“After the session, I can show you a copy of the email that the distributors sent to me three days ago, saying that they really do not want a second screening as they would rather save the audience for after the release. It is something as simple and boring as commerce. So please do not talk about banning Midnight’s Children because that kind of talk really gives me a heart attack,” said film-maker Deepa Mehta during an In Conversation held on Tuesday at the Sree theatre here.
She was responding to an allegation posed by a member of the audience that the second screening of the film at the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) was disallowed in order to avoid ruffling the feathers of the Congress government.
A part of the movie, which is an adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s eponymous novel, deals with the Emergency era in Indian history and the portrayal of Indira Gandhi had irked Congress leaders who claimed that the depiction was negative.
Ms. Mehta’s response was supplemented by the Artistic Director of the Festival, Bina Paul Venugopal, who said she too had received the mail from PVR Pictures, the distributors of the film, saying the same.
“The screening schedule had already been sent for print, unfortunately,” she said.
The director appeared completely taken back by questions regarding a possible ban.
“Listen, I made the film. Hear it from my mouth, it has not been banned,” she stated clearly, adding that she too would like a repeat show, but alas, the distributors had decided otherwise.
She was thrilled by the reception to the film otherwise, even going to the extent of describing the feeling more profound than her experience in Kerala during the release of her previous films, Fire and Water.
Ms. Mehta said she emailed her collaborator and the master behind the story, Salman Rushdie, immediately after the screening, and that his simple reply was, “I love Kerala.” She also admitted to feeling guilty when she saw Minister for Cinema K.B. Ganesh Kumar sitting on a stool to watch the film.
Ms. Mehta has always been deemed as a film-maker who possessed deep ties with the theme of gender, having approached it from various angles in her previous works.
“I cannot help feeling totally and completely biased about women. I am sorry, but I feel very proud of it,” she said, adding that even with this particular work, she took for granted that the protagonist would not be there sans the presence of the strong women characters in the story.
Later on, she explained that she would much rather be called a “humanist film-maker” than a feminist one. “That is all that I can say about gender. There is no point in being a feminist if you are not a humanist,” she said. On being why she chose this novel for adaptation,
Ms. Mehta said she found the theme of searching for an identity, a place in the world, one that contributed greatly to the makings of classic.
She also stressed that film-makers had to try and abandon that sense of awe of the original text they were attempting to adapt.
“Otherwise, I would have been paralysed by fear and it is essential not to be overwhelmed by it,” she said.
Keywords: IFFK 2012