On the sidelines of the Chandigarh Lit Fest, Jai Arun Singh talks to Sowmya S about film writing, censorship and the blurring divide between mainstream and indie cinema, in India.
Q: Social media has made it possible for every third Indian to call himself/herself a film critic. All one needs these days is a blog and/or a Twitter handle to critique movies. Has this diluted the quality of film literature in India?
Jai Arun Singh during his session at the Chandigarh Lit Fest, 2014 No. The Internet is good for us because it enables people to find voices. Though there is a lot of clutter online, the Internet helps people to write about movies without having to work for media organisations. In any case, quality work, irrespective of its medium of publication, gets noticed.
Q: Why did you decide to write about the making of ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro’?
I love writing about movies and I liked this movie a lot. It had several talking points; it was irreverent about religion, even at that time. The makers didn’t target any specific religion; they took digs at all of them. The madcap comedy in the movie worked very well.
Q: And the audience was more tolerant then…
Yes! Back then, people were a little tolerant. However, ‘religious sentiments are hurt’ at the drop of a hat and movies are frequently banned today.
Q: Your second book ‘The Popcorn Essayists: What Movies Do to Writers’ was about movies impacting writers’ lives. How has cinema impacted you?
When I write about something, a lot of my reference points come from cinema. If I think about the divide between the rich and poor in India, I think about a movie that has portrayed it very well. This is because some films mean so much to you that you think of life in terms of films.
Q: There has always been a divide between mainstream cine-
ma and art-cum-indie cinema in India. With the rise of several short-film makers in this digital age, has this gap widened?
The divide between the two was very pronounced nearly 20 years ago. But now, the line has blurred. Directors like Vishal Bhardwaj, Vikramaditya Motwane are making blockbuster movies that also address key issues and portray unique sensibilities. Moreover, multiplexes have made it possible for movies directed by smalltime filmmakers to get noticed. The increase in the number of indie movies made in India has brought about diversity in cinema today.
Q: What are your views on film censorship,especially in the context of the Central Board of Film Certification banning several movies on the grounds of hurting religious sentiments?
Censorship in India has become hard-handed. Any film needs to be true to the story that it wants to tell. If your sensibilities are getting offended, then it is for you to deal with.