Cinema is probably a bigger reflection of society now than it ever was. Going into 2012, the craze for it is hitting heights one couldn’t even imagine a while ago. It is, therefore, a very exciting time for audiences and filmmakers, as well as critics and moral ‘judges’ — for they need to keep pace with the rapid changes that excited young filmmakers are bound to bring in as they improve the craft and as they respond to audiences seeking newer kinds of titillation as well as satiation.
There has been a historic jugalbandhi — of, on the one hand, cinema’s progression, and on the other, shackles being put on it, such as archaic censor guidelines, bans on liquor brands being seen — even if not placed — in the film, restrictions on protagonists shown smoking or drinking or being adulterous, and finally, the holier-than-thou moral brigade.
One wishes that in 2012 these views are altered and amended in keeping with our times. The young Indian is among the most dynamic and promising in the world, and devours an astonishing amount of information and entertainment. Let it flow his way as unhindered as possible, from the filmmaker. Let him then make up his own mind whether it is good, bad or ugly. Going through the experience is a must for both him as well as the filmmaker.
When I attended the first day first show of The Dirty Picture at a suburban theatre, I thought there’d only be taporis in the crowd. I was wrong.
There were a lot of young college girls, a lot of young couples, a bit tentative but very eager to see my film. In a couple of the bolder scenes in the beginning, I could hear some of them talking about leaving. But they stayed, and soon, got deep into the story, understood that the language of this film was bold; it needed to be, and the director had indicated that right from the kick-off.
Having sat through, they were moved by the material, and at the end, some of the girls came and congratulated me, with the glow of a mature experience on their faces. This generation doesn’t need to be overprotected. They are a strong, clear and focused lot, willing to try anything once, if it is appealing enough. Let them be the judge of what is good and what isn’t. Or rather what is entertaining and what isn’t.
The only thing I am certain they don’t want is repetition! Spare them that. Instead give them appetising, new cinema that can be new food for thought. We don’t need to control their perception of life or their moral fibre. Let them have the freedom of choice as well as that of interpretation.
Having said my bit, I must add that one of the most pleasurable experiences of The Dirty Picture was my interaction with the Central Board of Film Certification. I had been warned that any woman ‘exposed’ by a filmmaker was frowned upon as ‘exploitation of the female species’. I was tense as hell, since I felt this was my best work, and I had done it artistically, aesthetically. Well, over to the Central Board of Film Certification.I had a gut feeling that they would view the film in totality and then pass judgement, and I knew my film rises to be a true emotional saga. A portrayal of the ‘dirty picture’ that stardom eventually becomes. What if they didn’t get it?
I’m glad to say that the much-maligned Board got every bit of what I’d intended. They were sharp, they were aware and they were appreciative of a well-handled subject -- one that could easily have been approached cheaply and exploitatively.
They paid me rich compliments, and my faith in the system was restored, just like when I saw those young college girls watch my film in awe. Both sides of the coin were shining bright to me and that augured well for cinema in the coming year. Wishing all of you a happy, cinema-rich 2012!
Mumbai-based Milan Luthria is a director of Hindi films. His most recent film was The Dirty Picture. He is also well-known for his earlier films, Once Upon a Time in Mumbai (2010) and Taxi Number 9211 (2006).