Tag: Indian cinema

INTERVIEW: Passive seeing and listening are worse than passive smoking – Actor Mohan Agashe

800px-Satyajit_Ray_1994_stamp_of_India The veteran actor Mohan Agashe talks about Satyajit Ray’s Sadgati, the film that challenged caste as none before or after did, and his plans to instruct people on audio-visual literacy.

By Arvind Das

Renowned film industry luminary, director, music composer and illustrator Satyajit Ray was born in 1921. In this year of his birth centenary, Arvind Das speaks with acclaimed theatre and film actor Mohan Agashe about working with Ray—known as Manik-da among close friends—and his notable films, Shatranj Ke Khiladi (The Chess Players, 1977), and Sadgati (Deliverance, 1981), both based on short stories by Premchand and in Hindustani. Agashe played the crucial role of a cruel Brahmin priest in Sadgati, a role that earned him critical acclaim and awards. While in Shatranj ke Khiladi Ray depicts the decadent royalty of Lucknow during the British raj, in Sadgati, made forty years ago, he delivers a severe indictment of caste relations in colonial India. Excerpts of the interview.

How do you remember your association with Satyajit Ray?

Mohan Agashe: I am no authority on Ray. Like everyone else, he is a towering figure for me, but I will share a couple of experiences with you. Ray had written a letter to me offering the role of Ghasiram in Sadgati, which I readily accepted. Although it is only 52 minutes long, it gave me enough time to know why Ray is Ray. And why he was miles ahead of others. First, because of his taste. Premchand was a legend in himself, but Ray’s transformation of Premchand’s story [for the film] is as appropriate as the story itself. Premchand knew the strength of the writing. Manik-da picked up the exact visuals and sounds to communicate all that Premchand had sought to communicate through words. When Premchand wrote this story [Sadgati], literacy was the preserve of few. So he wrote in a language that had an oral nature. Manika-da tried to make this film in the same way, to reach the most people. Film developed as a means of entertainment, and in India, it went entirely into the hands of businessmen. We were never taught to appreciate a movie. Ray taught us how to see a movie. He perpetuated learning. Along with [noted contemporary director] Ritwik Ghatak, Ray struggled to get recognition as an artist. They fought this battle through film societies. Barring a few exceptions—Bandit Queen (1994), Article 15 (2019) and some others—Hindi cinema never vociferously makes caste its central theme. Social justice remains on the periphery of films. In this respect, how do you see Sadgati? I was coming to this point. Many people have made movies on caste problems, but no film is as authentic as Sadgati. The reason is that neither in Premachand’s story nor in Manik-da’s movie is there any hero or villain. As the situation in the film develops, one caste—Brahmin—becomes exploiter, and the other—the Chamar—gets exploited. Caste is deep-rooted in culture, and the film depicts what was accepted in the culture at the time. Dukhi, played by Om Puri, thinks he must do something for Ghasiram in lieu of his services [as a priest]. That is how he raised the issue [of caste] in the movie.
Mohan Agashe

Yet, watching this film, we notice the rage in Dukhi’s eyes. Does it give this movie a different flavour?

Exactly. Govind Nihalani made the movie Aakrosh [Rage] on the same issue. There is silent aakrosh in Sadgati. That is the difference. In Sadgati, we see the effigy of Ravana, which is not in the original story Premchand wrote. Yet, the effigy is not burned in the film. Why so? Ravana is a symbol of social evil. Originally, the ending was to be shot in the sunlight, which was expected to be blazing hot, and Ravana had to burn. Suddenly, the weather changed. Manika-da changed the ending because it started raining! He was very meticulous about his shooting plan and very economical, but he was also very flexible, so he thought he would use the environment as it was. So, Ghasiram drags the dead body into a swamp, and the woman comes crying… It is a very powerful visual—as if nature is scornful. That is the transformation he effects through the medium. Manika-da was quick to capture these changes and the environment so that he could make the ending more powerful. This he might not have achieved by depicting Ravana’s effigy burning.

While Shatranj ke Khiladi gets discussed a lot, people tend to ignore Sadgati. Why is it so?

I will not be able to answer this authoritatively, but I feel Shatranj ke Khiladi was a big-budget film produced by Suresh Jindal, while Sadgati was India’s first telefilm. It was shot on 35mm and the producers were Doordarshan. Manik-da had a contract with France, too, so it was telecast simultaneously in France and India. In those times, television was not a very popular medium. Also, Shatranj ke Khiladi had stars such as Sanjeev Kumar, Saeed Jaffrey, Shabana Azmi, Farooq Sheikh. But I am happy that Sadgati is being talked about now, in the year of Manikda’s birth centenary, on par with his Apu trilogy.

Where was Sadgati shot? Tell us about your co-stars, Om Puri and Smita Patil too.

It was shot near a village in Raipur. I cannot remember its name now. Om [Puri] and I used to share a room in the hotel. Manik-da liked Smita a lot. Unfortunately, Om Puri, Smita Patil and Geeta Siddharth are no longer with us today.

Coming to contemporary Hindi short films, do you see Sadgati’s legacy continuing?

Like films, we see the democratisation of other media too. One can make movies even on mobile phones today. Those who are sensitive people make good short films. The major difference today is that the production of short films has increased manifold compared to feature films. Accordingly, their viewership on small screens has also grown. But I must add, filmmaking is still dominated by business-minded persons. In web series, you see sex and violence. If you compare with the films of Manik-da and Ritwik Ghatak, percentage-wise, the good films are still very few. That percentage will not increase unless everyone knows how to read and write, see and listen. Today, people are watching movies passively, not actively. It has to change. That is why I say the dangers of passive seeing and listening are worse than of passive smoking. Smoking affects your body, but passive seeing and listening affect your mind.

Did Ray ever share any plans with you to make another film in Hindustani after Sadgati?

He was not willing to make one himself, but he did make two serials for Doordarshan, telecast as Satyajit Ray Presents (1985-86). He wrote these series, and his son Sandip Ray was director. The first part, Satyajit Ray Presents-I, was a package of thirteen short films in which Girish Karnad, Victor Banerjee, Pankaj Kapoor, Amol Palekar and I acted. All thirteen films should be models for film schools such as FTII [Film and Television Institute of India] and SRFTI [Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute]. Young filmmakers can learn a lot from these films while making their twenty-minute short films for their diplomas. Manik-da also wrote Target, a Hindi film, which his son directed after his demise. Last question! Tell me about the projects you are working on? For the last few years, I had been working with a very sensitive filmmaker from Maharashtra, Sumitra Bhave, who unfortunately passed away in April. Sumitra was the only filmmaker in the world who had made excellent and award-winning films on six medical issues associated with stigma, from HIV-AIDS to depression. Although I am not a producer, because we shared the same principles, I happened to produce three of them [for example, Astu, on Alzheimer’s Disease]. I use these films for teaching. As I said earlier, now I want to teach people how to see and listen—what I call audio-visual literacy. So that is something I wish to do after the pandemic.


(Arvind Das is an independent journalist and media researcher.)


Source- netflix.in, 26 Sep 2021

IFFM-2021: Indian film makers face uphill tasks amid pandemic blues

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By SAT News Desk

MELBOURNE, 20 August 2021: The Indian film industry is facing many challenges because of the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, even if there is no lockout many issues remain. Ajitpal Singh, Director of ‘Fire in The Mountains’, which won the IFFM-2021 award for the best Indi movie says,” In India, during the pandemic, the states, center and political parties have failed to deliver.

We went to shoot our film and, in Simla, we had to take the RTPCR COVID Test but private labs were not permitted to do it. The reason being, the government wanted to keep the case numbers low. One had to go to the civil hospital where the fear of catching the virus was there. But we went there and saw ten dead bodies coming out.”

So, we did not have the objectivity and clarity about a story we want. It will take some more time. But we are navigating this tough time. This is the biggest disaster after the partition.”

Another film director said, “It takes a lot of time to digest the situation and it will take time to decide what to do and search new subjects for movies.

Touching the question of censorship, Ajitpal Singh said, it was these days, not the question of censorship but that of ‘self-censorship’ prevailing in the industry because of the fear of authorities. While another film personality felt one could always find a way to express oneself through the film medium.

IFFM-2021 Awards : Best movie – Soorarai Pottru, Best Actor Suriya Shivakumar, Best Indie Film – Fire In The Mountains & Best Directror Anurag Basu


By Neeraj Nanda

MELBOURNE, 20 August 2021: The Indian Film Festival of Melbourne 2021 (IFFM-2021) online awards today saw Soorarai Pottru (Tamil) getting the best movie award, Best Actor award went to Suriya Shivakumar, Best Indi Film award went to Fire In The Mountains, Best FDirector Award went to Anurag Basu for Lodo, the winner of the Equality In Cinema (Feature) went to God On The Balcony and the Equality in Cinema (Feature) award went to The Great Indian Kitchen, Winner of the Equality In Cinema (Short) went to Sheer Qorma.

The winner of the Best Performance Female (Feature) went to Vidya Balan for Sherni, Destiny in Cinema award went to Pankaj Tripathi, the award for the Best Web Series went to Mirzapur S2, winner for the Best Performance Female (Series) went to Samantha Akkineni for THe Family mMan S2, the winner for the Best Performance Male (Series) went to Manoj Vajpayee for The Family Man S2, Best Documentary award went to Shut Up Sona among other awards.

The 12 edition of the IFFM is on till 30 August 2021 online and so were the awards were given away through Zoom online for the first time in a glittering event attended by more than 230 participants including award winners.

The Festival honored the centenary of India’s iconic Filmmaker and director Satyajit Ray by showing his 10 movies kicking off with Mahanagar (1963).

Awards were also announced for the Short Film Festival by judges Director Onir and actress Richa Chadha.

Most of the awardees joined the online awards event and talked about their movies. There was also an online media conference at the end of the event.

