Do it with passion,or don’t do it at all- Shyam Benegal

DSC_3489 copy
By Sachin Chatte

DSC_3506Shyam Benegal is a superlatively expressive artist. Throw any question at the celebrated 81-year-old director – especially something contentious – and you will get a most coherent and lucid answer.
“Don’t do anything just for the sake of doing it,” Benegal told The Peacock at Kala Academy on 23rd November, “either do it with passion, or don’t do it at all.” When it comes to censorship he is equally direct, “there shouldn’t be any. Classifying films is okay, but the imposition of censorship is what I don’t agree with. It makes no sense whatsoever and the purpose is self-defeating.”
50 years ago, Benegal began his career as a copy writer, then started making documentaries and ad films.  He says, “till the 1980’s the only way to watch a film was at a theatre where you sat in a dark hall – then came television and the game changed. Now you can watch movies on your laptop, and even cell phones, so the means of reaching out to an audience is much wider.”
According to the Dadasaheb Phalke award winner (he got it in 2005), “for a very long time our films were influenced by theatre, but now that has changed and a lot more vitality and originality has entered our cinema. If you look at all the great film makers, what they have achieved is they’ve taken the idea of cinema forward. Yesterday’s vanguard becomes today’s formula.”
But not every development finds Benegal’s favour. The director who spearheaded the parallel cinema movement in India with Ankur (1973), Nishant (1975), Manthan (1976) and Bhumika (1977) is not too pleased with every technological advance. “With digital, the images are much sharper in the form of pixels but the pleasantness is missing,” he says, making an analogy with a carpenters saw and a mechanical one, where the craft of cutting wood gets lost in the latter.
A regular presence at the International Film Festival of India, Benegal expressed pleasure at the way the festival has been shaping up in its new permanent home. “There is some sense of order since the festival has moved to Goa. Earlier when it used to travel from one city to the other, it was a bit chaotic. There could definitely be some improvements here but it is heading in the right direction,” he said.
The director has a long connection with IFFI’s permanent locale.  His films  Bhumika (1977) and Trikal (1986) were shot nearby. He says, “I have been coming to Goa very regularly and I have a special fondness for the state.” His team worked hard to do justice to the complexities of Goan culture, which is sensitively portrayed in Trikal.  “When a film portrays a particular community, it is important to get the nuances right. We did a lot of research before we started shooting,” Benegal said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *