The PIKU done in pop art .. which Shweta says is the ‘in’ thing among the young .. I really wonder how why and .. does it really work for a 73 year old !
Many have wanted the speech on the IFFI at Goa .. so much against my embarrassed limit here it is ..
2014 IFFI SPEECH DRAFT /Goa, Nov 20, 2014
Her Excellency the Governor of Goa, Shrimati Mridula Sinha ,
Honorable Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Shri Arun Jaitley,
Honorable Defence Minister, Shri Manohar Parrikar
Honorable Chief Minister of Goa Shri Laxmikant Parsekar,
Honorable Minister of State for I&B, Col Rajyavardhan Rathore
My dear friend and colleague Rajnikant
Distinguished guests on the dais, delegates, members of the media .. and the loving, warm and hospitable people of Goa ..
Ladies and Gentleman
It is indeed an honor and a privilege to be here at the Inaugural of one of the most significant film festivals of the country, the International Film Festival of India 2014, being hosted in Goa.
My compliments and gratitude first to the Government and the Ministry, in declaring Goa as the permanent venue for this prestigious Festival, and for inviting me here as the Chief Guest.
Goa, is the smallest state in India, and with its miles of golden beaches, crystal clear waters, brilliant green landscapes, interesting cuisine and charming local residents, it is truly an exotic destination.
As they say in Konkani, and I endorse this from the bottom of my heart :
“Maka Goeya boray lakta !”
For the uninitiated .. that is ‘I love Goa’ in the State’s official language !
For me, personally, Goa holds extremely precious memories. My links with this beautiful state go back to my very first film, ‘Saat Hindustani’, that was shot here and revolved around the theme of nationalists who slip into Portuguese-occupied Goa to raise patriotic sentiments and hoist the Indian flag.
I have of course, since, shot many of my memorable films here and keep visiting this paradise in a personal capacity too. My connections with Goa indeed, are very special.
In many ways, Goa is a miniature reflection of India’s antiquity and diverse cultures. It encases, like the rest of our country, a tremendous sense of ‘unity in diversity.’
Goa’s checkered history is immense.
From rock art engravings, testimony to traces of early human life in India from the Palaeolithic Era …
Indo-Aryan migrancy - which formed the base of early Goan culture …
Being part of the 3rd century BC( or to be more ehically correct ,BCE – Before Common Era) Mauryan Empire, ruled by the Buddhist Emperor, Ashoka of Magadha …
It being controlled during the 2nd and 6th century BC by Southern Silharas of Konkan, later the Bhojas of Gujarat, the Chalukyas of Badami, who patronized Jainism, to 1469 and the Bahami Sultans of Gulbarg, and after its crumbling, falling into the hands of the Portuguese, who ruled over it for four and a half centuries .. this part of the country has seen it all ..
Goa’s multicultural, inclusive and pluralistic ethos reflects a gamut of India’s larger cultural values and political and social concerns that have been reflected in our cinema for over a hundred years. The largest industry in the world, now marking its centenary, Indian cinema expands much beyond the confines of the Hindi-language popular films. We have productions in regional tongues such as Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Punjabi, Bhojpuri, Assamese, Oriya, Bengali and Kokani as well.
The so called ‘parallel cinema’ or the ‘art house cinema’ has also co existed in various languages, prominently through one of our most celebrated film maker, Satyajit Ray.
Then, there is the emerging ‘independent cinema’ that is slowly making an impact on English-speaking, metropolitan audiences, all of them, by and large, specifically rooted to a pan India identity, with common sensibilities and principles.
Art was traditionally confined to paintings and writings in our country until people were introduced to the silver screen, in 1913. Our early filmmakers comprehended the immense power of the screen and soon the medium was accepted as a popular platform to voice several societal concerns.
India’s very first feature film, Dadasaheb Phalke’s ‘Raja Harishchandra’, discovered its theme from the great Indian epic, The Mahabharata, and espoused the belief that Truth always triumphs.
