. The alliance was based on the clear understanding that if YRF changes my way of filmmaking, it will lose out on what they set out looking for.

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  • You signed a three-films contract with Yash Raj. Is that a rite of passage into the elite club?

    What rubbish! This is what I don't like. This bracketing of people. What is elite about working with YRF? I discovered that Aditya Chopra and I are very similar- we both are extremely professional, prefer our films to speak for themselves, don't give interview to be in newspapers every other week, and are passionate about films.

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  • You mentioned somewhere you don't want to earn money from Bombay Talkies…

    The movie is made on an extremely cheap budget. In fact, Karan Johar joked, "I am practically wearing half of the budget of my film." So, each director was given Rs 1.5 crore, that makes a total of six. And another six was spent on marketing it. By Hindi films standard, that very cheap. The movies were made to mark an occasion, not to get into the 100-crore club.

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  • A goon called Bunty threatened to have you killed. What did you do to him?

    Bunty was a character in Oye Lucky. A real-life gangster called Bunty imagined I had made millions off a film based on his life, and got pissed off. He came out of jail soon after Oye Lucky was released, and I think the Pune police caught him when he claimed he was on his way to Mumbai to bump me off. He was texting me as well.

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  • A goon called Bunty threatened to have you killed. What did you do to him?

    Bunty was a character in Oye Lucky. A real-life gangster called Bunty imagined I had made millions off a film based on his life, and got pissed off. He came out of jail soon after Oye Lucky was released, and I think the Pune police caught him when he claimed he was on his way to Mumbai to bump me off. He was texting me as well.

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  • Its your thing is: I will live in the mill area, I will work with young actors, I will experiment with realism, I will show them how it's done.

    The last bit is not important to me. [Laughs.] Just as I am not interested in many things, many things aren't interested in me. What matters is when I am here, I feel happy, I feel rooted. Secondly, because I am not in Juhu or Lokhandwala, I am so far away from the industry gossip and the completely time-wasting and debilitating effect of useless shop talk and anxiety. Shop talk and anxiety are constant companions of the film world because it's a very unpredictable industry. And if you start wallowing in it, it affects your work. Being here helps me insulate myself from all that.

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  • Why you feel uncomfortable working in the generally undisciplined, star-obsessed world of Bollywood?

    I have had a very lucky career, I have never done films with huge stars. So I've never paid any attention to that, it's not been important to me, and that's why it's passed me by. You are as affected by something as the importance you give to it. For me scale doesn't matter as much as depth.

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  • You were an ad film-maker for many years. How did that experience help you with cinema?

    It helped in terms of visual preparation. It taught me how to treat each frame as a place of respect. Also, ad films need to pack in a lot of quality on a limited budget, so that helped make me disciplined and responsible.

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  • Your cinema is rooted in realism, not the typical Bollywood escapist stuff.

    I was bored of Hindi films by the late Eighties. Nineties Hindi cinema completely passed me by. Also, because of my stint at NID (National Institute of Design), I got the opportunity to watch classics from all over the world. So I grew up on my own vision, my own mish-mash of all the influences that I had. And my primary influence was the city I used to live in, Delhi. Hence Khosla Ka Ghosla and Oye Lucky. So there was no conscious decision to avoid escapism, it's just that I was bored of Hindi films. The only exceptions were Parinda and Bandit Queen. Both these films were game-changers for me.

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  • Which film-makers' work had the most impact on you?

    Martin Scorsese, Stanley Kubrick and Satyajit Ray.

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  • You grew up in Karol Bagh, far removed from showbiz. When and how did the bug bite?

    It happened around the 11th standard. I used to write, sketch, sing, compose - I would play for the school choir. It occurred to me that if I want to include all of these things in one thing, cinema would be a good candidate. I remember being fascinated by the Hindi and regional films they used to show on Doordarshan. I watched a number of foreign classics as well.

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  • What is the most unique quality Dibakar the Director brings to his work?

    The contrast and surprise of everyday life. I was once involved in a car accident in Delhi, and as it typically happens, a fight erupted. Now, one of the guys from the other car recognized me and started discussing my films, even as the rest were busy fighting! That scene is vintage me, I could have written that script. [Laughs.] For example, in my new film, there's a scene where the detective and his close friends are almost killed inside a gangster's hideout. At the same time, in the same room, there are two guys playing Mahjong. I like doing contrast, it excites me.

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  • You tend to experiment with different genres of cinema. Is that a way of challenging yourself?

    I can't repeat myself because I get bored very easily. The other thing is a film takes two years to make, and in that time you grow, you change as a person. So the person who made Khosla Ka Ghosla, by the time he goes on to make Oye Lucky, is not the same person - in fact it would be bad news if he continued to be the same person. With time, my instincts, my concerns, my urges change. The things I used to be angry about two years ago, I have made peace with them. And yes, I probably do like the challenge.

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  • How did you developed the character of the film Detective Byomkesh Bakshi?

    All I have tried to do is be faithful to the romanticism of that era, the way I felt it while reading about it as a teenager. I want the audiences to feel the same rush. That's the fundamental creative impulse of the film. However, my mind is in 2015, so while we transported ourselves to the Forties, we've used contemporary techniques and stylistic devices; it's fast-paced with wry humour. We find ourselves in 1943 because of time travel, but our language is completely contemporary. So what you end up watching is history in the present. It's not a period film.

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  • How did you came across the idea to make Detective Byomkesh Bakshi?

    I've been a fan of detective fiction since I was 13. And being a Bengali kid living in Delhi, having a number of Bengali books lying around the house, I used to be hungry to connect with the "mythical" city of Calcutta, which was the lodestone of everything. According to Bengali culture, the biggest writers, painters, politicians, etc, were in Calcutta. I started reading fictional detective stories from there, because Bengali literature has had a fascinating history of detective fiction dating way back to the late 19th century. I realized that a detective character and the city in which he operates are totally interconnected - you cannot have an interesting fictional detective character without a thriving urban culture of a certain type around it. The Delhi of Oye Lucky and Khosla Ka Ghosla, where I grew up, was a city of class, money, violence, conflict, but there was nothing mysterious about it, there was no mystery in my life. What attracted me to the Calcutta of the Thirties and Forties is this whole thing about dark secrets, smoky lanes, vintage cars, old colonial buildings. That gives you a world that is a little more innocent than the world we live in, and that innocence throws up crime in a much more interesting way, a purer way.

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  • 'Detective Byomkesh Bakshi' did you wanted to make a local Sherlock Holmes?

    The detective is not a new character. Byomkesh Bakshi has been around since 1933. And in the early Nineties, there used to be a famous TV series based on the character.

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  • How do you grapple with truth and the real life world?

    No. I don’t grapple with it all the time because I’m not interested in all meanings, I’m only interested in a few meanings so I’ll only grapple with a fact or an event and its meaning or be it truth if it is ideologically important to me. For example you are not ideologically important to me. What do you think of me, is ideologically not very important to me as compared to what the readers of this magazine think of me. But ideologically it is very important to me that I’m able to make my next film or me being able to educate my children matters to me. So everything that I do I will try to grapple with the facts and the meanings and the truth which are closer to these other two obsessions of mine which is making my next film and educating and arming my children to face the coming world. I will select the truth around these two subjects and try to grapple with them. And the rest of them, either I’ll avoid or I’ll maneuver around, but I’ll simply not care about them. That’s roughly the way my head works or my grappling with truth works.

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  • what do you think of the concept of truth? And how do you as a filmmaker grapple with it, because cinema is not always true.

    Truth is something closer to a meaning that you construct rather than an event or a fact, that you observe or record. The two are not the same thing. And one may lead to different truths. It’s really not the same thing.

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  • Do you mean some form or some sort of a proceeding dissatisfaction within ourselves which leads to the anger, rage and hate?

    Absolutely. We know, that we are failing. And we are desperately looking for someone to blame. And our first reaction is: ‘You are to blame, and you should vanish! Just disappear, because your being here makes me uncomfortable’. And then comes the fact that by any chance if he has power, then we try and use that power in various ways to inch towards making that thorn in our side vanish. So, if you look at it at an anthropological level, it’s basically competing for resources. There is no moral conscience here. But the fact is that if I dropped the imaginary fiction of moral conscience, my life would not be very enjoyable. I won’t have a very good time; if that fiction is robbed from me. So I will use ideology to get out of this binary.

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  • How would you defend saying that everything is subjective, there is no objectivity in this world? What do you think of that?

