Sudhanva Deshpande, actor and director with the Jana Natya Manch and editor at LeftWord Books, speaks to the filmmaker Shoojit Sircar.
Sircar talks about how he has tried to bring unconventional stories to a conventional film industry like Bollywood. He then speaks of his characters, pointing out that while these characters are unconventional by the standarads of mainstram cinema, they are not “fictitious” characters. They are part of the lived reality of India; you will find such people in Lajpat Nagar and Darya Ganj, he says He also speaks of the independent, working woman in his films, and how his scriptwriter, Juhi Chaturvedi, provided many insights into building these female characters.
Responding to the fact that films like Yahaan and Madras Café are located in scenes of conflict, Sarkar says he does not want to avoid the political. He does not view directors like himself as different from the long Indian tradition of alternative filmmaking that has existed since the days of Bimal Ray. What has changed? Such films, would earlier be screened only in one orphan theatre, are now released in several multiplexes. On film certification, he is surprised that his films were passed by the film certification board. When his film Madras Café was banned from being screened in Tamil Nadu, he made efforts to engage in a dialogue with those who objected to the film. Dissent should be through dialogue and debate; what cannot be allowed, he says, is stopping someone from watching a film to which you have taken offense.