Thus, from the very early years of silent films, Indian cinema developed an admirable ability to converge on different facets of life. Dhirendra Nath Ganguly’s ‘Bilet Ferat’ or ‘England Returned,’ directed and produced by him in 1921 in Bengali, was a telling vehicle that got the audience to think of a tricky social situation where natives blindly imitated their foreign rulers and created fresh problems for themselves.
In 1925, Baburao Painter made ‘Savkari Pash’ (‘The Indian Shylock’) in Marathi, produced by Maharashtra Film Company, Kolhapur, which painted an extremely realistic picture of the country’s rural poor who were subjected to feudal oppression, poverty and hunger. Perhaps it is still the most outstanding film of the silent era where V. Shantaram and Kamala Devi enacted the roles of an oppressed farmer and his wife.
By 1926, India boasted 300 cinemas halls and countless travelling bioscopes, but ninety percent of the films shown were imported from Hollywood, almost exclusively from Universal Studios.
Himanshu Rai, one of India’s pioneering filmmakers, wanted to change this. With his enthusiasm and passion, our cinema soon received a fresh impetus that came all the way from Germany.
Today, Franz Osten is hardly ever mentioned in film history books. But he remains a precursor in the development of cinema in our country in association with Himanshu Rai. They took feature films out of the studios and into the world, giving their creations an authentic quality by combining documentary techniques with narratives drawn from the myths and legends of ancient India. Seventy years before Bertolucci’s ‘Little Buddha,’ Osten and Rai gave Western audiences a keen insight into Indian philosophy.
Post the First World War and its horrors, most European countries experienced not only an introspective mood, but also severe political and cultural isolation. This led to recession, unemployment, endless queues outside Salvation Army kitchens and political radicalization. People were impoverished, not only socially and politically, but also intellectually and morally. In the trenches of Verdun and the Somme, many soldiers lost faith in the culture of the West. In the aftermath, in 1922, Hermann Hesse published his Western equivalent to Buddhism, ‘Siddhartha’. Brecht showed his interest in Buddhist philosophy in his ‘Book of Transformations’ and several other European thinkers shared the longing for India and her eternal message of peace and non-violence. Franz Osten and Himanshu Rai’s silent films, therefore, were of great significance, telling Indian stories about the life of the Buddha in ‘The Light of Asia’ released in 1925. They also drew from the great collection of Indian myths and legends and, like Phalke, used The Mahabarata as the base for ‘The Throw of Dice’ made in 1929.
Slowly but surely, our cinema developed a unique language that combined philosophical preoccupations and patriotic fervor. Films like ‘Jogan’, ‘Guide’ and, much later, ‘Lage Raho Munnabhai’, spread over several decades, took forward the theme of personal evolution and spiritual emancipation.
Nationalistic ideals were an integral part of early silent era films. ‘Udaykaal’, starring V. Shantaram in the role of Shivaji, caught the eye of the British censor who rightly sensed an attempt to disguise modern-day feelings of patriotism with a historical theme and came down heavily on the release of the film. Another early-day film, ‘Bhakt Vidur’, met with similar disapproval when the British censors felt that the character of Vidur was too closely modeled on Mahatma Gandhi and spoke suspiciously patriotic dialogue, which was too contemporary for comfort.
During the 1930s and 1940s, once our movies learnt to ‘talk’, several filmmakers tried to reflect tough collective issues or used India’s struggle for independence as a backdrop for patriotic plots. The early-day vigil seems to have been relaxed a bit by the 1940s when British censors allowed composer Anil Biswas and lyricist Pradeep to get away with the highly volatile song:
“Aaj Himalaya ki choti se hum ne yeh lalkara hai/Dur hato, dur hato ae duniya walo Hindustan hamara hai…” from the film ‘Kismet’.
“We have shouted from Himalayan heights today/ Get away! Get away!/ O citizens of the world, India belongs to us… “
By 1952, ‘Anandmath’, an epic saga based on the novel by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, showcasing the planned conspiracy against British rule in Bengal during the famous Bengal Femine, became a runaway hit. Later, other films, including ‘Shaheed’, ‘Border’, ‘Lagaan’, ‘Swades’, ‘Rang De Basanti’ and ‘Lakshya’, took forward the patriotic spirit with unequivocal zeal. Mani Ratnam's ‘Roja’ in 1992 was, perhaps, the first film to introduce terrorism to Indian cinema, and reflected sensitively on the common man’s plight. Later, films like ‘Drohkaal,’ ‘Maachis,’ and Vishal Bharadwaj’s ‘Haider’, set in contemporary Kashmir, have also mirrored this theme with great poignancy.