    CULTURE, INTERVIEWS, ISSUE 23, LIMELIGHT Limelight| The Dibakar Banerjee Interview: I have no idea who I am 09 Feb Dibakar Banerjee is a widely celebrated filmmaker. His films Khosla ka Ghosla (2006) and Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! (2008) have both won the National Film Award. His other critically acclaimed movies include Love, Sex aur Dhoka (2010), Shanghai (2012), Bombay Talkies (2013), Detective Byomkesh Bakshi (2015). His most recent movies include the Netflix hit Lust Stories and his upcoming movie Sandeep aur Pinky Faraar releases on March 1, 2019. In this conversation with Swagat Baruah of Catharsis, he talks about his personal self, his movies and his philosophy. Swagat Baruah: So the last time we talked, we talked about a lot of things but one thing that really got me hooked on to was your talk about elitism. I’d really like to know D.B, what was it like to be growing up in the 90s and witnessing the change of economic scenarios in India. And how those things affected your career choices back then. Dibakar Banerjee: I have no idea of how to authentically try to replicate what I lived through in the 90’s. Because like everything else, my memory is also colored. Whatever I say is a function of my current understanding of what I was then, which I didn’t have at that point, I was just being. So I have no idea how much of what I remember is a function of my own memory or my later critical and historical knowledge about how 90s went for India. So I don’t know which came first me being the 90s generation X or the concept of Generation X. Because like everything else, my memory is also colored. Whatever I say is a function of my current understanding of what I was then, which I didn’t have at that point, I was just being. S.B: But I’m sure, at that moment you still remember what was it like to be. I remember things about my childhood now, and we all have certain incidents back in school which now we look back to and laugh at. But at that moment we all knew that it was all horrendous especially when you were supposed to go to the principal’s office because you were caught in an act of mischief or something like that. At that moment we knew what we felt. But in hindsight everything looks funny to me now, including the whole banality of worrying back then. But I still remember how I felt back then. So if you were to carry on from that especially in Indian movies, how much of India or the idea of India do we really get to see in movies. What do you think of that? D.B: I just compliment the 90s. I think my memories of 90s are to a large extent common with any other young person stepping into their early 20s anywhere in the world at any historical point of time. All your impulses are just functions of your physical age. And therefore perception is also the same, whether somebody grew up in the 40s or 90s. But then comes the accident of history. I think we were all at a critical age shaped by India’s economic liberalization, which in that particular context happened with the English speaking elite first, and then perhaps moved on to the other aspects of society. Since I had the key of English, I was inducted into it quite early. And the interesting thing with me was that even though I had the knowledge of English and I was deeply connected to the Western world and the Western culture, I still had a second ranker or a third ranker position in the elite pecking order of the country. I was not exactly at the top I was somewhere close to the top. S.B: So you’re not the 1 percent but you’re definitely in the 9 percent? D.B: Something like that. And basically I remember it as my climb through that 9 percent upwards. That’s one way of looking at it because at that point, when you are 23-24 and you’re extremely anxious to impress upon the world about your worth so at that point, you grab at many ways of showing the world your worth. But at age 26-27 suddenly the environment is such that you leave a salaried job and start a production company and it just happens, and then you think it’s all easy, and it happens because you’re young and you’re working 18 or 20 hours a day. The ideas are bubbling, you’re ambitious. You’re also at that age more susceptible to not choose, and keep doing many things. Because you think time is infinite so you can experiment and you can gamble and you can do as you think you want, because there is a sense of infinity in front of you. And there were infinite chances. Being in your 20s in the 90s probably was rather better; the best post-independent Indian youth have felt. This is definitely not nostalgia speaking. Being in your 20s in the 90s probably was rather better; the best post-independent Indian youth have felt. This is definitely not nostalgia speaking. S.B: People have fears in life. Certain common fears and certain individual, extremely personal fears. Did you have any fear back then which drove you to the cinemas? That is what I would like to know. Some people fear that there’s not enough time in life and which is why you gotta do what you gotta do at this moment as soon as possible. D.B: I remember a hierarchy of fears from my childhood. My first fear was one of the first things I remember: that I’ll never be able to light a matchstick in my life. That was a big worry for me. Another worry that I had was that I’ll never be able to tell the time. Another worry was that I’ll never be able to cross the road on my own. These are my three memorable fears when I was a child. Another fear that I had was that I would never be able to catch a ball. When I grew up and got into my teens I think my main fear was that I’ll not grow tall or good looking. And hence it came to the third fear that I’ll never lose my virginity. And as you can see these are the any fears that any 18 year old would have. Then when I went to NID, my fear was that I was wasting my parents’ money. When I came and joined advertising my fear was I would prove to be not very creative. When I left my advertising company and found my own production company was when I truly had no fear. S.B: And that is when you conquered fear? D.B: I have no idea of conquering fear. I just realized that when I formed my production company I don’t remember being afraid. S.B: Yeah that is when I think you became who you are. D.B: Also I have no idea who I am. S.B: That’s understandable. This German philosopher Nietzsche in the 19th century, he has this line which is always used in motivational books. He says ‘Become who you are, make only what you are capable of’. But I think that people deep inside are really horrible and if they do became who they are. The world would be chaotic. D.B: Nietzsche’s ramblings have led to a lot of grief. Especially Nietzsche’s misunderstood ramblings especially when they were ascribed with more meaning than they contain. And unfortunately a lot of bad shit has come out of that. S.B: Getting back to the point of elitism. Something great has happened since we last talked, the #MeToo movement that shook-up the whole of India. We saw critics coming up and saying that this is a sort of an elite movement with elites overthrowing elites and this will never seep into anything else. I disagree with that I feel that, revolutions will always start from the elite base and then eventually seep into the lower strata of society, I do feel positive about that. But talking about culture; culture always has been in Indian cinema a representation of the elites. At least for the past few years. So what do you think of that and representation of elites in Indian cinema and about the revolutions in the society? D.B: It’s rather a very simple answer. Whether the #MeToo movement is elite or whether the movement is one elite, none of those factors should be any reason to denigrate the movement. It’s not connected to it. And maybe when we are saying that the #MeToo movement is an elite movement all we are saying is that in a society like India only the elite have the voice. But that doesn’t change what they are trying to say. And if you’re aware of this being an elite movement, then why kill the #MeToo movement? Why not try and make it more inclusive? Why is the solution denigrating the #MeToo movement? About the elite representation in Indian cinema I don’t think Indian cinema can be separated from any aspect of work in the Indian society and the access to work and the access to employment and the right to work. Like many other rights and like many other reasonably unjust societies, in India also, the right to work and the right to employment, to some extent also favors the elite. And it’s reflected exactly the same way in cinema. I don’t think the cinema industry should be singled out for being elite. So is the engineering industry and medical industry elite. Doesn’t that seem a lot bigger? And if you’re aware of this being an elite movement, then why kill the #MeToo movement? Why not try and make it more inclusive? S.B: How do you mean the engineering industry? D.B: Children of the poor cannot afford education in an engineering college any more than they can afford an education in film-making and become a filmmaker. The poorest of the poor are as barred from filmmaking as they are from engineering. S.B: I would disagree on that partly because the poorest of the poor do go to engineering colleges or at least they aspire to be there. But you never see a filmmaker come out of a very small village of a very small town a very small state. You’d never see that. D.B: Actually we do have people like that, maybe not directors but technicians. You must remember that cinema industry is minuscule compared to the engineering or the medical stream of employment. In terms of skill there is no comparison. However, what I was trying to say is that you cannot single out the film industry for being an enclave of the elite keeping in mind the size. I think it is representative of elite capture as any other stream of skills and highly specialized employment in India. I’m saying that the reason why the elite have captured cinema-making not because of something intrinsic to cinema, it is something intrinsic to our society. That’s all I’m trying to say. And over the last 15 to 20 years what has happened is that there has been a further concentration of English speaking professionals in the filmmaking industry. As a result the vernacular languages and literature which comes out of vernacular languages and the literature that comes out of Hindi language which is the main language of Bollywood, that flow has stopped quite a bit. And at this point I don’t even want to venture into guessing what kind of material we are losing out because of this fountain completely drying up. S.B: Do you think that something like Netflix can revolutionize the industry, giving more voices to more people, which it actually is doing I think? D.B: I hope so. But the problem that I was talking about was not about the lack of avenues. The problem that I was talking about was that however many avenues open, employment in those avenues is as such that it favours the English speaking elite. The poverty of material from the 15 or 16 literary languages of India will only come to translation. That means the thriving translation industry in cinema which has translators who read languages and translate and circulate the official translated copies of literature from all the languages would be at any given point of time available to any director or writer to look at and be available for auctioning for it’s screenplay rights. As we speak, I’m sure there is one whole industry or a sub-industry that can open up, but probably it isn’t because there is no demand or awareness that this ‘fountain’ has dried up right next to our feet. It’s right there and we’ve blocked it. It’s just a tap away. S.B: So do you face these problems even when you’re writing or when you’re reading scripts. I don’t know what people you’re working with I don’t know what languages they speak but people generally like to think or are programmed to think in their mother tongue. And certain feelings can be explained or depicted only through their mother tongue. So do you find problems in deriving or having hardcore substance in your script in terms of language or do you lose out on material when you do that when you’re writing or when you get someone else to write for you. D.B: I have no idea what language do I think in. I’m trying to think about it. And now we’re getting into the deep territory of psychology – from Saussure to Lacan to Barthes. When I’m thinking to myself, I sincerely don’t remember the language that I’m thinking in. That means that probably the language that I use to talk to myself is non-verbal because I remember thoughts, I remember scripts, if it is a Hindi script I remember a Hindi line. But I don’t remember how the process of thought works and what is its language. Certainly sitting here right now I can’t remember any language I’m using to think. While you were talking, I was thinking, but I don’t remember the language. When I’m expressing I’m finding meaning and there is a little bit of a difference between what I’m saying and what I thought and that’s because language creates its own meaning. So I’ve no idea what language do I think in. But I have this very practical problem that every time I look for a vehicle of a story or a novella to express some of the ideas that may be running through my head now, instead of looking at 15 languages I’m looking at two languages. You can imagine immediately how my field of search has restricted and basic mathematical logic sort of end-gaming tells me that I’m losing out on about 60 to 70 percent of an increment in my long list; at least of books or stories or things to read. So that’s a real practical problem. One of the main things that I think is of immense practical value of being an Indian is that unlike most other people on the planet we are connected to at least three to four languages intimately. And because of the proximity and similarity and closeness of these languages, they are quite easily translatable and understandable. I was just sitting with my script-writer, he’s from Rajasthan and he told me that as a child of nine or ten he read Sharad Chandra in translation. I remember when I was a child of about nine or ten years of age, I would read all of English literature in Bangla because that’s the language that I learnt to read before I learnt to read English fluently. But I already had read everything from James Hadley Chase to Shakespeare in Bangla. And that sustained me, it widened my world. So when I’m looking for a script or a screenplay or something to stimulate and carry my ideas; if I’m looking at two languages instead of fifteen, I’m just losing out on that great-great fountain. And this is what I deeply suspect, and I hope I’m wrong. S.B: So Lust Stories came out and you’re coming up with a new movie also. Can you tell me what you’re exploring right now? What does really interest you at this age and what are you really trying to portray in your movies right now? D.B: A very interesting thing happened over Lust Stories and Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar is that; for the first time in my life I was looking at personal spaces between people. And the difference between Lust Stories and Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar is ‘class’. In the latter I was looking at class from a very personal angle. That’s something that I find myself obsessed with, not consciously. Because forms of it and motifs of it and patterns of it, reveal themselves all too frequently these days in whatever I’m exploring. Not in the same form, and not probably at the same stage of evolution, and it keeps increasing and changing hopefully. But some of the concerns are the same. I think right now I’m obsessed with working my head through concepts of power, class and desire. S.B: So you’re exploring a lot of postmodern literature as of now? D.B: I grew up in the postmodern era and without knowing about postmodernism, I read some literature. Being a part of a Colony of our chief language – English, you’re reading to get to the world. But you’re speaking it as an ex-colonial. You’re in a strange position, everything is open to you but you’re still a little obsolete. So I got to know of postmodernism as a term and I got to read whatever was coming up in the 90s in America only when I was in my 30s. And now that I’m in my late 40s, I’m still barely catching up. I mean I’m still catching up on stuff that was written in the 30s, 40s, and the 50s, which I find constantly to be paradigm shifting for me. So I have no idea of reading postmodern literature consciously. Because I didn’t know and I don’t come from an academic background. In fact all my reading is basically accidental. Because I read whatever my wife reads, or whatever she subscribes to. My library is my wife’s library. Whatever books I buy or I kind of have on my own are sometimes the result of me borrowing from my wife’s library. And then finding new points of contact and going and shipping and changing into those contacts. It’s again an accident of relationship that I’m reading what I’m reading. For example, 15 to 20 years ago I discovered Margaret Atwood only because of my wife. And if I hadn’t read Margaret Atwood, probably I wouldn’t be reading Roxane Gay today. S.B: Let me hold on to your idea of class and your fascination with class and power. I’m sure you have some perception of how human beings act in a society and that’s why you’re making movies about class and power, in which you’re putting out relationships to depict and explore those factors. Do you think that people are actually products of the forces of struggle, of power and class? Or, do you think that there’s more to human beings than being original? Or do you think that human beings are just really original and devoid of their caste or class or race, in terms of our actions in the society? D.B: I don’t think there is any other way for a human being to have been throughout, at least from the hunter gatherer phase till now. Hierarchy, class and power are not necessarily tools to oppress and suppress but they are probably tools of survival in a very primitive society and they are just accidental byproduct of labor division, which centers around child rearing in mammals, I think to a large extent. Because our infants need a very deep connect for a very long period of their childhood. So parenting becomes that much more complex and that leads to certain labor division and that leads to the accidental birth of hierarchy, class and other such aspects, but there is no way of escaping it. We have come forward from the hunter-gatherer stage, so it’s probably futile trying to deny the hardcore reality of it. However, the other things that you discussed in the same breath are complete works of fiction, so I don’t see the fit between those two at all, because if you’re talking about race or caste or class as defined by us as something divine, these are complete works of imagination; like our names. Someone’s being Brahmin or someone’s being an untouchable is a work of imagination. S.B: But if you’ve already stated that there arises a hierarchy out of labor division, you would agree that, hence that would have to have a name. Although if you agree that the caste or race are all imaginations, then even labor divisions or even hierarchies are imaginations. D.B: No. Because when you work into hierarchy or labor division without giving it the feel of it being divine and eternal it is not an act of imagination to perpetuate your part. It is an act of role division. Suppose if I’m working with you in an office in a professional capacity, you are a junior to me and I’m a senior to you. We know that tomorrow you could start a production company, earn loads of money and become a producer and I would direct for you and you would be on an equal position as me. And someday you may be in a senior position to me. There is nothing that stops you. And this is an established myth of the corporate world that if you keep on working you will be above everyone else and people who are your seniors will one day be your juniors. But the whole caste system is based on a myth which says that if you’re a Brahmin you’re forever superior and if you’re an untouchable you’re forever inferior. When you imagine these kinds of things, then it’s very clear that behind this imagination there’s an interest which is not the fulfilling of some role or job for which you are dividing labor. The interest is to appropriate as much of social material and cultural power as possible through a work of imagination which you pass off as divine work. But the whole caste system is based on a myth which says that if you’re a Brahmin you’re forever superior and if you’re an untouchable you’re forever inferior. S.B: But I would argue that, isn’t that what hierarchies are about. If every human being is determined by his will to power so is every class. And so there is no horizontal hierarchy, there’s only vertical hierarchy in terms of what we’re talking about, even in professional life. Say for example the hunter gatherers did divide labor and said that, X you take up this, Y you take up this. It is bound to happen that X would claim more power over Y or Y would claim power over X. And in the end whoever claims power, they seal it with ‘divinity’, and say that ‘I am above you and you are below me’. I understand where you’re coming from, it’s all man-made, I completely understand that, but to deny it as an imagination would be to deny hierarchy altogether. D.B: But I don’t think that the two are similar. So what if the #MeToo movement is elitist. How does that make the #MeToo movement irrelevant? So what, if both are acts of imagination, I’m actually defining the difference between the two. One act of imagination clearly says that this is just to get this work done, once we are out of this room we are equals. And even if that mythos is not followed and reality rears its ugly head, at least that mythos of equality is there for you to take recourse to, if you feel oppressed. But what happens in a mythos where no matter what you do you are condemned by birth to an inferior position because it is divine and nothing that you do can change it? How can you equate these two? And especially when in the second mythos the fundamental fact that it’s divine, is not true, it’s a lie. So both the situations are acts of imagination. But this one is much viler and much more problematic and at the core of it lie all the problem of human civilization. If this mythos doesn’t have the counter-mythos of all of us having the potential of being equal and if we don’t keep pushing the counter-mythos actively at any point of time, then the other mythos becomes the reality. Do you want to live in a world like that? If this mythos doesn’t have the counter-mythos of all of us having the potential of being equal and if we don’t keep pushing the counter-mythos actively at any point of time, then the other mythos becomes the reality. S.B: Something you said really struck me and I thought about it about it a lot after that actually. You declared in our last conversation that everything is subjective. What did you mean when you said everything is subjective? Because in this age, with everything that’s happening right now, people on the wrong side of things would really like you for saying such things because people are actually questioning even basic truth. They’re saying even truth is subjective, and every aspect of truth is subjective. But I disagree with that. How would you defend saying that everything is subjective, there is no objectivity in this world? What do you think of that? D.B: You know what I think of it, it sounds a bit like an anticlimax. You can check this out my friends, and it’s an egotistical sort of practice. Once in a while when we’re having fun, I tell them that there’s a bet and I make money off them; we can discuss we’ll say what we want. But it always comes down, ultimately, to these binaries. And that’s how I like to win all my bets because every topic of discussion or debate on this earth will come down to these binaries. And these binaries are: is the world the way it is because it is or because you think so? And you can answer that question only in that binary. I have no idea if the world is subjective or objective, all I know is that every time I’ve gotten into any kind of argument in various forms it has always reached the same impasse.

