Sudipto Sen, an ardent proponent of Independent film-making in India, has written and directed a handful of feature films and short films which are
critically acclaimed by national and international audience and connoisseurs. His first feature film The Last Monk premiered at Cannes Film Festival, 2006. His latest film Lucknow Times, a political thriller, awaits the release. Being a celebrity mentor to the budding artists of UDAAN 2017 Short Film Festival (the new avatar of UDAAN 2016, Nukad Natak Festival), he spoke to Ganesh Krishnan R on the importance of self-discovery in art and cinema and the hope and optimism UDAAN 2017 it arouses. Excerpts:
Once it was the theatre which was appealing to the masses. Now that space has been taken over by Cinema. How do you see this transition?
If you see the history of the evolution of humankind, this transition or growth has always been there since the beginning. The industrial revolution ushered in a tremendous change in art. Then started, the actual journey of humanity along with the evolution of science and technology. Infact, the evolution of human race started from cave painting. Before the industrial revolution, the art thrived in the form of Gothic paintings. With the industrial revolution, it gave way to cubic painting, geometric painting. Thereafter, so many ‘isms’ came like realism, surrealism, neorealism, modernism etc. As society evolved, so did art. Cinema is not the theatre. It is a combination of all elementary art forms in the world. While the theatre is an elementary art form by itself, like music, painting or dance, cinema is a compound art form. With the advent of technology, the medium has changed a lot, but the aesthetics never changed. It is very interesting journey, in which technology marries aesthetics. Cinema is the most idealistic form of that marriage. Here you can balance with your audience as you are not directly interacting with the audience like the theatre. In cinema, you can manipulate. More the technological advent takeplace more you can get into the minuscule aspects of the art of manipulation. Now cinema has become stronger, irrevocable power of the time.Sothere is nothing to worry about it, this transition is quite natural.
In various other countries and film schools, cinema has been utilised as a vehicle for ideology and nationalism. What was its impact on our audience?
Whether it is Fidel Castro or Che Guevara or other Latin American leaders or Chinese leaders, the role they played was more or less equivalent to what Bhagat Singh and Raj Guru played. But this is not known to the world. On the life of Che Guevara, there are eight films in various languages. Unfortunately, not a single film has been made on the lives of our national heroes like Khudiram Bose. He was the first martyr of Indian Freedom Struggle. He was hanged at the age of 18 years. Nobody knows him. The South American revolutions and revolutionaries have been romanticised into such a large scale as those leaders have now become demigods to our youth. Students of our prestigious universities may not know who these people are. But they see them as cult figures. That is what the cinema has done.
Meanwhile, what is happening in Indian cinema?
Coming to Indian cinema industry, right from the beginning, it is in the hands of leftists. There was a movement called IPTA (Indian People’s Theatre Association) movement. All classic Indian film industries like Mumbai, Kolkata, Kerala, Chennai etc. have evolved with this movement and are obviously dominated by leftists. The fact is that they are so myopic about Indian reality. I always wonder why Indian cinema is called Bollywood. French or German cinema is never called Frenchhood or Germanhood. Because we have lost our identity, our milieu and the beauty of being Indian. There is no meaning in blaming the youth who are disillusioned with nationalism. We have failed to give them a parallel choice. Instead of creating parallel ways, we are becoming reactionary. No art form will survive in this world when it becomes reactionary. You can’t give mere reactions. You have to be in the action. It is the time to act. So my philosophy is to create our cinema, to create our own culture in cinema. Give me an opportunity, I will go to Jammu and Kashmir and play. So far, we have not sought the possibilities to unite the people through the medium of art and cinema while others have effectively done it.
What is the importance and role of the initiatives like UDAAN in this context?
It is the time to create our own IPTA, that is our UDAAN. And it is our IPTA where only India will be featured. Ask Americans to name five American films, they will give you five films. But we can’t name five Indian films because our films, mainly Bollywood, do not represent us. The so-called celebrated Bollywood makers do not represent India. Language doesn’t matter, representing India only matters. But, there is no synergy in our thoughts. We consider best movies made in Bengali, Malayalam, Marathi, Tamil etc. as Indian cinemas, not as regional cinema. That is our culture and maturity.In India, in every 200 km language changes and everything changes, you find no similarities. But there are certain things which do not change. For example, Deepavali, we celebrate it from Kashmir to Kanyakumari by lighting lamps in our houses. We celebrate Janmashtami all over India with the same fervour. What I am saying is, there are certain sparks which hold India together that is not being communicated in our art and cinema. That is the reason why we ended up in such a situation like this, neither here nor there. There lies the importance of initiatives like UDAAN.
UDAAN is shifting its platform from successfully concluded Nukad Natak Festival to Short Film Festival.What is your role being a mentor?
When UDAAN becomes a strong platform, we will advocate the Ministry of Art and Culture to provide fund and backing. You see the way they are promoting Cinema in Maharashtra. It is mandatory to show Marathi cinema in theatres in the state. Similar ways have to be adopted to foster our short film culture with roots in the nation and our identity as UDAAN promotes. There is a huge audience and market for short films. Our children, who are actively participating in UDAAN workshops, need only a little bit of boost. That is what we are giving. But Government should take all possible steps to encourage the initiatives like UDAAN.
What about your ‘UDAAN experience’? How do you see the young talents and their ability?
I am so happy. Perhaps UDAAN is my last hope. Because, so far, I have worked with so many NGOs and film groups in Kolkata and outside. We did everything but there was no result. I was completely hopeless. I thought that India would never emerge out as real India and it would continue to be a political battle ground. But UDAAN gives me that hope. Yes, we can do it; we can bring about the change. What I saw two months back was such an amazing performance of Delhi University students on the platform of UDAAN 2016. Amazing talents! Tremendous amount of enthusiasm! Tremendous amount of potential! What they need is a little push. Most of them are amateurs but their performance was so amazing. It is not a rocket science to support them. The government has Rs 3,500 crore under the Ministry of Art and Culture. 90 per cent of the amount is being wasted. The Government should also do something to foster this initiative. If UDAAN fails, we will again go back to that anarchy and pandemonium. If UDAAN 2017 becomes successful, we can confidently say that we are on the right track and more such experiments will takeplace. The sky is the limit for UDAAN.