The festival movies to be shown in cinema halls across Melbourne could not happen because of the COVID-19 lockdown and are likely to be shown when the lockdown is lifted. New dates will be announced accordingly.

The Governor of Victoria and Ministers Jason Wood, Luke Donnellan, and IFFM Director Mitu Bhowmick participated in the event.


IFFM-2021 QUICK REVIEW : Awakash, Marathi – Silence culminating into life


By Neeraj Nanda

MELBOURNE, 19 March 2021: The elder sister is forced to go back to her parents’ (not alive) home after ten years. Her younger sister (single) with a troubled past lives there. The two spend many days rarely talking. The past haunts both of them. The younger one grappling with her own identity crisis is protective of her current status. Director Chittaranjan Giri skillfully interweaves their personalities hungry for relief. Space opens up as life moves step by step. The film’s slow pace is realistic. Emotions, circumstances, and moods merge for reconciliation. The movie is a telling tale of silence culminating into life.

Name- Awakash (MA 15+)
Language- Marathi
Duration- 78 minutes
Country- India
Cast- Ashwini Giri, Laxmi Birajdar, Nachiket Devasthali
Director- Chittaranjan Giri

IFFM 2021 opens with Ajitesh Sharma’s ‘WOMB’ : Aug12- 21(Cinemas) & Aug 15-30 (online Australia wide)


By Neeraj Nanda

MELBOURNE, 1 July 2021: The iconic Indian Film Festival of India (IFFM) 2021, is all set to hit the screens here and Australia-wide online August 12-21 and August 15-30 respectively. One of the world’s top festivals of Indian movies, the IFFM-2021 will this year have over 70 movies including documentaries and short films in 20 languages. The glittering festival this year which is also the 75th anniversary of India’s Independence is expected to bring cheer and recovery to post-COVID Melbourne.

Festival locations will be Hoyts, Melbourne Central, Hoyts District Docklands, Hoyts Chadstone, Hoyts Highpoint, and the Federation Square, city. The virtual festival movies will be accessible to stream for free online at www.iffm.com.au

Kicking off a diverse and dynamic program of more than 70 feature films, documentaries, and shorts – the largest festival of its kind in the southern hemisphere – is the 2021 IFFM Opening Night film, Ajitesh Sharma’s WOMB (Women of My Billion).

A heart-wrenching and a heart-warming documentary about the dreams and the fight against all forms of violence that unify the women of India today, WOMB (Women of My Billion) follows one young woman, Srishti Bakshi, as she embarks on a monumental journey, walking nearly 4000 kilometers over 240 days, from Kanyakumari in South India to Kashmir in the North. Along the way, she meets and learns firsthand about the experiences of women from all corners of the country.

Director Srishti Bakshi says, “Violence against women and girls is a human rights violation. since the outbreak of Covid-19 and the world locking down to live within four walls, emerging data and reports from those on the frontlines have shown that all types of violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence, have only intensified. In this documentary, we have celebrated ordinary women who’ve shown extraordinary courage to rise above their limitations and challenge deeply entrenched gender norms. We did this to unite the majority because what we discovered was that ‘gender-based violence is a crime perpetrated by the minority but perpetuated by the silence of the majority.”


Producer Apoorva Bakshi says, “We take great pride in presenting our film at IFFM as the opening night gala presentation and look forward to sharing it with audiences worldwide. This documentary not only presents facts but also highlights possible solutions which can be implemented today.”

In 2021, IFFM takes over five key venues in Melbourne’s CBD and suburbs, while an extended virtual season will see films stream for free via the festival’s website, iffm.com.au. IFFM has partnered with the Mental Health Foundation, and viewers will be encouraged to donate to the organization when they stream FesHval films.

Mitu Bhowmick Lange, IFFM Director: “After the unprecedented challenges faced over the last 18 months, we are excited to bring the Indian Film FesHval of Melbourne back to the big screen, while our digital platform will ensure viewers around Australia can access the festival too. In 2021, IFFM pays tribute to not only the best of Indian cinema, but to many of our COVID-19 heroes, offering vital community support, connection, and hope in these challenging Homes.”

Caroline Pitcher, Film Victoria CEO: “Film Victoria is proud to be the principal partner of the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne. For over a decade, this incredible celebration of Indian film and culture has given Victorians the opportunity to engage with diverse and compelling screen stories, and it’s wonderful that this year we can come together both in cinemas across Melbourne and online.”

The Indian Film Festival of Melbourne is the southern hemisphere’s greatest annual celebration of Indian cinema and films from the Indian sub-continent. Established in 2010, it is recognized as an important feature of the State’s cultural calendar. IFFM is proudly supported by the Victorian Government via Film Victoria – principal partner of the festival.

The IFFM-2021 is supported and sponsored by the Victoria Government, Film Victoria, Commonwealth Bank, La Trobe University, City of Melbourne, Blackmagic Design, Hoyts, Mental Health Foundation Australia, SBS, Gday India, South Asia Times (SAT), Indusage, and Radio Haanji.

Festival sitehttps://www.iffm.com.au/

SAT site — www.southasiatimes.com.au