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  • If you agree that the caste or race are all imaginations, then even labor divisions or even hierarchies are imaginations.

    CULTURE, INTERVIEWS, ISSUE 23, LIMELIGHT Limelight| The Dibakar Banerjee Interview: I have no idea who I am 09 Feb Dibakar Banerjee is a widely celebrated filmmaker. His films Khosla ka Ghosla (2006) and Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! (2008) have both won the National Film Award. His other critically acclaimed movies include Love, Sex aur Dhoka (2010), Shanghai (2012), Bombay Talkies (2013), Detective Byomkesh Bakshi (2015). His most recent movies include the Netflix hit Lust Stories and his upcoming movie Sandeep aur Pinky Faraar releases on March 1, 2019. In this conversation with Swagat Baruah of Catharsis, he talks about his personal self, his movies and his philosophy. Swagat Baruah: So the last time we talked, we talked about a lot of things but one thing that really got me hooked on to was your talk about elitism. I’d really like to know D.B, what was it like to be growing up in the 90s and witnessing the change of economic scenarios in India. And how those things affected your career choices back then. Dibakar Banerjee: I have no idea of how to authentically try to replicate what I lived through in the 90’s. Because like everything else, my memory is also colored. Whatever I say is a function of my current understanding of what I was then, which I didn’t have at that point, I was just being. So I have no idea how much of what I remember is a function of my own memory or my later critical and historical knowledge about how 90s went for India. So I don’t know which came first me being the 90s generation X or the concept of Generation X. Because like everything else, my memory is also colored. Whatever I say is a function of my current understanding of what I was then, which I didn’t have at that point, I was just being. S.B: But I’m sure, at that moment you still remember what was it like to be. I remember things about my childhood now, and we all have certain incidents back in school which now we look back to and laugh at. But at that moment we all knew that it was all horrendous especially when you were supposed to go to the principal’s office because you were caught in an act of mischief or something like that. At that moment we knew what we felt. But in hindsight everything looks funny to me now, including the whole banality of worrying back then. But I still remember how I felt back then. So if you were to carry on from that especially in Indian movies, how much of India or the idea of India do we really get to see in movies. What do you think of that? D.B: I just compliment the 90s. I think my memories of 90s are to a large extent common with any other young person stepping into their early 20s anywhere in the world at any historical point of time. All your impulses are just functions of your physical age. And therefore perception is also the same, whether somebody grew up in the 40s or 90s. But then comes the accident of history. I think we were all at a critical age shaped by India’s economic liberalization, which in that particular context happened with the English speaking elite first, and then perhaps moved on to the other aspects of society. Since I had the key of English, I was inducted into it quite early. And the interesting thing with me was that even though I had the knowledge of English and I was deeply connected to the Western world and the Western culture, I still had a second ranker or a third ranker position in the elite pecking order of the country. I was not exactly at the top I was somewhere close to the top. S.B: So you’re not the 1 percent but you’re definitely in the 9 percent? D.B: Something like that. And basically I remember it as my climb through that 9 percent upwards. That’s one way of looking at it because at that point, when you are 23-24 and you’re extremely anxious to impress upon the world about your worth so at that point, you grab at many ways of showing the world your worth. But at age 26-27 suddenly the environment is such that you leave a salaried job and start a production company and it just happens, and then you think it’s all easy, and it happens because you’re young and you’re working 18 or 20 hours a day. The ideas are bubbling, you’re ambitious. You’re also at that age more susceptible to not choose, and keep doing many things. Because you think time is infinite so you can experiment and you can gamble and you can do as you think you want, because there is a sense of infinity in front of you. And there were infinite chances. Being in your 20s in the 90s probably was rather better; the best post-independent Indian youth have felt. This is definitely not nostalgia speaking. Being in your 20s in the 90s probably was rather better; the best post-independent Indian youth have felt. This is definitely not nostalgia speaking. S.B: People have fears in life. Certain common fears and certain individual, extremely personal fears. Did you have any fear back then which drove you to the cinemas? That is what I would like to know. Some people fear that there’s not enough time in life and which is why you gotta do what you gotta do at this moment as soon as possible. D.B: I remember a hierarchy of fears from my childhood. My first fear was one of the first things I remember: that I’ll never be able to light a matchstick in my life. That was a big worry for me. Another worry that I had was that I’ll never be able to tell the time. Another worry was that I’ll never be able to cross the road on my own. These are my three memorable fears when I was a child. Another fear that I had was that I would never be able to catch a ball. When I grew up and got into my teens I think my main fear was that I’ll not grow tall or good looking. And hence it came to the third fear that I’ll never lose my virginity. And as you can see these are the any fears that any 18 year old would have. Then when I went to NID, my fear was that I was wasting my parents’ money. When I came and joined advertising my fear was I would prove to be not very creative. When I left my advertising company and found my own production company was when I truly had no fear. S.B: And that is when you conquered fear? D.B: I have no idea of conquering fear. I just realized that when I formed my production company I don’t remember being afraid. S.B: Yeah that is when I think you became who you are. D.B: Also I have no idea who I am. S.B: That’s understandable. This German philosopher Nietzsche in the 19th century, he has this line which is always used in motivational books. He says ‘Become who you are, make only what you are capable of’. But I think that people deep inside are really horrible and if they do became who they are. The world would be chaotic. D.B: Nietzsche’s ramblings have led to a lot of grief. Especially Nietzsche’s misunderstood ramblings especially when they were ascribed with more meaning than they contain. And unfortunately a lot of bad shit has come out of that. S.B: Getting back to the point of elitism. Something great has happened since we last talked, the #MeToo movement that shook-up the whole of India. We saw critics coming up and saying that this is a sort of an elite movement with elites overthrowing elites and this will never seep into anything else. I disagree with that I feel that, revolutions will always start from the elite base and then eventually seep into the lower strata of society, I do feel positive about that. But talking about culture; culture always has been in Indian cinema a representation of the elites. At least for the past few years. So what do you think of that and representation of elites in Indian cinema and about the revolutions in the society? D.B: It’s rather a very simple answer. Whether the #MeToo movement is elite or whether the movement is one elite, none of those factors should be any reason to denigrate the movement. It’s not connected to it. And maybe when we are saying that the #MeToo movement is an elite movement all we are saying is that in a society like India only the elite have the voice. But that doesn’t change what they are trying to say. And if you’re aware of this being an elite movement, then why kill the #MeToo movement? Why not try and make it more inclusive? Why is the solution denigrating the #MeToo movement? About the elite representation in Indian cinema I don’t think Indian cinema can be separated from any aspect of work in the Indian society and the access to work and the access to employment and the right to work. Like many other rights and like many other reasonably unjust societies, in India also, the right to work and the right to employment, to some extent also favors the elite. And it’s reflected exactly the same way in cinema. I don’t think the cinema industry should be singled out for being elite. So is the engineering industry and medical industry elite. Doesn’t that seem a lot bigger? And if you’re aware of this being an elite movement, then why kill the #MeToo movement? Why not try and make it more inclusive? S.B: How do you mean the engineering industry? D.B: Children of the poor cannot afford education in an engineering college any more than they can afford an education in film-making and become a filmmaker. The poorest of the poor are as barred from filmmaking as they are from engineering. S.B: I would disagree on that partly because the poorest of the poor do go to engineering colleges or at least they aspire to be there. But you never see a filmmaker come out of a very small village of a very small town a very small state. You’d never see that. D.B: Actually we do have people like that, maybe not directors but technicians. You must remember that cinema industry is minuscule compared to the engineering or the medical stream of employment. In terms of skill there is no comparison. However, what I was trying to say is that you cannot single out the film industry for being an enclave of the elite keeping in mind the size. I think it is representative of elite capture as any other stream of skills and highly specialized employment in India. I’m saying that the reason why the elite have captured cinema-making not because of something intrinsic to cinema, it is something intrinsic to our society. That’s all I’m trying to say. And over the last 15 to 20 years what has happened is that there has been a further concentration of English speaking professionals in the filmmaking industry. As a result the vernacular languages and literature which comes out of vernacular languages and the literature that comes out of Hindi language which is the main language of Bollywood, that flow has stopped quite a bit. And at this point I don’t even want to venture into guessing what kind of material we are losing out because of this fountain completely drying up. S.B: Do you think that something like Netflix can revolutionize the industry, giving more voices to more people, which it actually is doing I think? D.B: I hope so. But the problem that I was talking about was not about the lack of avenues. The problem that I was talking about was that however many avenues open, employment in those avenues is as such that it favours the English speaking elite. The poverty of material from the 15 or 16 literary languages of India will only come to translation. That means the thriving translation industry in cinema which has translators who read languages and translate and circulate the official translated copies of literature from all the languages would be at any given point of time available to any director or writer to look at and be available for auctioning for it’s screenplay rights. As we speak, I’m sure there is one whole industry or a sub-industry that can open up, but probably it isn’t because there is no demand or awareness that this ‘fountain’ has dried up right next to our feet. It’s right there and we’ve blocked it. It’s just a tap away. S.B: So do you face these problems even when you’re writing or when you’re reading scripts. I don’t know what people you’re working with I don’t know what languages they speak but people generally like to think or are programmed to think in their mother tongue. And certain feelings can be explained or depicted only through their mother tongue. So do you find problems in deriving or having hardcore substance in your script in terms of language or do you lose out on material when you do that when you’re writing or when you get someone else to write for you. D.B: I have no idea what language do I think in. I’m trying to think about it. And now we’re getting into the deep territory of psychology – from Saussure to Lacan to Barthes. When I’m thinking to myself, I sincerely don’t remember the language that I’m thinking in. That means that probably the language that I use to talk to myself is non-verbal because I remember thoughts, I remember scripts, if it is a Hindi script I remember a Hindi line. But I don’t remember how the process of thought works and what is its language. Certainly sitting here right now I can’t remember any language I’m using to think. While you were talking, I was thinking, but I don’t remember the language. When I’m expressing I’m finding meaning and there is a little bit of a difference between what I’m saying and what I thought and that’s because language creates its own meaning. So I’ve no idea what language do I think in. But I have this very practical problem that every time I look for a vehicle of a story or a novella to express some of the ideas that may be running through my head now, instead of looking at 15 languages I’m looking at two languages. You can imagine immediately how my field of search has restricted and basic mathematical logic sort of end-gaming tells me that I’m losing out on about 60 to 70 percent of an increment in my long list; at least of books or stories or things to read. So that’s a real practical problem. One of the main things that I think is of immense practical value of being an Indian is that unlike most other people on the planet we are connected to at least three to four languages intimately. And because of the proximity and similarity and closeness of these languages, they are quite easily translatable and understandable. I was just sitting with my script-writer, he’s from Rajasthan and he told me that as a child of nine or ten he read Sharad Chandra in translation. I remember when I was a child of about nine or ten years of age, I would read all of English literature in Bangla because that’s the language that I learnt to read before I learnt to read English fluently. But I already had read everything from James Hadley Chase to Shakespeare in Bangla. And that sustained me, it widened my world. So when I’m looking for a script or a screenplay or something to stimulate and carry my ideas; if I’m looking at two languages instead of fifteen, I’m just losing out on that great-great fountain. And this is what I deeply suspect, and I hope I’m wrong. S.B: So Lust Stories came out and you’re coming up with a new movie also. Can you tell me what you’re exploring right now? What does really interest you at this age and what are you really trying to portray in your movies right now? D.B: A very interesting thing happened over Lust Stories and Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar is that; for the first time in my life I was looking at personal spaces between people. And the difference between Lust Stories and Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar is ‘class’. In the latter I was looking at class from a very personal angle. That’s something that I find myself obsessed with, not consciously. Because forms of it and motifs of it and patterns of it, reveal themselves all too frequently these days in whatever I’m exploring. Not in the same form, and not probably at the same stage of evolution, and it keeps increasing and changing hopefully. But some of the concerns are the same. I think right now I’m obsessed with working my head through concepts of power, class and desire. S.B: So you’re exploring a lot of postmodern literature as of now? D.B: I grew up in the postmodern era and without knowing about postmodernism, I read some literature. Being a part of a Colony of our chief language – English, you’re reading to get to the world. But you’re speaking it as an ex-colonial. You’re in a strange position, everything is open to you but you’re still a little obsolete. So I got to know of postmodernism as a term and I got to read whatever was coming up in the 90s in America only when I was in my 30s. And now that I’m in my late 40s, I’m still barely catching up. I mean I’m still catching up on stuff that was written in the 30s, 40s, and the 50s, which I find constantly to be paradigm shifting for me. So I have no idea of reading postmodern literature consciously. Because I didn’t know and I don’t come from an academic background. In fact all my reading is basically accidental. Because I read whatever my wife reads, or whatever she subscribes to. My library is my wife’s library. Whatever books I buy or I kind of have on my own are sometimes the result of me borrowing from my wife’s library. And then finding new points of contact and going and shipping and changing into those contacts. It’s again an accident of relationship that I’m reading what I’m reading. For example, 15 to 20 years ago I discovered Margaret Atwood only because of my wife. And if I hadn’t read Margaret Atwood, probably I wouldn’t be reading Roxane Gay today. S.B: Let me hold on to your idea of class and your fascination with class and power. I’m sure you have some perception of how human beings act in a society and that’s why you’re making movies about class and power, in which you’re putting out relationships to depict and explore those factors. Do you think that people are actually products of the forces of struggle, of power and class? Or, do you think that there’s more to human beings than being original? Or do you think that human beings are just really original and devoid of their caste or class or race, in terms of our actions in the society? D.B: I don’t think there is any other way for a human being to have been throughout, at least from the hunter gatherer phase till now. Hierarchy, class and power are not necessarily tools to oppress and suppress but they are probably tools of survival in a very primitive society and they are just accidental byproduct of labor division, which centers around child rearing in mammals, I think to a large extent. Because our infants need a very deep connect for a very long period of their childhood. So parenting becomes that much more complex and that leads to certain labor division and that leads to the accidental birth of hierarchy, class and other such aspects, but there is no way of escaping it. We have come forward from the hunter-gatherer stage, so it’s probably futile trying to deny the hardcore reality of it. However, the other things that you discussed in the same breath are complete works of fiction, so I don’t see the fit between those two at all, because if you’re talking about race or caste or class as defined by us as something divine, these are complete works of imagination; like our names. Someone’s being Brahmin or someone’s being an untouchable is a work of imagination. S.B: But if you’ve already stated that there arises a hierarchy out of labor division, you would agree that, hence that would have to have a name. Although if you agree that the caste or race are all imaginations, then even labor divisions or even hierarchies are imaginations. D.B: No. Because when you work into hierarchy or labor division without giving it the feel of it being divine and eternal it is not an act of imagination to perpetuate your part. It is an act of role division. Suppose if I’m working with you in an office in a professional capacity, you are a junior to me and I’m a senior to you. We know that tomorrow you could start a production company, earn loads of money and become a producer and I would direct for you and you would be on an equal position as me. And someday you may be in a senior position to me. There is nothing that stops you. And this is an established myth of the corporate world that if you keep on working you will be above everyone else and people who are your seniors will one day be your juniors. But the whole caste system is based on a myth which says that if you’re a Brahmin you’re forever superior and if you’re an untouchable you’re forever inferior. When you imagine these kinds of things, then it’s very clear that behind this imagination there’s an interest which is not the fulfilling of some role or job for which you are dividing labor. The interest is to appropriate as much of social material and cultural power as possible through a work of imagination which you pass off as divine work.

