Shyam Benegal opens up what kept him away from feature films for 12 years

ByTitas Chowdhury
Mar 20, 2022 09:22 PM IST

Veteran director says he never wanted to stop directing films but the “shrinkage” of cinema-going affected his career, talks about directing an Indo-Bangladesh collaboration

12 years after Well Done Abba (2010), filmmaker Shyam Benegal is back with a film. Titled Mujib: The Making Of A Nation, it is an Indo-Bangladesh collaboration based on the life of Sheikh Majibur Rahman, the first President of Bangladesh.

Shyam Benegal
Shyam Benegal

Quiz him about what kept him away from directing a feature film for so long and the multiple National Award winning director says, “For an independent filmmaker, there are two important things. You’ve to have a subject that excites you enough for you to be inspired and make a film on it. When you find the subject, you’ve to have people who will put money into it, and that’s not always easy.”

Benegal also feels that the boom in the television space had an impact on cinema, which made him take it slow, professionally. “Television grew and cinema audiences shrank. Then TV diffused and things went all over the place. That made us pause and so, we weren’t able to make the kind of films we wanted to,” he says, adding that he always wanted to keep making films without any break much like Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman.

While he continues to watch contemporary cinema, he laments the dearth of theatrical releases today. And the 87-year-old believes that the surge of content on OTT has a role to play in that direction.

“There was time when India was making the maximum number of films. When I started making feature films, I was working three films in two years. In fact, there was a time when I had two films in a year. Films are being made for the web space today too. Yes, a bit of the traditional form of cinema is still being made but in languages I don’t know,” ends the Manthan (1976) and Mandi (1983) director.

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