His films Khosla Ka Ghosla and Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye won National Awards. After Shanghai, director Dibakar Banerjee is now ready with a story on movies and their impact on the audience in Bombay Talkies.
Why did you make a movie on movies?
The journey of Indian cinema has been a journey of India. In 100 years, we have had films that have been a mix of what India wants to be, what it pretends to be and what it is. Zoya Akhtar, Karan Johar, Anurag Kashyap and I made a film on the impact and relation between the common man and cinema.
Your filmmaking is influenced by…
My first influence is my family, which has consumed and created entertainment. We would read, listen to the radio, put up plays during Durga Puja in Delhi. Doordarshan is another influence, it gave me a chance to see regional and world cinema. I would also visit all the film festivals in Delhi.
My non-Bengali friends, travel across the city, my life in Delhi have been a huge influences too. Mumbai, where I live now, my life here, it’s transformation from a manufacturing city to a services city, all have had an impact on me. My days at National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad that opened up an unknown western world opened up my worldview. And my wife has been the far most deepest influence. She’s very aesthetic, and she has created this aesthetic life of arts, books, poetry and plants.
Films impact the common man and vice versa
As we all know that the ’70s angry young man was the common man’s need to destroy the system that they no longer believed in, that was what they wanted to be, but because you cannot make a film on destruction, seventy per cent of it was about destruction, and the rest 30 per cent was pretending that everything is ok, and a compromise has been reached.
In the ’80s, many of the films were funded by the underworld they justified lawlessness and dons as heroes. They said, ‘I don’t believe in laws because they screw me so I will break them and start a new life. The law is meant to extort me and it doesn’t benefit me. I will make my own system’.
The ’90s has movies in which children rebelled against their parents and said, ‘I am tired of marrying the person you choose, I will marry whoever I like’. The economy had opened up, but even in these movies there was pretense of everyone finding common ground in the end.
Rebellion was an intrinsic element explored by Indian movies, and still is… All rebellion is political; some dissent comes out of western inspired ideas of social service such as being anti-touchability, anti-dowry.
Finally, the industry seems to be getting free of dynastic rule…
Yes, the industry is going through a change, the domination of film families is breaking down because of coming in of outsiders. There is a sort of subaltern movement happening here, whereby you are seeing small towns, people from small towns. These movies are massy, and yet others are masala, and some are making you think.
It’s also an interesting phase for the industry because advertising and corporate money is hugely in synergy with the Bollywood finances. Bollywood stars have become corporate brands. Corporates own media, movies and consumer products. They realize the only way to sell a movie is to sell the star. Easy sales has been possible because of stars, stars get befitted by the corporates.
So Bollywood and corporates are in sync, politicians too understand this and join hands. So, now there is the new elite of these three. So, from morning to night, you are consuming what they are feeding; you brush from a paste endorsed by a star, wear a baniyan endorsed by a star, sit in a car endorsed by a star, eat chocolate endorsed by star, read an entertainment section of the paper that talks nothing but Bollywood, get cement to repair your water tank, again endorsed by a star, talk on the phone endorsed by a star, see a movie made by a corporate house, and listen to a star canvassing for a political party.
This has created a new feudal set up. All the three are feeding off each other. And they have taken over the popular imagination of the people of the country.
Bollywood director Dibakar Banerjee gestures while addressing the media while actress Kalki Koechlin looks on during a promotional press conference held for their upcoming movie Shanghai in Bangalore. (AFP)