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  • Do you think that people are actually products of the forces of struggle, of power and class? Or, do you think that there’s more to human beings than being original? Or do you think that human beings are just really original and devoid of their caste or class or race, in terms of our actions in the society?

    I don’t think there is any other way for a human being to have been throughout, at least from the hunter gatherer phase till now. Hierarchy, class and power are not necessarily tools to oppress and suppress but they are probably tools of survival in a very primitive society and they are just accidental byproduct of labor division, which centers around child rearing in mammals, I think to a large extent. Because our infants need a very deep connect for a very long period of their childhood. So parenting becomes that much more complex and that leads to certain labor division and that leads to the accidental birth of hierarchy, class and other such aspects, but there is no way of escaping it. We have come forward from the hunter-gatherer stage, so it’s probably futile trying to deny the hardcore reality of it. However, the other things that you discussed in the same breath are complete works of fiction, so I don’t see the fit between those two at all, because if you’re talking about race or caste or class as defined by us as something divine, these are complete works of imagination; like our names. Someone’s being Brahmin or someone’s being an untouchable is a work of imagination.

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  • You’re exploring a lot of postmodern literature as of now?

    CULTURE, INTERVIEWS, ISSUE 23, LIMELIGHT Limelight| The Dibakar Banerjee Interview: I have no idea who I am 09 Feb Dibakar Banerjee is a widely celebrated filmmaker. His films Khosla ka Ghosla (2006) and Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! (2008) have both won the National Film Award. His other critically acclaimed movies include Love, Sex aur Dhoka (2010), Shanghai (2012), Bombay Talkies (2013), Detective Byomkesh Bakshi (2015). His most recent movies include the Netflix hit Lust Stories and his upcoming movie Sandeep aur Pinky Faraar releases on March 1, 2019. In this conversation with Swagat Baruah of Catharsis, he talks about his personal self, his movies and his philosophy. Swagat Baruah: So the last time we talked, we talked about a lot of things but one thing that really got me hooked on to was your talk about elitism. I’d really like to know D.B, what was it like to be growing up in the 90s and witnessing the change of economic scenarios in India. And how those things affected your career choices back then. Dibakar Banerjee: I have no idea of how to authentically try to replicate what I lived through in the 90’s. Because like everything else, my memory is also colored. Whatever I say is a function of my current understanding of what I was then, which I didn’t have at that point, I was just being. So I have no idea how much of what I remember is a function of my own memory or my later critical and historical knowledge about how 90s went for India. So I don’t know which came first me being the 90s generation X or the concept of Generation X. Because like everything else, my memory is also colored. Whatever I say is a function of my current understanding of what I was then, which I didn’t have at that point, I was just being. S.B: But I’m sure, at that moment you still remember what was it like to be. I remember things about my childhood now, and we all have certain incidents back in school which now we look back to and laugh at. But at that moment we all knew that it was all horrendous especially when you were supposed to go to the principal’s office because you were caught in an act of mischief or something like that. At that moment we knew what we felt. But in hindsight everything looks funny to me now, including the whole banality of worrying back then. But I still remember how I felt back then. So if you were to carry on from that especially in Indian movies, how much of India or the idea of India do we really get to see in movies. What do you think of that? D.B: I just compliment the 90s. I think my memories of 90s are to a large extent common with any other young person stepping into their early 20s anywhere in the world at any historical point of time. All your impulses are just functions of your physical age. And therefore perception is also the same, whether somebody grew up in the 40s or 90s. But then comes the accident of history. I think we were all at a critical age shaped by India’s economic liberalization, which in that particular context happened with the English speaking elite first, and then perhaps moved on to the other aspects of society. Since I had the key of English, I was inducted into it quite early. And the interesting thing with me was that even though I had the knowledge of English and I was deeply connected to the Western world and the Western culture, I still had a second ranker or a third ranker position in the elite pecking order of the country. I was not exactly at the top I was somewhere close to the top. S.B: So you’re not the 1 percent but you’re definitely in the 9 percent? D.B: Something like that. And basically I remember it as my climb through that 9 percent upwards. That’s one way of looking at it because at that point, when you are 23-24 and you’re extremely anxious to impress upon the world about your worth so at that point, you grab at many ways of showing the world your worth. But at age 26-27 suddenly the environment is such that you leave a salaried job and start a production company and it just happens, and then you think it’s all easy, and it happens because you’re young and you’re working 18 or 20 hours a day. The ideas are bubbling, you’re ambitious. You’re also at that age more susceptible to not choose, and keep doing many things. Because you think time is infinite so you can experiment and you can gamble and you can do as you think you want, because there is a sense of infinity in front of you. And there were infinite chances. Being in your 20s in the 90s probably was rather better; the best post-independent Indian youth have felt. This is definitely not nostalgia speaking. Being in your 20s in the 90s probably was rather better; the best post-independent Indian youth have felt. This is definitely not nostalgia speaking. S.B: People have fears in life. Certain common fears and certain individual, extremely personal fears. Did you have any fear back then which drove you to the cinemas? That is what I would like to know. Some people fear that there’s not enough time in life and which is why you gotta do what you gotta do at this moment as soon as possible. D.B: I remember a hierarchy of fears from my childhood. My first fear was one of the first things I remember: that I’ll never be able to light a matchstick in my life. That was a big worry for me. Another worry that I had was that I’ll never be able to tell the time. Another worry was that I’ll never be able to cross the road on my own. These are my three memorable fears when I was a child. Another fear that I had was that I would never be able to catch a ball. When I grew up and got into my teens I think my main fear was that I’ll not grow tall or good looking. And hence it came to the third fear that I’ll never lose my virginity. And as you can see these are the any fears that any 18 year old would have. Then when I went to NID, my fear was that I was wasting my parents’ money. When I came and joined advertising my fear was I would prove to be not very creative. When I left my advertising company and found my own production company was when I truly had no fear. S.B: And that is when you conquered fear? D.B: I have no idea of conquering fear. I just realized that when I formed my production company I don’t remember being afraid. S.B: Yeah that is when I think you became who you are. D.B: Also I have no idea who I am. S.B: That’s understandable. This German philosopher Nietzsche in the 19th century, he has this line which is always used in motivational books. He says ‘Become who you are, make only what you are capable of’. But I think that people deep inside are really horrible and if they do became who they are. The world would be chaotic. D.B: Nietzsche’s ramblings have led to a lot of grief. Especially Nietzsche’s misunderstood ramblings especially when they were ascribed with more meaning than they contain. And unfortunately a lot of bad shit has come out of that. S.B: Getting back to the point of elitism. Something great has happened since we last talked, the #MeToo movement that shook-up the whole of India. We saw critics coming up and saying that this is a sort of an elite movement with elites overthrowing elites and this will never seep into anything else. I disagree with that I feel that, revolutions will always start from the elite base and then eventually seep into the lower strata of society, I do feel positive about that. But talking about culture; culture always has been in Indian cinema a representation of the elites. At least for the past few years. So what do you think of that and representation of elites in Indian cinema and about the revolutions in the society? D.B: It’s rather a very simple answer. Whether the #MeToo movement is elite or whether the movement is one elite, none of those factors should be any reason to denigrate the movement. It’s not connected to it. And maybe when we are saying that the #MeToo movement is an elite movement all we are saying is that in a society like India only the elite have the voice. But that doesn’t change what they are trying to say. And if you’re aware of this being an elite movement, then why kill the #MeToo movement? Why not try and make it more inclusive? Why is the solution denigrating the #MeToo movement? About the elite representation in Indian cinema I don’t think Indian cinema can be separated from any aspect of work in the Indian society and the access to work and the access to employment and the right to work. Like many other rights and like many other reasonably unjust societies, in India also, the right to work and the right to employment, to some extent also favors the elite. And it’s reflected exactly the same way in cinema. I don’t think the cinema industry should be singled out for being elite. So is the engineering industry and medical industry elite. Doesn’t that seem a lot bigger? And if you’re aware of this being an elite movement, then why kill the #MeToo movement? Why not try and make it more inclusive? S.B: How do you mean the engineering industry? D.B: Children of the poor cannot afford education in an engineering college any more than they can afford an education in film-making and become a filmmaker. The poorest of the poor are as barred from filmmaking as they are from engineering. S.B: I would disagree on that partly because the poorest of the poor do go to engineering colleges or at least they aspire to be there. But you never see a filmmaker come out of a very small village of a very small town a very small state. You’d never see that. D.B: Actually we do have people like that, maybe not directors but technicians. You must remember that cinema industry is minuscule compared to the engineering or the medical stream of employment. In terms of skill there is no comparison. However, what I was trying to say is that you cannot single out the film industry for being an enclave of the elite keeping in mind the size. I think it is representative of elite capture as any other stream of skills and highly specialized employment in India. I’m saying that the reason why the elite have captured cinema-making not because of something intrinsic to cinema, it is something intrinsic to our society. That’s all I’m trying to say. And over the last 15 to 20 years what has happened is that there has been a further concentration of English speaking professionals in the filmmaking industry. As a result the vernacular languages and literature which comes out of vernacular languages and the literature that comes out of Hindi language which is the main language of Bollywood, that flow has stopped quite a bit. And at this point I don’t even want to venture into guessing what kind of material we are losing out because of this fountain completely drying up. S.B: Do you think that something like Netflix can revolutionize the industry, giving more voices to more people, which it actually is doing I think? D.B: I hope so. But the problem that I was talking about was not about the lack of avenues. The problem that I was talking about was that however many avenues open, employment in those avenues is as such that it favours the English speaking elite. The poverty of material from the 15 or 16 literary languages of India will only come to translation. That means the thriving translation industry in cinema which has translators who read languages and translate and circulate the official translated copies of literature from all the languages would be at any given point of time available to any director or writer to look at and be available for auctioning for it’s screenplay rights. As we speak, I’m sure there is one whole industry or a sub-industry that can open up, but probably it isn’t because there is no demand or awareness that this ‘fountain’ has dried up right next to our feet. It’s right there and we’ve blocked it. It’s just a tap away. S.B: So do you face these problems even when you’re writing or when you’re reading scripts. I don’t know what people you’re working with I don’t know what languages they speak but people generally like to think or are programmed to think in their mother tongue. And certain feelings can be explained or depicted only through their mother tongue. So do you find problems in deriving or having hardcore substance in your script in terms of language or do you lose out on material when you do that when you’re writing or when you get someone else to write for you. D.B: I have no idea what language do I think in. I’m trying to think about it. And now we’re getting into the deep territory of psychology – from Saussure to Lacan to Barthes. When I’m thinking to myself, I sincerely don’t remember the language that I’m thinking in. That means that probably the language that I use to talk to myself is non-verbal because I remember thoughts, I remember scripts, if it is a Hindi script I remember a Hindi line. But I don’t remember how the process of thought works and what is its language. Certainly sitting here right now I can’t remember any language I’m using to think. While you were talking, I was thinking, but I don’t remember the language. When I’m expressing I’m finding meaning and there is a little bit of a difference between what I’m saying and what I thought and that’s because language creates its own meaning. So I’ve no idea what language do I think in. But I have this very practical problem that every time I look for a vehicle of a story or a novella to express some of the ideas that may be running through my head now, instead of looking at 15 languages I’m looking at two languages. You can imagine immediately how my field of search has restricted and basic mathematical logic sort of end-gaming tells me that I’m losing out on about 60 to 70 percent of an increment in my long list; at least of books or stories or things to read. So that’s a real practical problem. One of the main things that I think is of immense practical value of being an Indian is that unlike most other people on the planet we are connected to at least three to four languages intimately. And because of the proximity and similarity and closeness of these languages, they are quite easily translatable and understandable. I was just sitting with my script-writer, he’s from Rajasthan and he told me that as a child of nine or ten he read Sharad Chandra in translation. I remember when I was a child of about nine or ten years of age, I would read all of English literature in Bangla because that’s the language that I learnt to read before I learnt to read English fluently. But I already had read everything from James Hadley Chase to Shakespeare in Bangla. And that sustained me, it widened my world. So when I’m looking for a script or a screenplay or something to stimulate and carry my ideas; if I’m looking at two languages instead of fifteen, I’m just losing out on that great-great fountain. And this is what I deeply suspect, and I hope I’m wrong. S.B: So Lust Stories came out and you’re coming up with a new movie also. Can you tell me what you’re exploring right now? What does really interest you at this age and what are you really trying to portray in your movies right now? D.B: A very interesting thing happened over Lust Stories and Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar is that; for the first time in my life I was looking at personal spaces between people. And the difference between Lust Stories and Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar is ‘class’. In the latter I was looking at class from a very personal angle. That’s something that I find myself obsessed with, not consciously. Because forms of it and motifs of it and patterns of it, reveal themselves all too frequently these days in whatever I’m exploring. Not in the same form, and not probably at the same stage of evolution, and it keeps increasing and changing hopefully. But some of the concerns are the same. I think right now I’m obsessed with working my head through concepts of power, class and desire. S.B: So you’re exploring a lot of postmodern literature as of now? D.B: I grew up in the postmodern era and without knowing about postmodernism, I read some literature. Being a part of a Colony of our chief language – English, you’re reading to get to the world. But you’re speaking it as an ex-colonial. You’re in a strange position, everything is open to you but you’re still a little obsolete. So I got to know of postmodernism as a term and I got to read whatever was coming up in the 90s in America only when I was in my 30s. And now that I’m in my late 40s, I’m still barely catching up. I mean I’m still catching up on stuff that was written in the 30s, 40s, and the 50s, which I find constantly to be paradigm shifting for me. So I have no idea of reading postmodern literature consciously. Because I didn’t know and I don’t come from an academic background. In fact all my reading is basically accidental. Because I read whatever my wife reads, or whatever she subscribes to. My library is my wife’s library. Whatever books I buy or I kind of have on my own are sometimes the result of me borrowing from my wife’s library. And then finding new points of contact and going and shipping and changing into those contacts. It’s again an accident of relationship that I’m reading what I’m reading. For example, 15 to 20 years ago I discovered Margaret Atwood only because of my wife. And if I hadn’t read Margaret Atwood, probably I wouldn’t be reading Roxane Gay today.

