Film-maker Moussa Toure came to India in search of a dream. He tells AYESHA MATTHAN he returned with a different reality
Senegalese film-maker Moussa Toure wanted to know if the dreams in Indian cinema were true. So he came to Benares a year ago, discovered other dreams and returned home with another reality. Says the 50-year-old who was in Hyderabad to screen and discuss his films at Moving Images, “I was six when I watched my first Hindi film. I saw Indian films as being composite of many dreams and dances.”
The realities and dreams he found in India were both close and distant to the African continent, found Moussa. “The masks that we have in Senegal are very similar to the idols of gods and goddesses in India.” Like the idols, the masks are also brought out during festivities and venerated. “I noticed that like the masks in Africa, only select people were allowed to view and touch these idols in temples.”
He states that like India, Africa has also tried to do away with the caste-system. “The caste system is anchored so deep in the culture, it’s like a big tree that has taken root and penetrated far into the soil. We can choose to go to the root of the problem and remove it, or just let it continue to grow.” Moussa finds that the caste system is more palpable in villages.
The death of his father saw 14-year-old Moussa venture into the world of film-making. “I had to work and feed my family and my father had many friends in the industry.” He remembers: “It was Johnson who took me in and I became an electrician, then a cameraperson, and have remained one.”
“I keep seeing my father when I make films, and my last feature film was dedicated to him.”
Moussa who was so nervous when he screened his first film, that he didn’t dare remain in the hall, adds, “Not many people know that the film was in memory of him.”
Moussa has worked with a lot of renowned film-makers — from Bertrand Tavernier to Francois Truffaut. “I have worked in 50 feature films. You see different pictures and how people see things and then try and find your own style.”
He holds American John Ford as an inspiration. “I find the way he used space and the complexity with which he treated his films, fantastic as every time, there was a clear projection of culture.”
“My movies talk about children and women, many women”, says Moussa as it was his mother who educated him.
Of the late Senegalese President Leopold Sedar Senghor, Moussa says: “Though he was African and vouched for negritude, he was open to France. So much so that it looked like he embraced and desired the country.”
He recalls that Senghor addressed his own people in French, a language he seemed more at ease in than his mother tongue.
While Moussa’s mother is of the Wolof tribe, his father is from Mali. “As an African, I laud the way Indians manage to retain their culture.” But he notes that if you try too hard, there is an element of negativity. “I believe that the young generation will resolve this problem.”
Moussa notes that “Movies make you dream, rather than open your eyes.” The francophone film-maker feels to bridge the gap between the rich and poor, there has to be a change in the subjects and issues explored in cinema.
He declares that people who try to be like the Caucasians are the “new blondes of the world”. He states that the Senegalese are the true Africans, as they don’t try to whiten their skins. “We are essentially people of the sea and from the fishing community — so we are recognised anywhere as we have the darkest skins!”
Moussa, who hopes that India and Africa will establish strong ties, states: “The world is talking about India. China has stronger ties with Africa.” He made Dust of Life, a film about street children, who call themselves “The Seven Bastards” and has watched Mira Nair’s Salaam Bombay. Moussa Toure concludes: “Bollywood is magnificent and I will always be addicted to Indian films!”