Avoid loneliness, not solitude
Is it solitude, or loneliness that haunts us most? Can solitude be a positive force, inspiring us to greater heights to creativity? Has the expression of solitude in cinema been adequate enough?
These were some of the burning questions that were part of the fascinating a discussion during the 5th Cinefan, the festival of Asian Cinema being held in Delhi. Moderated by Cinemaya co-founder Latika Padgaonkar, the two-day seminar saw a number of Cinefan delegates as well as invitees participate.
Prasanna Withanage, filmmaker from Sri Lanka and a jury member here looked at the way war had disrupted the way of life and created solitude. He looked at displacement caused by war and the wiping out of men from many families. A situation that caused the women to take up the roles hitherto done by men - and more often than not this involved decision-making - always a lonely job. He looked at the way cinema had captured the long ethnic struggle between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil groups which had not just wracked the north of the island, but also made many women widows, and decision makers.
German Ron Holloway sounded out a theme that many later speakers also spoke on in different ways - the intrusion of technology and the increasing need for solitude in a cacophonic world. He emphasised that he did not feel the need to remain connected all the time and instead the solitude that he got instead was a valued gift, which helped in creativity.
Filmmaker Fatemeh Mohamed-Aria from Iran too spoke of the war between her country and Iraq, which had destroyed so many homes and left a lot of people lonely. She also spoke of the increasing potpourri of races that was a result of the mixing of different cultures - the possibility of a child having a father from one country and a mother from another one - and the resultant solitude that an offspring might experience was reducing as the more and more such children were being born.
She also regretted that the fact that her country allowed for so little solitude and she had to get out to find time for herself, for solitude.
Sociologist Ashis Nandy said that while solitude can be cultivated, and is something desirable, loneliness is something that comes from without, it cannot be cultivated.
Kolkata-based filmmaker Ashoke Visvanathan too spoke of the great rate of change that the current times and the way cinema too tended to express these. He looked at the way Goddard used Brechtian techniques to bring the effects of alienation in cinema, while the experimentation today was just within the accepted structure. Commenting on the 'moronic reality', especially in India, he expressed the loneliness of estrangement, of the ethnicity and the emerging actual physical walls between people. Highlighting the stand he has adopted in his latest film Byatikrami, where he is sympathetic to the woman who falls in love with her brother-in-law, he says there is definitely a place for moment of madness in our lives.
Marilou Diaz-Abaya from Philippines spoke eloquently of the fisherman and farmers - both of whose work involved a lot of solitude, of spending time with themselves. Blaming urbanisation for the destruction of this valued system, Diaz-Abaya said people in the cities experience a different kind of solitude - which is loneliness. Showcasing her experience in war torn Mindanao island of southern Philippines, where a separatist movement is on, she said she was the only one in solitude there. Everywhere in war there was togetherness, love, kindness, generosity - all of which not just survived but also prevailed.
And yet in the north, in mainstream Philippines, most people hated the south, and in such a situation, to make films about on separatism were lonely experiences. She said that she coped by making films, bringing the stories of the south to the north, where the silences were positive, and solitude could be wonderful opportunity - to learn, absorb and grow.