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  • What does really interest you at this age and what are you really trying to portray in your movies right now?

    A very interesting thing happened over Lust Stories and Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar is that; for the first time in my life I was looking at personal spaces between people. And the difference between Lust Stories and Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar is ‘class’. In the latter I was looking at class from a very personal angle. That’s something that I find myself obsessed with, not consciously. Because forms of it and motifs of it and patterns of it, reveal themselves all too frequently these days in whatever I’m exploring. Not in the same form, and not probably at the same stage of evolution, and it keeps increasing and changing hopefully. But some of the concerns are the same. I think right now I’m obsessed with working my head through concepts of power, class and desire.

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  • Do you find problems in deriving or having hardcore substance in your script in terms of language or do you lose out on material when you do that when you’re writing or when you get someone else to write for you.

    CULTURE, INTERVIEWS, ISSUE 23, LIMELIGHT Limelight| The Dibakar Banerjee Interview: I have no idea who I am 09 Feb Dibakar Banerjee is a widely celebrated filmmaker. His films Khosla ka Ghosla (2006) and Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! (2008) have both won the National Film Award. His other critically acclaimed movies include Love, Sex aur Dhoka (2010), Shanghai (2012), Bombay Talkies (2013), Detective Byomkesh Bakshi (2015). His most recent movies include the Netflix hit Lust Stories and his upcoming movie Sandeep aur Pinky Faraar releases on March 1, 2019. In this conversation with Swagat Baruah of Catharsis, he talks about his personal self, his movies and his philosophy. Swagat Baruah: So the last time we talked, we talked about a lot of things but one thing that really got me hooked on to was your talk about elitism. I’d really like to know D.B, what was it like to be growing up in the 90s and witnessing the change of economic scenarios in India. And how those things affected your career choices back then. Dibakar Banerjee: I have no idea of how to authentically try to replicate what I lived through in the 90’s. Because like everything else, my memory is also colored. Whatever I say is a function of my current understanding of what I was then, which I didn’t have at that point, I was just being. So I have no idea how much of what I remember is a function of my own memory or my later critical and historical knowledge about how 90s went for India. So I don’t know which came first me being the 90s generation X or the concept of Generation X. Because like everything else, my memory is also colored. Whatever I say is a function of my current understanding of what I was then, which I didn’t have at that point, I was just being. S.B: But I’m sure, at that moment you still remember what was it like to be. I remember things about my childhood now, and we all have certain incidents back in school which now we look back to and laugh at. But at that moment we all knew that it was all horrendous especially when you were supposed to go to the principal’s office because you were caught in an act of mischief or something like that. At that moment we knew what we felt. But in hindsight everything looks funny to me now, including the whole banality of worrying back then. But I still remember how I felt back then. So if you were to carry on from that especially in Indian movies, how much of India or the idea of India do we really get to see in movies. What do you think of that? D.B: I just compliment the 90s. I think my memories of 90s are to a large extent common with any other young person stepping into their early 20s anywhere in the world at any historical point of time. All your impulses are just functions of your physical age. And therefore perception is also the same, whether somebody grew up in the 40s or 90s. But then comes the accident of history. I think we were all at a critical age shaped by India’s economic liberalization, which in that particular context happened with the English speaking elite first, and then perhaps moved on to the other aspects of society. Since I had the key of English, I was inducted into it quite early. And the interesting thing with me was that even though I had the knowledge of English and I was deeply connected to the Western world and the Western culture, I still had a second ranker or a third ranker position in the elite pecking order of the country. I was not exactly at the top I was somewhere close to the top. S.B: So you’re not the 1 percent but you’re definitely in the 9 percent? D.B: Something like that. And basically I remember it as my climb through that 9 percent upwards. That’s one way of looking at it because at that point, when you are 23-24 and you’re extremely anxious to impress upon the world about your worth so at that point, you grab at many ways of showing the world your worth. But at age 26-27 suddenly the environment is such that you leave a salaried job and start a production company and it just happens, and then you think it’s all easy, and it happens because you’re young and you’re working 18 or 20 hours a day. The ideas are bubbling, you’re ambitious. You’re also at that age more susceptible to not choose, and keep doing many things. Because you think time is infinite so you can experiment and you can gamble and you can do as you think you want, because there is a sense of infinity in front of you. And there were infinite chances. Being in your 20s in the 90s probably was rather better; the best post-independent Indian youth have felt. This is definitely not nostalgia speaking. Being in your 20s in the 90s probably was rather better; the best post-independent Indian youth have felt. This is definitely not nostalgia speaking. S.B: People have fears in life. Certain common fears and certain individual, extremely personal fears. Did you have any fear back then which drove you to the cinemas? That is what I would like to know. Some people fear that there’s not enough time in life and which is why you gotta do what you gotta do at this moment as soon as possible. D.B: I remember a hierarchy of fears from my childhood. My first fear was one of the first things I remember: that I’ll never be able to light a matchstick in my life. That was a big worry for me. Another worry that I had was that I’ll never be able to tell the time. Another worry was that I’ll never be able to cross the road on my own. These are my three memorable fears when I was a child. Another fear that I had was that I would never be able to catch a ball. When I grew up and got into my teens I think my main fear was that I’ll not grow tall or good looking. And hence it came to the third fear that I’ll never lose my virginity. And as you can see these are the any fears that any 18 year old would have. Then when I went to NID, my fear was that I was wasting my parents’ money. When I came and joined advertising my fear was I would prove to be not very creative. When I left my advertising company and found my own production company was when I truly had no fear. S.B: And that is when you conquered fear? D.B: I have no idea of conquering fear. I just realized that when I formed my production company I don’t remember being afraid. S.B: Yeah that is when I think you became who you are. D.B: Also I have no idea who I am. S.B: That’s understandable. This German philosopher Nietzsche in the 19th century, he has this line which is always used in motivational books. He says ‘Become who you are, make only what you are capable of’. But I think that people deep inside are really horrible and if they do became who they are. The world would be chaotic. D.B: Nietzsche’s ramblings have led to a lot of grief. Especially Nietzsche’s misunderstood ramblings especially when they were ascribed with more meaning than they contain. And unfortunately a lot of bad shit has come out of that. S.B: Getting back to the point of elitism. Something great has happened since we last talked, the #MeToo movement that shook-up the whole of India. We saw critics coming up and saying that this is a sort of an elite movement with elites overthrowing elites and this will never seep into anything else. I disagree with that I feel that, revolutions will always start from the elite base and then eventually seep into the lower strata of society, I do feel positive about that. But talking about culture; culture always has been in Indian cinema a representation of the elites. At least for the past few years. So what do you think of that and representation of elites in Indian cinema and about the revolutions in the society? D.B: It’s rather a very simple answer. Whether the #MeToo movement is elite or whether the movement is one elite, none of those factors should be any reason to denigrate the movement. It’s not connected to it. And maybe when we are saying that the #MeToo movement is an elite movement all we are saying is that in a society like India only the elite have the voice. But that doesn’t change what they are trying to say. And if you’re aware of this being an elite movement, then why kill the #MeToo movement? Why not try and make it more inclusive? Why is the solution denigrating the #MeToo movement? About the elite representation in Indian cinema I don’t think Indian cinema can be separated from any aspect of work in the Indian society and the access to work and the access to employment and the right to work. Like many other rights and like many other reasonably unjust societies, in India also, the right to work and the right to employment, to some extent also favors the elite. And it’s reflected exactly the same way in cinema. I don’t think the cinema industry should be singled out for being elite. So is the engineering industry and medical industry elite. Doesn’t that seem a lot bigger? And if you’re aware of this being an elite movement, then why kill the #MeToo movement? Why not try and make it more inclusive? S.B: How do you mean the engineering industry? D.B: Children of the poor cannot afford education in an engineering college any more than they can afford an education in film-making and become a filmmaker. The poorest of the poor are as barred from filmmaking as they are from engineering. S.B: I would disagree on that partly because the poorest of the poor do go to engineering colleges or at least they aspire to be there. But you never see a filmmaker come out of a very small village of a very small town a very small state. You’d never see that. D.B: Actually we do have people like that, maybe not directors but technicians. You must remember that cinema industry is minuscule compared to the engineering or the medical stream of employment. In terms of skill there is no comparison. However, what I was trying to say is that you cannot single out the film industry for being an enclave of the elite keeping in mind the size. I think it is representative of elite capture as any other stream of skills and highly specialized employment in India. I’m saying that the reason why the elite have captured cinema-making not because of something intrinsic to cinema, it is something intrinsic to our society. That’s all I’m trying to say. And over the last 15 to 20 years what has happened is that there has been a further concentration of English speaking professionals in the filmmaking industry. As a result the vernacular languages and literature which comes out of vernacular languages and the literature that comes out of Hindi language which is the main language of Bollywood, that flow has stopped quite a bit. And at this point I don’t even want to venture into guessing what kind of material we are losing out because of this fountain completely drying up. S.B: Do you think that something like Netflix can revolutionize the industry, giving more voices to more people, which it actually is doing I think? D.B: I hope so. But the problem that I was talking about was not about the lack of avenues. The problem that I was talking about was that however many avenues open, employment in those avenues is as such that it favours the English speaking elite. The poverty of material from the 15 or 16 literary languages of India will only come to translation. That means the thriving translation industry in cinema which has translators who read languages and translate and circulate the official translated copies of literature from all the languages would be at any given point of time available to any director or writer to look at and be available for auctioning for it’s screenplay rights. As we speak, I’m sure there is one whole industry or a sub-industry that can open up, but probably it isn’t because there is no demand or awareness that this ‘fountain’ has dried up right next to our feet. It’s right there and we’ve blocked it. It’s just a tap away. S.B: So do you face these problems even when you’re writing or when you’re reading scripts. I don’t know what people you’re working with I don’t know what languages they speak but people generally like to think or are programmed to think in their mother tongue. And certain feelings can be explained or depicted only through their mother tongue. So do you find problems in deriving or having hardcore substance in your script in terms of language or do you lose out on material when you do that when you’re writing or when you get someone else to write for you. D.B: I have no idea what language do I think in. I’m trying to think about it. And now we’re getting into the deep territory of psychology – from Saussure to Lacan to Barthes. When I’m thinking to myself, I sincerely don’t remember the language that I’m thinking in. That means that probably the language that I use to talk to myself is non-verbal because I remember thoughts, I remember scripts, if it is a Hindi script I remember a Hindi line. But I don’t remember how the process of thought works and what is its language. Certainly sitting here right now I can’t remember any language I’m using to think. While you were talking, I was thinking, but I don’t remember the language. When I’m expressing I’m finding meaning and there is a little bit of a difference between what I’m saying and what I thought and that’s because language creates its own meaning. So I’ve no idea what language do I think in. But I have this very practical problem that every time I look for a vehicle of a story or a novella to express some of the ideas that may be running through my head now, instead of looking at 15 languages I’m looking at two languages. You can imagine immediately how my field of search has restricted and basic mathematical logic sort of end-gaming tells me that I’m losing out on about 60 to 70 percent of an increment in my long list; at least of books or stories or things to read. So that’s a real practical problem. One of the main things that I think is of immense practical value of being an Indian is that unlike most other people on the planet we are connected to at least three to four languages intimately. And because of the proximity and similarity and closeness of these languages, they are quite easily translatable and understandable. I was just sitting with my script-writer, he’s from Rajasthan and he told me that as a child of nine or ten he read Sharad Chandra in translation. I remember when I was a child of about nine or ten years of age, I would read all of English literature in Bangla because that’s the language that I learnt to read before I learnt to read English fluently. But I already had read everything from James Hadley Chase to Shakespeare in Bangla. And that sustained me, it widened my world. So when I’m looking for a script or a screenplay or something to stimulate and carry my ideas; if I’m looking at two languages instead of fifteen, I’m just losing out on that great-great fountain. And this is what I deeply suspect, and I hope I’m wrong.