In the 1930s, while Gandhi-ji was already working for the uplift of untouchables, Niranjan Pal penned the script of ‘Acchut Kanya’ released in 1936 that dealt with a Dalit girl falling in love with a Brahmin’s son. Bimal Roy also reflected on this theme of an untouchable girl losing her heart to a boy above her social status and caste in ‘Sujata’ released in 1959. And as late as 2001, ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham’, a huge box office success, dealt with class divide – the elite versus the proletariat.
In the initial lot of films released immediately after independence, policemen and judges who had come to represent the moral authority of the state acquired a new gravitas. The courtroom became sacred as a ‘social temple’ where Truth could never be denied or compromised. A morally erring judge could himself be indicted in court, as essayed in ‘Awaara’, made in 1951. Other motifs of importance included secularism as early as 1943 when it became evident that Hindus and Muslims would have to live together in independent India. Mehboob Khan's ‘Najma’ released in 1943 and ‘Humayun’, released in 1945, are good examples as is a classic like M. S. Sathyu’s ‘Garam Hava’ released in 1973, followed by ‘Bazaar’ and ‘Nikaah’, both released in 1982. Muzaffar Ali’s ‘Anjuman’ and Saeed Akhtar Mirza’s ‘Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro’ also ruminated on communal concerns centered on Muslim families.
Then came agrarian unrest and land reform in the late 1940s and 1950s, led by Chetan Anand’s ‘Neecha Nagar’ in 1946, Bimal Roy’s classic ‘Do Bigha Zamin’ in 1953 and Mehboob Khan’s ‘Mother India’ in 1956. The image of the virtuous mother who did not think twice before gunning down her own son in order to protect a village girl’s honour became iconic as the years went by.
Another iconic symbol emerged in the characters Raj Kapoor developed, based on Chaplin’s Tramp. In ‘Shri 420’ and ‘Anaari’ he adopted the role of Everyman who recognized the innate corruption in our society. Yet his optimism never failed and when he sang,
’Kisi ki muskuraahaton pe ho nisaar/ Kisi ka dard mil sakey to le udhaar/ Kisi ke waastey ho terey dil mein pyaar/ Jeena isi ka naam hai’, …our eyes never failed to shed a wealth of tears.
‘Lose yourself completely in someone’s smile/ Borrow someone’s sorrow and walk that extra mile/ Fill your heart with love for someone for a while/ That’s what living is all about!’
If popular perception is any indicator, then a major part of the social transformation in India can be attributed to cinema’s potentially reformist character. Our cinema continues to explore many diverse themes through the popular medium of entertainment. It imparts information, projects aspirations and helps to nurture harmony. Major concerns like the inclusion and rights of people with disabilities have been movingly showcased in films like ‘Koshish’, ‘Black’, ‘Paa’, ‘Iqbal’, ‘Taare Zameen Par’ and ‘Guzaarish’. When we dwell on retribution and honour, we immediately think of ‘Deewar’, ‘Sholay’, ‘Agneepath’, ‘Damini’, ‘No One Killed Jessica’ and ‘Kahaani’. Films upholding traditional Indian family values are beautifully showcased in entertainers like ‘Bawarchi’, ‘Hum Aap ke Hein Kaun?’, ‘Baagbaan’ and ‘Kal Ho Na Ho’. Films like ‘Arth’, ‘Kya Kehna’, ‘Mrityudand’ , ‘English-Vinglish’, ‘Dor’ and ‘Gulab Gang’, to name just a handful, give us a ringside view of women’s struggles in a predominantly patriarchal society where volatile issues like divorce, pre-marital pregnancy, oppression and empowerment have been delineated with great sympathy and compassion.
