‘Fear’ is the key in the film industry today: Avinash Das

Avinash Das’ film ‘Anaarkali of Aarah’ won a lot of praise. He believes, CBFC is doing a great disservice to films & society. In a free-wheeling discussion, he speaks of his film, CBFC & more

NH Photo by Vipin
NH Photo by Vipin

Pragati Saxena

The discussion centred on the CBFC’s (Central Board of Film Certification) refusal to allow the word ‘intercourse’ in a dialogue in the film Jab harry Met Sejal. CBFC chief Pehalaj Nihalani remained adamant even after a 100,000 people took part in an online poll to affirm that they had no objection to the word in the dialogue.

“The CBFC, frankly, has no business to act as the moral police. It is just not their job, which is to certify if a film can be viewed by everyone or only by adults,” fumes Avinash Das, whose first directorial venture Anaarkali of Aarah received critical acclaim despite CBFC insisting on giving it an Adult certificate and that too after several cuts.

Das patiently explains why few producers can stand up to the CBFC. Producers tie up the release dates with distributors long before the films get certified, he informs. Challenging the CBFC’s recommendations or moving the law court against them takes up a long time and not every producer can afford to sustain losses and wait.

“Members of the CBFC today do not have any understanding of cinema. The Board is in a time warp with no appreciation that films are researched and capture different shades of the changing reality. But the Board clings to the status quo,” Das adds.

He further explained, “Cinema is the documentation of our times. CBFC is trying to dilute this very objective of cinema and is ensuring that present times are not documented on film.”

Fear in the industry

There is a feeling of fear in the film industry. One has to think hard before writing or showing something. People are hesitant in writing common dialogues and stories so, writing about politics and political environment is a far cry. But there are some film makers who have made an effort- like Chandra Prakash Dwivedi made Mohalla Assi. It ran into problems with the Board, but still won appreciation. Sudhir Mishra has made Das Dev, but again has a problem in finding distributors

Crisis in Mumbai film industry

There is this constant crisis we face- of making a cinema of our own choice and of being able to release it too. As I said, there is this constant fear of being persecuted we face before even writing or showing something. So much is happening nowadays, but the government doesn’t say anything. There is no stand of the government or the judiciary on such nonsense (he means all the incidents of violence, rapes and lynching and the aggressive nationalism). This kind of silence is also very dangerous. But if you make incompetent people like Pehlaj Nihalani leaders of responsible cultural organisations, then what will happen?

Photo courtesy: Twitter
Photo courtesy: Twitter
Avinash Das’ film Anaarkali of Aarah too faced problems in getting CBFC approval

Bhojpuri Cinema saved migrants from sexual frustration

“Bhojpuri cinema is still not independent. It is being made in Mumbai. In 70s and 80s Bhojpuri cinema flourished. In fact, in eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bhojpuri cinema has saved the single screen theatres. The theatres which used to run c grade South Indian porn, now show Bhojpuri films…

“But, Aren’t they full of obscene, double meaning dialogues..?”

“The vulgarity is the same in both Bhojpuri and Hindi cinema, only the class or the target audience changes. And those films talk about a specific region where such dialogues are ingrained in the soil, they sound natural there. Our rural, folk culture is far more liberal than the urban one. In my opinion, Bhojpuri films have actually saved the migrant labourers from Bihar and UP from sexual frustration. I hope someday, some solid creative person would come and bring about the much-needed change in Bhojpuri cinema.

Are women discriminated in the film industry?: Women professional actors are paid less- we hear?

“The women technicians are paid on their terms, sometimes even more than their male counterparts.”

But the heroines always keep complaining that they are paid less than the heroes?

“Markets reflect society. Society is male dominated. Films sell mostly on heroes’ names, so, naturally they charge a higher fee. Heroines are paid more in the women centric films. But otherwise, in my experience, women are being paid quite equally.

New Trends

“Hindi cinema has changed a lot actually. Earlier, we used to just copy ideas …but ever since the Internet made world cinema accessible, Hindi cinema is looking more inwards. We have original stories. There are promising films which are doing well commercially. Look at Masaan, Sairat in Marathi and Haraamkhor.

Creative freedom

“A film needs a business model. You have to always keep that in mind. We have plenty of creative freedom only if we can sell that. So, creative freedom is a bit tricky but not difficult to achieve. For example, my script was refused 74 times. Some said, sell your script and we will make the film and some rejected it completely. I had started thinking of going back to my village with my script. But that is when you have to stand up firm, even if you are shattered. I had made up my mind that either I would make my film on my own script or I would return with my script but would not sell it at any cost. So, the 75th time, people understood my idea, showed faith in me and that’s how Anarkali was made.”

New projects

“Oh, I have many stories to tell. But I am working on the story of a hockey player, a girl from a Jharkhand village and the struggle of his father to make her successful. I have finished the script. Soon, it will be on floor.”

Any plan of making a biopic?

“In biopics, we have this tendency of showing either what the person likes or what we like. There are so many shades of grey in a personality. But we don’t want to go there. For example, in Dhoni’s biopic, his brother is not shown anywhere. Why- because he doesn’t get along well with him. The problem is that we are not critical of our heroes. We project prominent personalities either as God or as the Devil. We don’t show the character as a human being- with his follies and flaws. So, as of now, no biopic for me.”

He smiles and then the smile breaks into laughter, “suppose a biopic is made on Amit Shah! I wonder if the CBFC will allow the incidents of his past life to be portrayed as they are!”

Avinash Das made his mark first as a journalist and then as a blogger with his innovative Mohalla Live. Does he ever think of reviving it? It was doing very well and had made a mark for itself…

“Well, Mohalla.. did not pay me. If I could make ends meet through it, if I could pay my various EMIs running the blog, I would never have gone to Mumbai.” He smiles, “In a way, it set the stage for many present blogs and websites. At that time, it was required, now we have a plenty of such sites, so, no, I don’t think of reviving it. I am better off as a filmmaker than a journalist.”

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