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  • Do you think that something like Netflix can revolutionize the industry, giving more voices to more people, which it actually is doing I think?

    CULTURE, INTERVIEWS, ISSUE 23, LIMELIGHT Limelight| The Dibakar Banerjee Interview: I have no idea who I am 09 Feb Dibakar Banerjee is a widely celebrated filmmaker. His films Khosla ka Ghosla (2006) and Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! (2008) have both won the National Film Award. His other critically acclaimed movies include Love, Sex aur Dhoka (2010), Shanghai (2012), Bombay Talkies (2013), Detective Byomkesh Bakshi (2015). His most recent movies include the Netflix hit Lust Stories and his upcoming movie Sandeep aur Pinky Faraar releases on March 1, 2019. In this conversation with Swagat Baruah of Catharsis, he talks about his personal self, his movies and his philosophy. Swagat Baruah: So the last time we talked, we talked about a lot of things but one thing that really got me hooked on to was your talk about elitism. I’d really like to know D.B, what was it like to be growing up in the 90s and witnessing the change of economic scenarios in India. And how those things affected your career choices back then. Dibakar Banerjee: I have no idea of how to authentically try to replicate what I lived through in the 90’s. Because like everything else, my memory is also colored. Whatever I say is a function of my current understanding of what I was then, which I didn’t have at that point, I was just being. So I have no idea how much of what I remember is a function of my own memory or my later critical and historical knowledge about how 90s went for India. So I don’t know which came first me being the 90s generation X or the concept of Generation X. Because like everything else, my memory is also colored. Whatever I say is a function of my current understanding of what I was then, which I didn’t have at that point, I was just being. S.B: But I’m sure, at that moment you still remember what was it like to be. I remember things about my childhood now, and we all have certain incidents back in school which now we look back to and laugh at. But at that moment we all knew that it was all horrendous especially when you were supposed to go to the principal’s office because you were caught in an act of mischief or something like that. At that moment we knew what we felt. But in hindsight everything looks funny to me now, including the whole banality of worrying back then. But I still remember how I felt back then. So if you were to carry on from that especially in Indian movies, how much of India or the idea of India do we really get to see in movies. What do you think of that? D.B: I just compliment the 90s. I think my memories of 90s are to a large extent common with any other young person stepping into their early 20s anywhere in the world at any historical point of time. All your impulses are just functions of your physical age. And therefore perception is also the same, whether somebody grew up in the 40s or 90s. But then comes the accident of history. I think we were all at a critical age shaped by India’s economic liberalization, which in that particular context happened with the English speaking elite first, and then perhaps moved on to the other aspects of society. Since I had the key of English, I was inducted into it quite early. And the interesting thing with me was that even though I had the knowledge of English and I was deeply connected to the Western world and the Western culture, I still had a second ranker or a third ranker position in the elite pecking order of the country. I was not exactly at the top I was somewhere close to the top. S.B: So you’re not the 1 percent but you’re definitely in the 9 percent? D.B: Something like that. And basically I remember it as my climb through that 9 percent upwards. That’s one way of looking at it because at that point, when you are 23-24 and you’re extremely anxious to impress upon the world about your worth so at that point, you grab at many ways of showing the world your worth. But at age 26-27 suddenly the environment is such that you leave a salaried job and start a production company and it just happens, and then you think it’s all easy, and it happens because you’re young and you’re working 18 or 20 hours a day. The ideas are bubbling, you’re ambitious. You’re also at that age more susceptible to not choose, and keep doing many things. Because you think time is infinite so you can experiment and you can gamble and you can do as you think you want, because there is a sense of infinity in front of you. And there were infinite chances. Being in your 20s in the 90s probably was rather better; the best post-independent Indian youth have felt. This is definitely not nostalgia speaking. Being in your 20s in the 90s probably was rather better; the best post-independent Indian youth have felt. This is definitely not nostalgia speaking. S.B: People have fears in life. Certain common fears and certain individual, extremely personal fears. Did you have any fear back then which drove you to the cinemas? That is what I would like to know. Some people fear that there’s not enough time in life and which is why you gotta do what you gotta do at this moment as soon as possible. D.B: I remember a hierarchy of fears from my childhood. My first fear was one of the first things I remember: that I’ll never be able to light a matchstick in my life. That was a big worry for me. Another worry that I had was that I’ll never be able to tell the time. Another worry was that I’ll never be able to cross the road on my own. These are my three memorable fears when I was a child. Another fear that I had was that I would never be able to catch a ball. When I grew up and got into my teens I think my main fear was that I’ll not grow tall or good looking. And hence it came to the third fear that I’ll never lose my virginity. And as you can see these are the any fears that any 18 year old would have. Then when I went to NID, my fear was that I was wasting my parents’ money. When I came and joined advertising my fear was I would prove to be not very creative. When I left my advertising company and found my own production company was when I truly had no fear. S.B: And that is when you conquered fear? D.B: I have no idea of conquering fear. I just realized that when I formed my production company I don’t remember being afraid. S.B: Yeah that is when I think you became who you are. D.B: Also I have no idea who I am. S.B: That’s understandable. This German philosopher Nietzsche in the 19th century, he has this line which is always used in motivational books. He says ‘Become who you are, make only what you are capable of’. But I think that people deep inside are really horrible and if they do became who they are. The world would be chaotic. D.B: Nietzsche’s ramblings have led to a lot of grief. Especially Nietzsche’s misunderstood ramblings especially when they were ascribed with more meaning than they contain. And unfortunately a lot of bad shit has come out of that. S.B: Getting back to the point of elitism. Something great has happened since we last talked, the #MeToo movement that shook-up the whole of India. We saw critics coming up and saying that this is a sort of an elite movement with elites overthrowing elites and this will never seep into anything else. I disagree with that I feel that, revolutions will always start from the elite base and then eventually seep into the lower strata of society, I do feel positive about that. But talking about culture; culture always has been in Indian cinema a representation of the elites. At least for the past few years. So what do you think of that and representation of elites in Indian cinema and about the revolutions in the society? D.B: It’s rather a very simple answer. Whether the #MeToo movement is elite or whether the movement is one elite, none of those factors should be any reason to denigrate the movement. It’s not connected to it. And maybe when we are saying that the #MeToo movement is an elite movement all we are saying is that in a society like India only the elite have the voice. But that doesn’t change what they are trying to say. And if you’re aware of this being an elite movement, then why kill the #MeToo movement? Why not try and make it more inclusive? Why is the solution denigrating the #MeToo movement? About the elite representation in Indian cinema I don’t think Indian cinema can be separated from any aspect of work in the Indian society and the access to work and the access to employment and the right to work. Like many other rights and like many other reasonably unjust societies, in India also, the right to work and the right to employment, to some extent also favors the elite. And it’s reflected exactly the same way in cinema. I don’t think the cinema industry should be singled out for being elite. So is the engineering industry and medical industry elite. Doesn’t that seem a lot bigger? And if you’re aware of this being an elite movement, then why kill the #MeToo movement? Why not try and make it more inclusive? S.B: How do you mean the engineering industry? D.B: Children of the poor cannot afford education in an engineering college any more than they can afford an education in film-making and become a filmmaker. The poorest of the poor are as barred from filmmaking as they are from engineering. S.B: I would disagree on that partly because the poorest of the poor do go to engineering colleges or at least they aspire to be there. But you never see a filmmaker come out of a very small village of a very small town a very small state. You’d never see that. D.B: Actually we do have people like that, maybe not directors but technicians. You must remember that cinema industry is minuscule compared to the engineering or the medical stream of employment. In terms of skill there is no comparison. However, what I was trying to say is that you cannot single out the film industry for being an enclave of the elite keeping in mind the size. I think it is representative of elite capture as any other stream of skills and highly specialized employment in India. I’m saying that the reason why the elite have captured cinema-making not because of something intrinsic to cinema, it is something intrinsic to our society. That’s all I’m trying to say. And over the last 15 to 20 years what has happened is that there has been a further concentration of English speaking professionals in the filmmaking industry. As a result the vernacular languages and literature which comes out of vernacular languages and the literature that comes out of Hindi language which is the main language of Bollywood, that flow has stopped quite a bit. And at this point I don’t even want to venture into guessing what kind of material we are losing out because of this fountain completely drying up. S.B: Do you think that something like Netflix can revolutionize the industry, giving more voices to more people, which it actually is doing I think? D.B: I hope so. But the problem that I was talking about was not about the lack of avenues. The problem that I was talking about was that however many avenues open, employment in those avenues is as such that it favours the English speaking elite. The poverty of material from the 15 or 16 literary languages of India will only come to translation. That means the thriving translation industry in cinema which has translators who read languages and translate and circulate the official translated copies of literature from all the languages would be at any given point of time available to any director or writer to look at and be available for auctioning for it’s screenplay rights. As we speak, I’m sure there is one whole industry or a sub-industry that can open up, but probably it isn’t because there is no demand or awareness that this ‘fountain’ has dried up right next to our feet. It’s right there and we’ve blocked it. It’s just a tap away.

