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‘Censor Board should not have people with political party leanings’: 'Gypsy’ filmmaker Raju Murugan

Raju Murugan

Raju Murugan   | Photo Credit: K Pichumani

The director is batting for a system that does not block freedom of speech, and instead chooses to counter with a well-informed argument

You could be excused for thinking Raju Murugan’s drive for making films stem from his ideology and interest in contemporary politics.

But the National Award-winning director of the film Joker insists that he remains committed to making films of all genres.

“There is a lot I want to say through cinema,” he says, as he sits down for an interaction few days after his recent movie Gypsy released to mixed reception among audience and critics, a view he disagrees with.

“I thought Gypsy reached the audience, justifying the expectations with which I made the film. It has elicited the emotions that it ought to have and I’m happy,” he adds. Excerpts from the interview:

The wandering nature of Gypsy’s story line did not seem to have worked across audience.

Every story has its own characteristic. [The character] Gypsy is a nomad, so the story also travels like that with him. It is not a story that happens in one place or discusses one subject. The film does speak of contemporary national politics.

There are so many sects, languages and religions, but it is the humanity in the average man that holds us and binds this democracy together. The travel part is essential to discuss these qualities.

There was criticism that a particular political line of thought was being force-fed.

Look, I’m someone who accepts all kind of feedback my films get wholeheartedly. I don’t speak out against criticism.

I don’t believe in preaching values through an art form. I believe whatever message we try to convey should be wrapped within the aesthetic of the art form. Maybe, the Communist principles and the general politics Gypsy discusses could have made people feel that way... but that should not be the case because this film is based on true events.

Can you elaborate?

You must know of the pictures of Ashok Parmar and Qutubuddin Ansari from the time of [2002] Gujarat riots. We have seen such images from conflict-ridden regions across the world.

A few years ago, I was wondering what happened to those two, and in my research I found out that the Kerala CPI(M) had facilitated a meeting between them. So, when I wanted to make a film on this incident, I wanted to retain the originality. That is why I placed comrades and shifted that part of the story to Kerala.

Raju Murugan

Raju Murugan   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

I did not force fit my thoughts into the screenplay; it was just an attempt to depict a true event to the best possible way on screen.

Prior to the film’s release, you had mentioned that you had to make 50 cuts to Gypsy due to CBFC objections. Does inordinate censoring curtail a filmmaker’s freedom of expression?

I thought there was no need for [the cuts]. A censor board should not be constituted by people affiliated to political parties. It should consist of society’s intellectuals, thinkers, artists, writers, human rights activists and educationists. Only then can it operate in a democratic setup.

Creators should be allowed their freedom. Charlie Chaplin made a film on Hitler when the latter was at the height of his powers. Even today, in the USA, there is space for films that criticise their Presidents.

An argument or opinion should be taken on by a counter opinion or argument, and not by blocking or changing it.

The politics over a woman’s agency is one of the strong points in Gypsy.

Women have always been used as a weapon either by an individual or a Government in times of war and conflict.

Raju Murugan with Jiiva (third from left) while shooting ‘Gypsy’

Raju Murugan with Jiiva (third from left) while shooting ‘Gypsy’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The problem starts with viewing a woman as someone who holds our (the society’s) honour because that then gives cause for harming the honour. You see how even in cases of honour killing, the woman is the first target.

We have a duty to oppose and raise our voice against this. Women are not things; she is a soul, she is a human being. An education system, a political structure and a democracy that teaches this is what we need.

Another criticism was the use of a misrepresented community to discuss or expose the shortcomings of patriarchy.

I did not place it in a religion. In our society, all religions and families harbour such thoughts. I wanted to bring forth the male mentality. My female lead character gets an opportunity to realise the difference between her family and Gypsy through those scenes.

The film’s conclusion leaves space for several what ifs. For one, the scene’s composition did not feel organic.

Jiiva and Natasha Singh in ‘Gypsy’

Jiiva and Natasha Singh in ‘Gypsy’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

What I wanted to say in the end was that there is no division among people irrespective of the category or class they belong to. There is humanity and love in all of them and the divisions are being sowed by an administration, out of someone’s selfish desire. So, when the characters meet, there is a sense of forgiveness and humanity. I don’t see what is problematic there.

We are not suggesting the message was any less valid... just that the viewer may feel disinvested by that point.

That is your opinion and I respect and accept that. But you must understand that you and Gypsy are not the same.

You have a house, an office to go and work at; the people you and he meets are not the same, you don’t share the same kind of interactions. In the film, I try to convey that there is a relationship between Gypsy and someone he meets in a single montage because he meets so many people. In your life, it wouldn’t be a montage. It could be a scene or even the entire first half (smiles).

What’s next for Raju Murugan?

A script for my next film is ready, and an announcement will be made soon.

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Printable version | Mar 31, 2020 8:26:19 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/censor-board-should-not-have-people-with-political-party-leanings/article31068203.ece

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