‘Civilisation Seems to Evade our Society’by Opinion Express April 13, 2019 0 comments
“Social media has become an online court of listing judgments and blurting out impulsive thoughts.” In an interview with Chahak Mittal, Director Soumitra Ranade said, “we are literally abusing and lynching each other.” He had watched the Naseeruddin Shah and Shabana Azmi-starring Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyun Aata Hai? in his youth and it left a huge impression on him. “It has stayed with me till date. At that age, I could relate to Naseer’s anger,” says director Soumitra Ranade, who has re-conceptualised the eponymous film starring Manav Kaul, Nandita Das and Saurabh Shukla.
After liberalisation and opening up of the economy, a major chunk of population was pushed away from development, believes the director. “While we were all enjoying multiplexes, mobile phones and other luxuries, a large part of humanity was left out,” he says while talking about how he had discovered the theme of the film while travelling in the interiors of the country where he found that people were angry and frustrated with what the system had to offer.
He explains that the 1980’s film depicted that there was still room for development. “However, today I don’t see any scope. Everything is so full and has been occupied, I see no space for understanding or development. Those were simpler times. The common man is basically angry with himself that he is not able to do anything and is constantly facing backlash from the corrupt system,” he says. Ranade’s Albert Pinto presents the angst of the common man and is an “an interesting take on reality.”
The Indian demography is the youngest in the world and a majority of its young people are unhealthy and unemployed, which makes them angry. He says, “If they remain in this state, India can become a terrorist country. We can actually see that happening right now. They are so angry that they can be easily maneuvered by political groups. Unless this emotion is channelised well, we are sitting on the brink of a volcano which can erupt anytime.”
The Jajantaram Mamantaram director believes that the ones who hold the greatest power to challenge or change the existing notions of the society belong to the middle class. “Most people in India belong to the middle class — the only group which can change or challenge the system. The poor are too powerless and the rich are never interested. Unke liye toh sab achha hi hota hai (things are always good for them). And most of the writers, painters, poets and the like can influence the people as they are all a part of the middle class. It’s important for them to open the windows, see the reality and change it,” he says.
Giving an example of mass farmer suicides in India, he explains that the issue has become a slogan these days. “However,” he says, “the farmers have been committing suicides since the past 25 years. It’s only now that we have come to know about it. And it is so deeply rooted that we don’t even realise how grave the situation is. We learnt about it only when the farmers marched into our cities. This is distressful and sad.”
He calls cinema “an extremely powerful medium,” but he also believes that it needs to reframe some of its aspects. “If you use cinema only for Bollywood, masala films, it would be ridiculous exploitation of the medium. Big names and films don’t always work. A few films that released last year are examples. And I am not surprised actually. When you keep on giving the same thing to the audience, they will not accept it after a point. They want to see interesting stories, which they can connect to,” says he.
He gives the example of Dangal, which was something new, interesting and worth showcasing. He questions, “So why not something like that? It can’t be just crass and beautiful bodies all the time. How long can you keep giving the audience that? They need stories which could inspire them. The change is that even the audience is accepting new concepts. They are becoming smarter and are able to tell the creators their own choices. And an exposure to international cinema through OTT platforms is the reason behind this change.”
With the changing society, he says, even the cinematic concepts have evolved. Ranade believes that his 2003 film, Jajantaram Mamantaram came when, although there was despair, there was still some innocence left. “I had young kids at the time and I was living a different story every night with them. And slowly, when my children grew up, I also looked in other directions and even the world around me changed. And that started impacting me, which is obvious,” he says and adds that a film has to be relevant to its time. “And Albert Pinto… is very important in today’s time. I am surprised that no one thought of making it as yet. We don’t appear to be a civilised society if you see the kind of debates that we have on news channels. We are literally abusing and lynching each other. What’s wrong with our language and culture?” he questions.
The second, of course, is the virtual lynching on social media. He adds, “It has become a window for anger and blurting out impulsive thoughts. It has become an online court of judgments and opinions. With an anonymous identity, sitting in my room, I can abuse anybody. It’s easy. That rage is not the solution, but I understand it.”
Well, what could be the solution then? He answers, “I think the solution is equality but attaining it is very difficult. I don’t know if we are ever going to reach that goal. But we need to, at least, have the basic necessities distributed equally.”
Telling us the reason why he chose Manav and Nandita for the lead roles, he laughs and says that both are ”my very good friends.” However, that is just one of the many reasons in the list.
“I find Manav to be a very interesting actor. He can show every emotion very effortlessly. His face can deal with versatile emotions easily. If I tell you that he is a good-hearted person, you will want to believe me. If I say, he is a very kameena type ka aadmi, you would still want to believe me. You will believe me even if I say that he is a very sensitive man. He is not ‘one’ kind of a person, he is all of these. He can be a beautiful, pretty, romantic hero as well. And Nandita, she is not ‘an actor’ actor. She is a thinking person, whose face reflects that intensity with which she works for anything. She is a writer and a director as well who is intelligent and sensitive to understand a lot of things altogether,” says he.
Photo: Pankaj Kumar
Writer: Chahak Mittal
Courtesy: The Pioneer