An overview of the last thirty years champions how Indian cinema has come to terms with the fast changing political, economic and social milieu in the country. The persona of the ‘Angry Young Man’ became a telling vehicle for portraying a dysfunctional system. Yet ‘Good’ always dominated over ‘Evil’ despite enormous social and economic contradictions in larger-than-life cathartic climaxes.
With the process of globalisation in the 1990s, the whole scenario changed.
Association with cinema, once considered ‘infra dig’ in the early years of its inception, where children from ‘good homes’ were not permitted to be associated with it, where parents, mine included, would ‘whet’ a film before we could be allowed to see one, where cynicism and ridicule accompanied assessment of our popular cinema … has today, become a universally accepted phenomena. I may be ostracized for making this observation, but, in our glorious 5000 year history of culture tradition and existence, cinema in India today, has almost become its ‘parallel culture’ !
When we sit inside a darkened hall to watch a film, we never ask the color, caste, creed, or religion of the person seated next to us. We laugh at the same jokes, we sing the same songs, we cry at the same emotion. In this rapidly disintegrating world of ours, there are very few institutions left that can boast of such integration. Cinema brings people together. It does not divide them. It provides poetic justice in 3 hrs – something you and I may never achieve in a lifetime or perhaps many life times. And as a Russian fan of mine once aptly described Indian popular cinema, it gently coerces you to leave the theatre, with a smile on your face and a dry tear on your cheek …
Women, once barred from being allowed to work in films – the men taking on their parts – became representatives in cinema of great sensitivity and substance. Girls today are far more conscious of their rights, far more outspoken, liberated and independent.
Today, women in our films reflect their reality, their confidence, independence and their ability to walk and work shoulder to shoulder with men. Several contemporary films embody the vigour and vibrancy of changing times and bear a tremendous capacity to keep abreast with these vicissitudes.
These are, indeed, exciting times for cinema in India. And to all young filmmakers with fire in their bellies and stars in their eyes a verse from one of my father, Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s poems:
‘Himmat karney waalon ki haar nahin hoti
Leheron se dar kar naiya paar nahin hoti…
Asafalta ek chunauti hai, swikaar karo
Kya kami reh gayi, dekho aur sudhaar karo
Jab tak na saphal ho, neend chain se tyaago tum
Sangharsh karo, maidaan chhod mat bhaago tum
Kuch kiye bina hi jai-jaikaar nahin hoti
Himmat karney waalon ki haar nahin hoti…’
‘The brave never quit, never surrender
Fear of intimidating waves, shall make your chances of crossing slender
Failure is just a choice, a pause – accept it
Where did you slip, reflect and reason – admit it
Don’t rest till victory is finally sealed
Fight on, don’t ever quit the battle field
You cannot gain applause without dedication to your cause
The brave, after all, never quit, never pause…’
If the world is a village, we, this fraternity, are the custodians of its stories. We stand, ears pressed, eyes wide open, ready to receive its tales. Tales whispered between lovers in a tight embrace, or wept into shoulders in despair. Raucous roars of laughter and howls of horror. We stand, steadfast, gathering, and then molding these stories before we set them free. Where like many little stars in the night sky, humanity may look upon them with wonderment, and in them find familiar fragments of their hearts.
It is not a responsibility to be taken lightly, it is a beacon passed on thru the generations, from Valmiki and Homer, to Ray and Scorsese, which lights the path of mankind. For if we do not know the stories of our forefathers we cannot write our own.
It is my belief that there are only seven original scripts in the world. At first they were spoken, as much warming as introducing wary visitors, while they sat around makeshift bonfires, to the people they sought congress with. Then they were sung, at weddings and births sometimes even deaths. And when these stories became so well known we began to call them tradition. They were enacted, in village squares and royal durbars, school rooms and amphitheaters – this is how they became beloved by all.
When we gather here at the Goa International Film festival, and watch our stories lit up on celluloid, and discuss the strides made in our craft, we perhaps would do well to remember that we are not unlike those wary travellers huddled around a bonfire listening to tales that became the fabric of our being.
Here we sit and say “these are the stories of my land, the stories of my forefathers, these are the stories of my family, heed them well for the world is a village and we must make good neighbors.”
Ladies and Gentlemen .. its been an honor and a privilege