Goutam Ghose Curated
Indian film director
CURATED BY :
What motivates you to make films?
Passion. I feel like expressing myself and cinema is an incredible medium to do just that.
Who has inspired you in filmmaking?
Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak to mention a few. I am a great admirer of the old Soviet school, French school and the Italian cinema. My favourite filmmaker is Akira Kurosawa.
Today, there are different kinds of cinema -- multiplex, crossover, middle-of-the road cinema... What is your take on this?
Due to urbanisation, multiplexes have come up. They have their own audience and some filmmakers cater to this milieu. I think one can make films for all sections of the people. A film like Yatra will not go into the C centres as the distributors won't take it because it is a cerebral film. I'm sure it will go into the urban and semi-urban sectors. You have to choose your subject accordingly.
Do filmmakers need to be schooled in the craft of cinema?
The learning process is very important, either through regular courses or reading and watching films. Sometimes, one can even learn from another director.
Is creativity undermined in the effort to garner box-office success?
It's unfortunate but box office success is necessary. Your producer must get back his money. But at the same time, film is a very creative process and one mustn't forget that.
Is cinema for entertainment or education? Should it reflect reality?
Both. It should reflect reality as well as educate people about their traditions. This globalised look is very boring and homogenous. But India is not homogenous, it's heterogeneous. That's our beauty and our strength. You have to make people know about it. Cinema has a great role to play in this regard. You have to reflect the irony of our lives.
What drew you to filmmaking?
A combination of theatre and photography. I used to write and direct plays in English and Bengali. As I grow older it has become tougher, but I still enjoy it. Doing cinema is like giving birth to a child. I notice films normally take about 10 months (laughs). I don't believe in the star system at all. I believe in actors. I use actors and non-actors (newcomers) in my films. I have used many non-actors who have become famous as actors. My six-year-old nephew is unbelievable in the scenes in Yatra. He had just two scenes but he was amazing. Children are natural actors as they have no pre-conceived notions about acting.
Your earlier films dealt with various social issues. What drew you to them?
Though I was born and brought up in Kolkata, I got to see the vastness of the country, especially rural areas, during holidays. When I was 17 or 18 years old, I started travelling to rural areas in Bihar, Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and South India. That's when I thought of making films about the life of the rural people. My first feature film Maa Bhoomi was based on the Telangana uprising while the second film Dakhal was based on the contradictions between the gypsies and the farmers just after the First Land Reform Act. In Paar, I wanted to show the caste feud and the endurance of the human race. In between films, I make documentaries.
How did you take to the camera?
I started with still photography. I learnt photography from watching others. I admired my guru Subroto Mitra (Satyajit Ray's cameraman) though I never got to work with him. I learnt a great deal from the discussions I had with him and by watching his work and works of other great cinematographers around the world.
Are you inspired by Satyajit Ray because he too used to score his own music?
Very much. He was a great musician and composer. Ray told me he loved my music.
You compose music for all your films. Where does the interest in music stem from?
I love music and so does my family. My mother used to play the violin and there were many singers in the family. In those days, learning music was part of the lessons though it was not compulsory to be a musician. I remember my maternal grandfather telling me that learning music makes you a good human being (laughs). My mother studied at Santiniketan while my wife was born and brought up at Santiniketan. I also learnt western classical on the piano in school. Music also helps me structure a film. Unlike literature where the intellectual perception is first stimulated, in films the effect is more visual. Music, too, hits you directly. The selection of music depends on the film. I plan the music during the script stage itself. So when I am shooting, I know how I am going to play the background music, song or whatever. For Yatra, I have chosen the traditional compositions of Benaras and Lucknow gharana. In the film, Rekha's mother is a tawaif who hails from Benaras. So we are using Qader Pia's and Birju Maharaj's compositions. I write my compositions for the background score.
You are adept in feature films and documentaries. How easy or difficult is it to do both?
Well, I'm comfortable doing both feature films and documentaries, as I am expressing myself through the medium of cinema. In documentaries, you work with real people, in features, you work with actors who enact your characters. Sometimes, after making a feature film with a large crew, I get tired and feel like doing a documentary with a smaller crew. This way, I also get to expand my area of knowledge.
While you relate the tale of a boy displaced because of the Narmada project, our cinema seems to have forgotten the have-nots, the inhabitants of Bharat in the relentless bid to please urban India. How disconcerting is that at a human level?
Very disturbing. We have forgotten the proletariat; in the new age economy, it is only profit that matters. I strongly feel that this trickle-down theory is an abstract concept, completely utopian. You have to support the unprivileged, the deprived. Not just the government but even private enterprises have to come forward with welfare projects for the common people. Else, there will be conflict in society. Have you wondered why the tribal people have gone into the red corridor? It is not that they were won over overnight. It is their systematic exploitation that has taken them across the fence. As a film-maker and as a human being, I have always tried to be compassionate towards common people. We should not forget the wisdom of the common people. Tribal people know what sustainable development is better than corporate houses. They have lived with nature. For corporates, money is the most important thing, but unless you take care of nature, your profits will vanish in 10 years. The common man knows the land, the law of the land, its ups and downs; they know how much can nature give, and when it will strike back. We have to show their stories. However, these days, I come across terms such as “feel-good” cinema. It is a very subjective term, very debatable. Feel good for whom? But then that is the beauty of cinema, in fact of the art world. It speaks various languages.
When multiplexes came into being, it was believed that serious film-makers would capitalise on the boom and make their presence felt. Why has it not happened?
Shankhachil did well at multiplexes. However, we cannot see multiplexes as one monolithic entity. In many States, there is a law governing them whereby they are supposed to show a certain percentage of regional language content. For instance, in Maharashtra and Karnataka, they have to give preference to regional films. So serious films of other languages get left out. In West Bengal, no such special attention is given to Bengali cinema, but we do have a tacit understanding with multiplex chains. The collections of my films like Shankhachil, even Moner Manush, have been fine. Even at single-screen theatres, the response has been good. But what we do need today are not multiplexes but miniplexes, those small theatres with limited seats offering only basic comfort and affordable admission rates. Not everybody can afford multiplex tickets. So we need to bring down the ticket rates. Miniplexes, with limited investment and basic amenities, can be more useful for serious cinema.