VETERAN film-maker Shyam Benegal made his first film at the age of 12 with a camera given by his photographer father.
Today, having already spent more than three decades in the Indian film industry, he has made 24 feature films, over 45 documentaries and 1,500 advertising films. Yet, Benegal, the pioneer of ‘new wave’ or ‘parallel’ cinema in India is as enthusiastic as before, full of new concepts and ideas.
"There are many projects I would like to take up. Its a continous process, there cannot be an end, " he says. After receiving the ‘national award for the best film on national integration’ for his last venture, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose - the Forgotten Hero, Benegal is busy with his next project.
"My next film is a musical. The music is being directed by A R. Rehman. We are doing the music now. Shooting for the film has not started yet, " he says.
When asked about the reason behind making a film on Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, he says, "Netaji was one of the greatest nationalist leaders of the country. But his life had never been seen or recorded in cinema. I thought there was a need to bring him in front of the masses through cinema." About the recent trends in Indian cinema, the Padma Shri and Padman Bhushan awardee feels that Indian films have become completely city-centric and stories about rural India are being ignored.
"Today’s films are completely city or urban-oriented, because the aspirations of the Indian masses lie in the cities. Even the rural Indian audience would not want to watch a film set in a rural backdrop," he says.
"The cities which are shown in mainstream Indian films are not the real Indian cities. The soap operas on the small screen are also following the same trend," adds Benegal who also made a 53 episode television series on Nehru’s Discovery of India called Bharat Ek Khoj.
Benegal, however, is satisfied with the subjects taken up by the documentary film-makers of the country.
"Documentaries are still dealing with reality. They are taking up issues which confront the society. But unfortunately, there are very few takers of such films," he says.
When asked about his purpose behind making films, he says, "For me, the primary purpose behind making films is obviously to entertain the people. But along with entertainment other issues related to society, gender, etc also come in." "But films can also be made to bring about social transformation or to record historical events and occassions.They can play many different roles," he adds.
The director, who has made acclaimed films such as Ankur, Nishant, Manthan, Bhumika, Sardari Begum, Zubeidaa and many others, though refuses to pick any of his creations as ‘the best film’ of his career.
"For a film-maker, all his films are like his children. They are equally close to his heart even if there are flaws in his films," he says.
"If one of my children is less talented than the other ones, would I love him any less?" he asks.
Benegal does not consider the Oscars to be the final recognition for Indian films.
"Films which go to the Oscars cater to a certain kind of market. Indian films are not a part of this market. All this hype about these awards has been created by the media," he says.
According to him, the new generation of young film makers holds the key to a bright future for Indian cinema.
"Young film makers, both from India and from the diaspora, are seriously thinking about good cinema now. There was a tunneled vision about film- making which has been broken," he says.
"I am very hopeful
about the future. These youngsters are going to make some very
exciting films in the days to come," he says. — PTI