The cold Thursday evening did not deter art lovers from packing the auditorium of city’s Government Museum and Art Gallery, Sector 10, to capacity.
Jaya Ganga, the one-and-a-half-hour critically acclaimed feature film that was screened here as part of an event organised by the Chandigarh Lalit Kala Akademi, thawed eyes and warmed hearts.
As one finishes watching the 16-year-old film, it leaves every part of you brimming with appreciation.
And, its director Vijay Singh — writer, filmmaker and journalist — has stories to tell, passion to share in an interactive session that follows the film.
Paris-based Singh, who has a bond with the region since he studied at Punjab Public School Nabha, talks about his first feature film, Jaya Ganga, an adaptation of his novel.
The film, which premiered in competition at the World Film Festival, Montreal and was screened at 50 international festivals, had no takers initially. “Nobody was interested in it before it went to the film festivals. Later it ran for 49 weeks at cinemas in Paris and on 80 screens in the UK, garnering huge response,” he says.
And, how does the film differ from the novel? “A girl once told me that when you close the book and when you finish watching the movie, you are left with almost the same feeling. When it’s your book, you can play whichever way you want. I would say the film is about three women: Jaya – mystery, Zehra – senses, and Ganga – spirit,” says Singh who has written Jaya Ganga – In Search of the River Goddess, La Nuit Poignardée, Whirlpool of Shadows, The River Goddess and Watershed Models.
Singh, who also directed One Dollar Curry (2004) and India By Song (2010), is candid, “I used to think that cinema is not as profound a medium as theatre and literature. Literature comes from fantasy. What is accomplished art and creativity? It’s a surprise. I love cinema since it’s a medium that makes you share voice. A book cannot be read by a multitude simultaneously; a film can be watched together and discussed. Getting people together and then talking is the beauty of cinema.”
Citing Jaya Ganga’s word-of-mouth popularity, Singh makes a point, “Independent art needs to be dependent. Such films can only live by talking about them. Jaya Ganga received wonderful response so many years back when we didn’t have multiplexes and space for independent cinema.”
The man says that his life is a total of 30 years of learning and rest 30 of unlearning. “I don’t complicate my life. I don’t treat it seriously,” says Singh, who is deeply connected with Paris though his works explore Indian soul.
“I love Paris for its sensuality. It’s not that I know many artists there; everyone there is an artist. It’s an asset for a country. Everyone is so cultured. Even a maid, after finishing work, would borrow a book of interest,” he says, while talking about his upcoming projects.
“I will soon start working on The Opium Symphony, based on my book Whirlpool of Shadows. It has a big budget. Another film is on Indian soldiers. I’m also writing a novel.”