Contrary to the practice of relegating experimental cinema to ‘niche audience’, a vibrant cine culture is needed wherein every film is an experiment, feels award-winning Hyderabadi film-maker Ajita Suchitra Veera.
She received the ‘Best Director’ (Indian Competition) award at the recently concluded 12th Osian’s Cinefan Film Festival for Asian, Arab, and Indian Cinema at New Delhi, for her film ‘Ballad of Rustom’.
Q. In what way is the film different?
A. All my earlier films were short in length. This is my first full length film. Instead of using digital format, it was fully shot on 35 mm film, in cinemascope. Sync sound (live recording of sounds) was another choice I have made for the film.
The film started in 2009, and only recently premiered. I was very particular about music, photography and location; used only western classical instruments, and chose a location in Coorg with misty blue mountains as backdrop.
Q. What is the film about?
A. It is about the life of Rustom, a young government servant, and his innovative ideas. Though the story revolves around Rustom, it is also very much about the people of the countryside who are very silent and obscure, yet very intelligent and innovative. The film is a celebration of ordinary lives.
Q. How did films happen?
A. Brought up in Hyderabad, I studied in Nasr School and St. Ann’s College, Mehdipatnam. Then I left for Pune, to pursue a diploma course from FTII.
Later, I lived in Mumbai freelancing as a film-maker, during which I set up my own film company Imaginem Cinema Private Limited.
My family was very liberal, and did not object to my choice of career. My maternal grandfather was a theatre person and writer, and my paternal grandfather, a sculptor-singer.
My father was a treasure house of early Indian cinema. So art and cinema were part of my growing up.
Q. What is the ‘bleach by-pass’ technique, which you have employed in the film?
A. It is a very special kind of process on the film negative, achieved by de-saturating the colours to give the effect of painting to the picture. Though directors such as Steven Spielberg have used it, it is a new technique in India. I have also used it in my earlier short film ‘Solitary Sandpiper’ too.
Q. What do you think needs to be changed for Indian cinema to get better?
A. The star culture has to go. Cinema is not all about actors. A whole lot of things go into its making, such as tools, imagination, and how one crafts a story.
I think we should start making more and more unique films, with two-way communication between director and audience. We need a more vibrant cinema culture. I personally do not believe in art and mainstream movies being two separate entities. Every film is innately a commercial entity.
I believe the audience will be receptive to new cinema only if one cares to introduce it to them. A director should never compromise on his vision.
Q. Any more potential award winners in the offing?
A. I have two projects on cards as of now.
I will be dabbling in magic realism, and it may be fantasy or science fiction. Let me see.