Local film makers should wake up to the world of opportunities that global cinema provides by developing skill sets and taking creative risks, says actor Kamal Haasan
“I think it is high time that Tamil Nadu has a film society movement, permeating into the B and C centres,” iconic actor and film-maker Kamal Haasan, says.
His vision is that a demand generated by an audience aware of world cinema would automatically pave way for better local cinema.
The actor was part of a delegation of Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) to the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. The FICCI had organised an Indian pavilion at the festival as a meeting ground for the global community to appreciate and explore business opportunities in the Indian cinema market.
Mr. Haasan, also chairman of FICCI’s Media and Entertainment Committee (South), says the trade body has taken a “step forward” by facilitating Indian film-makers and businesses in the global market.
The 100-crore club
At his ancestral home on Eldams Road in Alwarpet, Chennai, which now houses his production company Raaj Kamal International, the actor spoke about his hopes and aspirations for an industry whose potential, he says, “has hardly been tapped”.
Celebrating an entry into the ‘100-crore club’, he felt, made little sense when the whole world was up for the grabs. He also called for a renaissance within the industry.
“First time when I went to Cannes, I went as a part of a techie group — Intel took me there. I realised that the films that Tamil Nadu was interested in watching and the kind of films that got selected in Cannes were two different kinds.”
This time around, Mr. Haasan had more reasons to cheer. “What was even more exhilarating and touching [this time] was that small filmmakers from Chennai, who would not find it easy making a living in Kodambakkam, found their way to Cannes.”
One of his suggestions is to start a film movement through which selection of international films could be made accessible to the audience. Such a movement, he says, has already happened in the neighbouring state of Kerala, where sensibilities of film-makers as well as of the audiences have been elevated.
“I think, if you show them international cinema, they will insist that the local films also raise the bar. It is not that our Tamil filmmakers are dumb, they are dumbing themselves down, so are the audience.”
When asked about what was the stumbling block when it came to Tamil film-makers making global content, the actor said it had to do with being self-sufficient and happy about it. “Our problem is that we are self-sufficient. We make films, we consume it. It is like our toddy, we cannot bottle it. We consume it then and there. We have a bigger market outside and Tamil films deserve more. And I am not talking just about the Indian diaspora, I am talking about the world.”
He dramatically suggests that film-makers look past their parochial roots and even consider making films in English. “Unlike China and Japan, we are an English speaking country. People will dislike me for saying it, but if you don’t want to get lost in Gujarat, you read the English signs. Same for a Punjabi in Tamil Nadu. Most of us converse in English, and we should use it to converse with the world.”
Mr. Haasan laments the lack of investment in human resources and development of skill sets. The biggest tragedy in Indian cinema, he feels, is that the big players have not adequately invested back in people.
“Which is why we respect people like K. Balachander, who have trained people, may be for their selfish interests, but they did train people. Today, anyone who can tell a story wants to become a director. We need more film institutes. Actors need to be trained. Today, actors only aspire. Acting is wholesome craft.”
“It is like a painter saying he understands how to mix colours. That does not make one a painter. At best, he can mix colours for a painter. A painter is someone who understands the world, its different dimensions.”
Deregulation of admission prices
One of the few people to openly advocate deregulation of admission prices to cinema halls, Mr. Haasan feels that the ticketing regulations in effect in Tamil Nadu and neighbouring Andhra region had an adverse impact on the quality of cinema.
“Only in T.N. and Andhra, there is State regulation of admission price. The State allows Mercedes Benz and Coca Cola to sell at market price, but they want to control the price of the movie tickets. Tamil Nadu is the cheapest place to watch cinema. It is not doing any good to the health of cinema or the content that reaches the consumer. But, this is strongly my opinion and sincerely the opinion of the industry.”
(The full transcript is at: thne.ws/KamalInterview)