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  • What would you say about your the generation of directors in India?

    Actually we do have people like that, maybe not directors but technicians. You must remember that cinema industry is minuscule compared to the engineering or the medical stream of employment. In terms of skill there is no comparison. However, what I was trying to say is that you cannot single out the film industry for being an enclave of the elite keeping in mind the size. I think it is representative of elite capture as any other stream of skills and highly specialized employment in India. I’m saying that the reason why the elite have captured cinema-making not because of something intrinsic to cinema, it is something intrinsic to our society. That’s all I’m trying to say. And over the last 15 to 20 years what has happened is that there has been a further concentration of English speaking professionals in the filmmaking industry. As a result the vernacular languages and literature which comes out of vernacular languages and the literature that comes out of Hindi language which is the main language of Bollywood, that flow has stopped quite a bit. And at this point I don’t even want to venture into guessing what kind of material we are losing out because of this fountain completely drying up.

    View Source:

  • What do you think of that and representation of elites in Indian cinema and about the revolutions in the society?

    The elite representation in Indian cinema I don’t think Indian cinema can be separated from any aspect of work in the Indian society and the access to work and the access to employment and the right to work. Like many other rights and like many other reasonably unjust societies, in India also, the right to work and the right to employment, to some extent also favors the elite. And it’s reflected exactly the same way in cinema. I don’t think the cinema industry should be singled out for being elite. So is the engineering industry and medical industry elite. Doesn’t that seem a lot bigger?

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  • Did you have any fear back then which drove you to the cinemas?

    CATHARSIS Magazine CULTURE, INTERVIEWS, ISSUE 23, LIMELIGHT Limelight| The Dibakar Banerjee Interview: I have no idea who I am 09 Feb Dibakar Banerjee is a widely celebrated filmmaker. His films Khosla ka Ghosla (2006) and Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! (2008) have both won the National Film Award. His other critically acclaimed movies include Love, Sex aur Dhoka (2010), Shanghai (2012), Bombay Talkies (2013), Detective Byomkesh Bakshi (2015). His most recent movies include the Netflix hit Lust Stories and his upcoming movie Sandeep aur Pinky Faraar releases on March 1, 2019. In this conversation with Swagat Baruah of Catharsis, he talks about his personal self, his movies and his philosophy. Swagat Baruah: So the last time we talked, we talked about a lot of things but one thing that really got me hooked on to was your talk about elitism. I’d really like to know D.B, what was it like to be growing up in the 90s and witnessing the change of economic scenarios in India. And how those things affected your career choices back then. Dibakar Banerjee: I have no idea of how to authentically try to replicate what I lived through in the 90’s. Because like everything else, my memory is also colored. Whatever I say is a function of my current understanding of what I was then, which I didn’t have at that point, I was just being. So I have no idea how much of what I remember is a function of my own memory or my later critical and historical knowledge about how 90s went for India. So I don’t know which came first me being the 90s generation X or the concept of Generation X. Because like everything else, my memory is also colored. Whatever I say is a function of my current understanding of what I was then, which I didn’t have at that point, I was just being. S.B: But I’m sure, at that moment you still remember what was it like to be. I remember things about my childhood now, and we all have certain incidents back in school which now we look back to and laugh at. But at that moment we all knew that it was all horrendous especially when you were supposed to go to the principal’s office because you were caught in an act of mischief or something like that. At that moment we knew what we felt. But in hindsight everything looks funny to me now, including the whole banality of worrying back then. But I still remember how I felt back then. So if you were to carry on from that especially in Indian movies, how much of India or the idea of India do we really get to see in movies. What do you think of that? D.B: I just compliment the 90s. I think my memories of 90s are to a large extent common with any other young person stepping into their early 20s anywhere in the world at any historical point of time. All your impulses are just functions of your physical age. And therefore perception is also the same, whether somebody grew up in the 40s or 90s. But then comes the accident of history. I think we were all at a critical age shaped by India’s economic liberalization, which in that particular context happened with the English speaking elite first, and then perhaps moved on to the other aspects of society. Since I had the key of English, I was inducted into it quite early. And the interesting thing with me was that even though I had the knowledge of English and I was deeply connected to the Western world and the Western culture, I still had a second ranker or a third ranker position in the elite pecking order of the country. I was not exactly at the top I was somewhere close to the top. S.B: So you’re not the 1 percent but you’re definitely in the 9 percent? D.B: Something like that. And basically I remember it as my climb through that 9 percent upwards. That’s one way of looking at it because at that point, when you are 23-24 and you’re extremely anxious to impress upon the world about your worth so at that point, you grab at many ways of showing the world your worth. But at age 26-27 suddenly the environment is such that you leave a salaried job and start a production company and it just happens, and then you think it’s all easy, and it happens because you’re young and you’re working 18 or 20 hours a day. The ideas are bubbling, you’re ambitious. You’re also at that age more susceptible to not choose, and keep doing many things. Because you think time is infinite so you can experiment and you can gamble and you can do as you think you want, because there is a sense of infinity in front of you. And there were infinite chances. Being in your 20s in the 90s probably was rather better; the best post-independent Indian youth have felt. This is definitely not nostalgia speaking. Being in your 20s in the 90s probably was rather better; the best post-independent Indian youth have felt. This is definitely not nostalgia speaking. S.B: People have fears in life. Certain common fears and certain individual, extremely personal fears. Did you have any fear back then which drove you to the cinemas? That is what I would like to know. Some people fear that there’s not enough time in life and which is why you gotta do what you gotta do at this moment as soon as possible. D.B: I remember a hierarchy of fears from my childhood. My first fear was one of the first things I remember: that I’ll never be able to light a matchstick in my life. That was a big worry for me. Another worry that I had was that I’ll never be able to tell the time. Another worry was that I’ll never be able to cross the road on my own. These are my three memorable fears when I was a child. Another fear that I had was that I would never be able to catch a ball. When I grew up and got into my teens I think my main fear was that I’ll not grow tall or good looking. And hence it came to the third fear that I’ll never lose my virginity. And as you can see these are the any fears that any 18 year old would have. Then when I went to NID, my fear was that I was wasting my parents’ money. When I came and joined advertising my fear was I would prove to be not very creative. When I left my advertising company and found my own production company was when I truly had no fear.

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  • How were your early years learning from the different environments?

    When you are 23-24 and you’re extremely anxious to impress upon the world about your worth so at that point, you grab at many ways of showing the world your worth. But at age 26-27 suddenly the environment is such that you leave a salaried job and start a production company and it just happens, and then you think it’s all easy, and it happens because you’re young and you’re working 18 or 20 hours a day. The ideas are bubbling, you’re ambitious. You’re also at that age more susceptible to not choose, and keep doing many things. Because you think time is infinite so you can experiment and you can gamble and you can do as you think you want, because there is a sense of infinity in front of you. And there were infinite chances. Being in your 20s in the 90s probably was rather better; the best post-independent Indian youth have felt. This is definitely not nostalgia speaking.

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  • So if you were to carry on from that especially in Indian movies, how much of India or the idea of India do we really get to see in movies. What do you think of that?

    I just compliment the 90s. I think my memories of 90s are to a large extent common with any other young person stepping into their early 20s anywhere in the world at any historical point of time. All your impulses are just functions of your physical age. And therefore perception is also the same, whether somebody grew up in the 40s or 90s. But then comes the accident of history. I think we were all at a critical age shaped by India’s economic liberalization, which in that particular context happened with the English speaking elite first, and then perhaps moved on to the other aspects of society. Since I had the key of English, I was inducted into it quite early. And the interesting thing with me was that even though I had the knowledge of English and I was deeply connected to the Western world and the Western culture, I still had a second ranker or a third ranker position in the elite pecking order of the country. I was not exactly at the top I was somewhere close to the top.

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  • What was it like to be growing up in the 90s and witnessing the change of economic scenarios in India? And how those things affected your career choices back then?

    I have no idea of how to authentically try to replicate what I lived through in the 90’s. Because like everything else, my memory is also colored. Whatever I say is a function of my current understanding of what I was then, which I didn’t have at that point, I was just being. So I have no idea how much of what I remember is a function of my own memory or my later critical and historical knowledge about how 90s went for India. So I don’t know which came first me being the 90s generation X or the concept of Generation X.

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  • Which was the last Hindi and English film that you saw that impressed you?

    Last impressive Hindi film was "Zindagi Milegi Na Dobara", it's extremely pretty candy floss and the three characters have to go either below the surface of the water or above the surface of atmosphere or braving the bulls to come up with their own catharsis and the coming of age experiences. But in spite of those rather big thematic set pieces, the film is amazingly heartfelt and in spite of all the glamour and the all plethora of good visuals and good life style and every thing, it was not artificial. You will really get engaged in the crossfire of these three friends, you know Hrithik's character reminds me of a friend that I still have from my school days, who is a system analyst in New York. I mailed him in the other day, you know... another character reminds, I mean, Farhan's character reminds of myself, I always used to be the cynical buffoon in my group of friends, you know so its a very interesting look into the nature of friendship, and I thought that bit came out with extreme candor and with out any artificiality and that's very difficult to achieve in the framework of a very typical Hindi commercial film with stars and extremely glamorous lighting and look and all that because a Hindi commercial film basically what its trying to do, is to sell a kind of Utopian life style to the Indian audience. It's very difficult to portray a real relationship according to me within the framework of that kind of necessity, and that "Zindagi..." did very very interestingly, very convincingly. While I was watching the film I was totally drawn in to the world of these three friends, that I think is very impressive, I told Zoya that. My favorite foreign film has been "Gomorrah", an independent Italian film which is made on the mafia, though they are not called mafia... the underworld of Central Italy and they are called Camorra. Its a very interesting look into how the underworld permeates every strata of society in that region of the world and I don't understand a word of Italian, I saw the whole film in subtitles but the treatment of the film and the way it brings those people alive, I thought I knew them, I could understand each and every bit of emotional change that those character in that film went through and it is a multi-character multi-strand film and I think the camera work the technique the invisibility of the director, and the camera and the making is par excellence. And I got really inspired and intimidated at the same time because I hope to be able to make films like that but I don't think that I rate up to that kind of skills yet so that was a very inspiring film.

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  • There have been so many Hindi film teasers out recently, any that have caught your eye?

    Don 2, I saw it on a big screen and the music and the way Shahrukh's character enters, it was a nice kick, very interesting, and I liked that.

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  • How involved are you with your films' technical aspects? You are known to be completely absorbed with your script, music and actors - the emotional content of your films, does the same apply to the technical side as well?

