Friday, October 12, 2012

Hindi cinema has not been able to do what Marathi or Tamil cinema is doing: Sriram Raghavan

Sriram, reading a book on Binayak Sen by Minnie Vaid 

Ace Film director and writer, Sriram Raghavan, was at Sonapani Film Festival held in Sonapani village in Uttarakhand from 21st September 2012 to 23rd September 2012. This interview was taken on the last day of the festival over a cup of tea.

Nihal: You have been in the industry for a very long time. In this festival we saw your films of various ranges, starting from your first film which you made at FTII as a student. Now that you have made mainstream commercial movies, what major difference you find in your own filmmaking, and also in your understanding of filmmaking in general?

Sriram: I don’t see much difference because whatever I am doing, I am doing for an audience. Ab wo audience kitna bada hai, kitna chota hai depends on the film. But sometimes when the film is too expensive you have to think about the audience, which is sometimes good and sometimes it can work the other way round because you are doing something so that more people can understand and get access to the film. But I don’t see much difference in my approach. I do what I want to do.

Nihal: Your approach has been commendable. We have seen ‘Eight column affair’ (Sriram’s diploma film), ‘Raaman Raghav’ and ‘Johnny Gaddar’. After watching your films, I personally felt your initial films were much more cerebral when compared with your later films, especially Agent Vinod.

Sriram: That was intentional. Agent Vinod was for a different audience, for children especially. That is why the violence was very simple, in fact minimal. If you see spy movies, they have crazy torture scenes and violence. Agent Vinod was more like fun. Many people expected it to be like Johnny Gaddar. That went against the movie. People expect your latest work like the last movie. And my diploma film (Eight Column Affair) was not cerebral. That time we were making it for the students. It was fun. Socha ki masti karenge. And that time we had just seen French new wave and exciting world cinema, which was new for us. So it was more in that spirit.

Nihal: In our film industry, apart from your original work, do you see something new happening?

Sriram: I think in the last three-four years there are many things happening in the Hindi cinema. I enjoy films by Anurag and Dibakar. There are different kinds of stories being told. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not work, but at least there is a chance these movies are getting. It is of very different taste from what the mainstream use to be fifteen years back. I find this very exciting. But we have still not been able to do what Marathi cinema has done, what Tamil cinema is doing. There we have managed to get a breakthrough, getting regular audience to watch those films. Hindi cinema has a star driven mainstream cinema, and ‘another’ cinema. But both are coming together now. Actor like Ranbir Kapoor working with Anurag Basu becomes very interesting thing to look forward.

Nihal: What do you have to say to the young breed which is not only coming to film industry but pursuing their career in creative art form? Any suggestions for them?

Sriram: I have no suggestions (Laughs). I am also one of them. I am also looking for the path. I have no advice for sure.

Nihal: You have been through all this, have struggled like most of the young people today. You have been a student yourself, trained in filmmaking. Many people are not trained. Do you think training important for young people?

Sriram: Training is when you start making film. When you make a song, for instance he (points to Vipin Hero) makes songs. The main thing is the response he gets, the feedback he gets. That is the real place to learn. Otherwise it cannot be taught beyond a point. People can teach the technicalities, but after that you will discover your own path, know what you are good at and know you weaknesses. That confusion, that excitement, that question mark will always be there, even after making ten films.

Nihal: How was your time at FTII? You had your share of fun there.

Sriram: Ab to main ye sab sochta bhi nahi. Everything was fun at its time, and then you move on. One thinks I wish I had written more script at FTII, had done this and that at FTII. Lots of time gets wasted because we use to enjoy ourselves too much, that is also important, but… At FTII we also use to discuss a lot.

Nihal: Which actor you love to work most with or want to work with?

Sriram: Many of them. It depends on the story. Sometimes you want to work with somebody hence you write keeping that person in mind. But it is not necessary that person is also ready to work with you. So you must write as you want to write and then look for actors. Whoever I am working with is my favourite actor.

Nihal: But your script never felt like it was written for a specific person. For instance Johnny Gaddar was a wonderfully written script.

Sriram: Yes, once the script comes then the casting comes. Ulta nahi hota. Ulta kabhi kabhi hota hai.

Nihal: But many people work that way…

Sriram: Many people do, even I have done. But that is not the best way to go.

Nihal: We met at this small intimate Sonapani Film Festival. What do you have to say about this kind of initiative?

Sriram: Aisa hi hona chahiye sab festival! Because here it is one to one. I want to come next time just to sit, watch films and ask questions. When people ask question, it is fun. But I want to come and relax here. Aaunga, pakka aaunga abhi!
The participants of Sonapani Film Festival (September 2012)
Nihal: When you attend major film festivals around the globe, what is that you find missing?

Sriram: We are not able to spend time with the audience. There you already have a big audience. When you go to Oscian or any other hindi film festival, it becomes much larger thing. We have a press conference, we have a QnA session. Wo sab hota hai. But here you actually make some friends. Which is fab. I met 20-25 new people, which is a good beginning point.

This interview also appeared in My Theatre Cafe on July 22, 2013

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