‘No powerful roles for women’

UNMASKED While Sushir Mishra says it’s difficult to find the right face for roles, Soha Ali Khan believes her ‘classic’ look can sometimes be her disadvantage

UNMASKED While Sushir Mishra says it’s difficult to find the right face for roles, Soha Ali Khan believes her ‘classic’ look can sometimes be her disadvantage   | Photo Credit: PHOTO: AFP

When Bollywood producer-director Sudhir Mishra and actor Soha Ali Khan met for a conversation recently, it invariably veered towards their first venture together — the recent “Khoya Khoya Chand”.

And out came close observations on the Hindi film industry, some with reasons to smile, some of complaint. RANA SIDDIQUI tuned in.

Sudhir Mishra: Thank God, the film industry is undergoing a positive change these days.

Otherwise, as a film director, I was getting frustrated. Till a while ago, I barely saw films of my kind. Directors like Anurag Basu (of “Life in a Metro” fame) have filled the much-needed gap between the so-called mainstream and parallel cinema.

Soha Ali Khan: You are right. I was looking for a film of my heart’s choice to enter the film industry, but it came quite late.

I think it began with “Rang De Basanti” and has become stronger with your “Khoya Khoya Chand”. In fact, your film is my first author-backed solo role.

Sudhir: ( Smiles at the compliment) I couldn’t zero in on any face other than yours for that ‘old classic’ look. I wanted it for my heroine. People are so short-sighted here.

They discouraged me and told me you were a wrong choice. But after watching the film, they had to eat their words!

Soha: ( Laughing) This film has made me look at myself with a different perception. Though I was aware of my ‘classic’ look, the ground-breaking role in “Khoya…” has proved it on screen.

In fact, the use of Urdu diction in the film, the dialogue delivery and the body language transported me to that era. Despite working back-to-back for several months, I never felt tired.

Sudhir: I think those filmmakers who have been wishing to make films with that good old golden touch of the ’60s and the ’70s will now look at you…

Soha: Since no one so far encashed on it, I once even thought that it was a drawback…

Sudhir: Yes, if an actress has the right face, she will have anirritating way of dialogue delivery.

If an actor has good articulation, he will look very artificial.

We filmmakers really have a tough time looking for the right face for a role.

Soha: I wonder why the film industry is still not making films that have women in substantial roles?

See the contrast between our films made in the ’50s and the ’60s, and now. Though acting in films was a taboo for women those days, powerful roles were written for them. See Madhubala, Meena Kumari, Waheeda Rahman and the others. They had a well-defined space in films.

And today, despite talks of ‘women’s liberation’, etc., hardly any good roles are written for women. Look at today’s comedy films.

There is no comedy role penned for women characters in Bollywood films. Why? Can’t they do comedy? Why is it that till today, we don’t have a female parallel to Kishore Kumar (as an actor) or Govinda?

Can you recall one heroine whose name is synonymous with comedy in Hindi films?

Doesn’t that show that it is not the women who are conservative, but the society they live in?

Sudhir: You’re so very right. And there are no films that reflect our times.

Filmmakers don’t respect time. I really face a lot of difficulties making a ‘contemporary’ or time-denoting film. That way, Anurag Basu inspires me. See, his “Life in a Metro” was so true to today’s city life.

Soha: Even “Rang De Basanti”, I believe, was a sort of ‘time film’ that cared to teach the audience to respect the present and the past in a subtle sort of way.

Sudhir: I often think why only 20 per cent of today’s films include art.

Soha: Films are another expression of art, aren’t they?

Sudhir: For me, today’s art film is Vishal Bhardwaj’s “Omkara”. See how beautifully he applied the language and the location in the film.

We always tend to change the meaning of a word as per our convenience. I call it an art film, many call it an action film, isn’t that strange?

Soha: I believe with so many multiplexes coming up even in the smaller cities, there is a good scope for films that involve real art and commercial flavour in a judicious mix.

There is an audience for good films. Time has always proved it. And still they say that only those ‘masala’ films work. Sudhir: I think you can direct a film sometime later in your life.

Soha: ( Laughs) I wish! I have always been self-righteous. I never felt apologetic about doing certain films as each film taught me something.

’No powerful roles for women’ This is the way to learn. But ever since I have done “Rang De…” and “Khoya…”, I think I have grown wiser and have been able to explore my skills on screen.

I think these films have given me a mature image and I would be more careful in choosing roles now on.

As for direction, abhi to film world ke baarey main bahut kuch jaan-na hain. (I have to know more about our film world before getting into film direction ).

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