    Well, if you don't have technique, then you don't have anything, that's what I believe, that's my school of filmmaking. I don't think it's enough for a director to feel that emotion and then be at the set and feel that by some divine intervention what he feels is what he will be able to translate to the audience and the audience will feel that... that's actually bullshit.... films don't get made that way. Without the knowhow and essentially a technical knowhow of which shot to take and how to take it and which piece of sound and which piece of music to put to which shot to get that emotion that you want the audience to feel. And translate what's here to what's there, you need technique so as far I'm concerned that technique and emotion cannot be separated. The tool by which you translate your emotion to the audience is technique. And the better your technique is the better you translate. All the greatest directors are the greatest technicians. Kubrick could actually tell each and every lens of each and every shot that he ever took in his life and he started shooting still pictures really early, by the time he got to make his 1st film he'd had a good understanding of optics and lenses. Unless and until you understand that, how will you understand where to put the camera and where to take the close-up from to have the most telling effect of the actors' emotion? So I generally don't believe that as a director you have to feel something and not have the technique. I think you must have the technique, I'm totally involved in everything that I do... having come up from the world of advertising and promo-making and all that, having edited, having painted my own set, having plotted each and every move of the camera, having choreographed this move or dance or whatever it is and learning from other people, filmmaking is a kind of school for me so I'm still learning. And I think there is no other way to get around it.

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  • Are you happy with the way your films have done commercially? Of your three films (Khosla Ka Ghosla, Oye Lucky Lucky Oye, LSD) which is the one you are most happy with?

    To tell you truthfully, as far as how it's done commercially, I'm reasonably ok. I couldn't, you know... hope for more because for someone like me who had no film background and film experience, to come out and make a film like "Khosla Ka Ghosla" as your debut film and you know people all over the country liking it, and me going over and making another maverick kind of film like "Oye Lucky..." and then downscaling my budget to make something even more maverick like "Love Sex aur Dhokha" and it being appreciated and being very good commercial success again. I really think I can't complain and I have been lucky. As far as my own satisfaction with my own execution of my film, you know I mean... I am very reluctant to tell you this, but actually I hate them because what happens is, that a film happens over a period of a year, 12 months, 14 months and the moment it finishes you realize that you have grown in that one year. And the moment the film is released you can't do anything to it. You can't change it, you can't edit it, you can't improve it, it becomes inert. It becomes this piece of inert stone, you can't think about any change. You have grown in the meantime, you have left the film behind and when I see my own old films, all I see is mistakes. So I therefore generally don't have a very comfortable relationship with my earlier films because I'm slightly embarrassed to look at them, in fact one of the reasons why I make my next film is because I'm slightly embarrassed with my last film. And in the next film I am trying improve and you know kind of set right the mistakes that I thought that I have committed in the last movie. This is truth because on the other day I was watching "Oye Lucky..." on a flight and couldn't watch it, because I knew every cut that was going to come and I could see the mistakes and I just looked away from it. So I don't have a very comfortable relation with what I have done.

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  • Do you also first go after saleable stars after you finish writing your script?

    Absolutely, otherwise how do you survive? When I cast Anupam kher for "Khosla Ka Ghosla", he was not just a good actor, he was the character star. When I cast Abhay for "Oye Lucky Lucky Oye", he was an upcoming face that people were interested in and I knew that Anurag and I were making "Oye Lucky" and "Dev D" together and we knew that one film will rub off on the other and something will come out of it. Whenever you make something that earns its commercial existence out of people's interest in the central character, of course you will have to go for a star. The fact remains that whether the star matches your narrative and your character as you have designed it or are you designing your story around the star? That I refused to do currently, so therefore I meet every star available and every star available meets me and they meet every other director because it's an ongoing principle in our industry, we meet each other, we ask each other, ok what are you doing, I like your work, can we work together, what suits us and therefore out of every 10 meetings only 1 converts because everybody is hearing different stories, a multiple choice of narratives and they are making their choices according to their careers. So the fact is that I will always go to stars and I will always go to character actors and I have always have new people introduced in my films as I have constantly done in all my films, "Khosla Ka Ghosla", "Oye Lucky" and "LSD", each gave actors to the industry who are now carving their own careers, basis their debuts, same way in Shanghai. So it's a mix of everything and if you give me a star who matches my character and who fits the narrative as I have designed it, I'll take him any day.

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  • How do you feel when films like "Singham", "Ready" and "Bodyguard" set records at the box-office? Are you happy that there is an audience out there that is expanding, so a film can rake in so many crores at the end of the day, or are you disheartened about the sensibilities of the audience that you have to cater to?

    It's like asking that when I am driving around my Innova and somebody passes by in a Porsche, do you feel happy or sad? I mean of course you wish that I could have that Porsche but to have that Porsche, you will have to do something that you don't want to do. So ultimately it becomes the same thing. The fact is that I would love to have my films earn Rs 300 crore at the box office if I didn't have to change my film. Till the time that I don't want to change the way I make my films, I will wish for a Rs 30 crore box office but I will be very happy with 30. So I am very happy because that way I exercise the discipline on myself, make my films in a budget that always return a profit and that's the way I have learnt to survive. So the kind of figures that you are talking about is the result of star power and stars. True, stars who bring in that kind of money at the box office exist because even now in India, cinema and the urge to watch cinema is not to go and see a story unfold in front of your eyes, its also to see a star, become a star and behave like a star and put up a starry spectacle in front of your eyes and that's because most of our ordinary lives are so tough and so unbearable to be with that those 2-3hrs in an air conditioned cinema hall, Salman saves our lives, Aamir and Shahrukh save our lives so that life saving experience can only happen with a star. So if I ever find a film where the right star meets the right role and I am assured of a 100 crore plus box office, I will definitely go for it till that time I will go on making what I can and make a profit out of it.

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  • Do you always manage to make the film that you set out to make, or do pressures from the producer and the market finally work their way into your film?

    You see market is wavy kind of flag that's waved in front of you; I generally don't know what the market is. You see when the film is made, the biggest truth is at the point of making and selling a film, it is made for two markets, one is for the audience that will pay the ticket price and one is for the distributors and producers and exhibitors who will buy the film off you and exhibit it to people, so sometimes you have to keep the sensibilities of the people who are buying from you to sell it to the audience in mind but generally the way I survive is this that I have definitely a clear idea of what I am trying to do. I am under no illusion that I am not selling any kind of happy utopian dream. Most of my films have something grey about them; most of my films have something which is positive and negative about them. So their is a certain amount of greyness involved in it, there are no heroes, there are no heroes abject heroes, abject villains, when you tell it like that to an audience, you know that it is not going to be all is well. You essentially understand that your audience basically slightly more interested in a typical romantic comedy or a nice melodrama about how our lives are the best that we can have. My audiences therefore are the kind of people that have time to think and yet be entertained. Therefore the trick that I employ to my films is that I keep the budget as low as possible and within that budget with planning and with our own inventiveness, give the maximum production values as possible and keep your narrative, keep the subject, keep the treatment as engaging, as relating, as entertaining as possible because I want my films to be seen by as many people as possible. I don't want to live in an ivory tower or in a bubble and think that I am creating some piece of inert art, no I am not. I want to earn money from my films which I have. So therefore what I say has to immediately relate to the ordinary Joe on the streets who sees those films. The rest is the luck of the film, which I can't control so I don't think about that. Fortunately its not that I impose upon myself, because of the way I have been brought up, or what ever it is, I haven't had a very elitist kind of an upbringing or an existence. I know what the man on street thinks, how he speaks, I know the behaviour of people, the general common man of India so I relate to that and I make films about that and I hope that gets seen by the maximum number of people.

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  • Word you said when your dream project Detective Byomkesh Bakshi didn't do very well?

    You can’t walk into the world of filmmaking with such fragile hearts. I was not heartbroken but disappointed, since I wanted it to do well financially for YRF. Later, however, it became one of the better-performing assets on Amazon Prime video. We realised that there are films which people want to see again and again. There are certain aspects of a film that youngsters want to consume through laptops or mobiles. It’s a changing world. We are also learning. Interestingly, I’m always asked about the second Byomkesh Bakshy movie.

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  • Word you said when your dream project Detective Byomkesh Bakshi didn't do very well?

    You can’t walk into the world of filmmaking with such fragile hearts. I was not heartbroken but disappointed, since I wanted it to do well financially for YRF. Later, however, it became one of the better-performing assets on Amazon Prime video. We realised that there are films which people want to see again and again. There are certain aspects of a film that youngsters want to consume through laptops or mobiles. It’s a changing world. We are also learning. Interestingly, I’m always asked about the second Byomkesh Bakshy movie.

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  • Can an artist effort to stay silent?

    If you want to slowly lose all the liberties that you associate with being human, then, of course, stay apolitical. If you choose to pretend that society goes on without active mental participation from you, then I guess you’ve also forfeited the right to complain about anything that goes wrong with you.

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  • Is the government suppressing dissent on the film?

    Even if it isn’t, it does like to give that impression. It has understood that a large number of middle-class Indians are seduced by the display of naked power. Power is sexy. Even when power crushes you, if you’re stupid enough — which many Indians have shown themselves to be — then you feel wowed. That threatening stance is around us all over. You have to calculate what you have to say (without threatening) your self-preservation.

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  • How has contemporary politics affected you as a filmmaker?

    My most overtly political film, Shanghai (2012), was made when the UPA government was in power. Over the last five years, India has witnessed a new political phenomenon. I must say that I had foreseen it. I had said it during the protests at the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune. and the award wapsi (he returned his National Awards to express his solidarity with FTII students) in 2015.

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  • Does the wait get on your nerves?

    You are speaking to the director of Khosla Ka Ghosla (2006, which didn’t find a buyer for a couple of years). My first film has trained me in a way that this doesn’t really matter. I did other films (Lust Stories, 2018 and Ghost Stories, 2020) and other things in the meantime. My younger daughter came into my life and I could give her more time. We kept improving SAPF. During the last edit of SAPF we decided that we will do it from Parineeti’s point of view. The Indian film industry is not usually bothered about the female lead. In this film, both the characters are quite interesting.

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  • What it is like when a film has to wait a long time for release?

    Our shoot got pushed when Parineeti Chopra (who plays the female lead) suffered an injury and we finished the shoot in February 2018. I wanted to get the best edit, so I told Adi that the August release won’t be possible. In 2019, the studio (Yash Raj Films) was hoping that other films of Arjun (Kapoor, male lead) would create a favourable buzz, but you lose some, you win some. That’s when we decided that we would either release it at the end of 2019 or early 2020. Everybody is fighting for those 52 weekends, and smaller films like ours, get the short shrift from exhibitors. Distributors have to carefully plan when to present such material. So, we realised that we would rather wait to release it when it has a good window.

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  • What prompted you to make a love story?

    DBB didn’t do well in theatres. Adi (producer Aditya Chopra) and I discussed doing something that’s surprising but definitely more accessible to the family audience. Adi suggested a love story. We usually sell adolescent sexual discovery to a hugely repressed youth and call it ‘love’. Mercifully, that’s changing. So, obviously, something new had to be done. We were talking about a relationship between a man and a woman, and, along with that, came issues of gender and class. Then came the idea of two Indias colliding. These Indias exist right next to each other but they could be as different from each other as India and Germany.

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  • How did you get the title and character names for Sandeep aur Pinky Farrar?

    The title came from Varun (Grover, co-writer). The character names are mine. I’ve observed that in the north, even burly men have rather feminine nicknames. Women, especially among Sikhs, have male names. So, I was quite kicked by the fact that we could name them this way and talk about gender, without drawing any attention.

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  • Do you have any grievances as a director?

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  • Do you think that a life of a filmmaker, as you are, is easy and doing what you want to do?

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  • How do you evaluate the burden of audience expectation and real life struggle of the film?

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  • How did the shift from Ad film making to full-length feature cinema happen?

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  • How did you decide to enter film industry?

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  • How was your childhood and early life while growing up in Delhi?

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  • Do you see the effect of capitalism on cinema?

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  • In international cinema whom do you find inspiring and motivating?

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  • In this film industry whom do you think has a good political value cinema that has an impact on the audience?

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  • How important is for the filmmaker to have a political value?

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  • How do you differentiate between good and bad values of the society?

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  • How do you come to a story for the film?

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  • How do you explain the film process from the idea to execution? Do you always make what you thought of?

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  • How do you explain the effort and pain of intermediate cinema?

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  • How do you explain the effort and pain of intermediate cinema?

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