It has been eight years since the release of Anusha Rizvi’s award-winning film Peepli Live, but it still manages to perk up interest. That’s what happened in Chennai recently too, when it was screened at Cinema Rendezvous, a member-driven club that screens a critically-acclaimed film every month. The happy Delhi-based journalist-turned-filmmaker settled down for a chat with MetroPlus after the screening. Excerpts:
How happy were you about the response to the film back then?
It was overwhelming. Most of the subsets of these people, whom I was trying to interact with, would like the film at an individual level, but would feel it wasn’t about them.
The journalists would feel it’s about the politicians, the politicians would feel it’s about the bureaucrats and so on.
How challenging was it to showcase a serious issue such as farmer suicides in a satirical manner?
It was written in this style from the beginning. I’d say it is more than a satire; it is a bit absurdist, because of the very idea that you’re willing to pay a man to die, but aren’t willing to support the same man stay alive.
Can art and films bring about social change?
It can be an agent of change. It can introduce ideas and question. As a filmmaker, you may not be an expert in economics or agriculture, but when you see something that’s blatantly wrong, you can question that.
You’re also active in the theatre circuit...
In 2002-2004, Mahmood Farooqui re-invented a dying form of theatre called Dastangoi. It is a type of Urdu storytelling.
We have a team in Mumbai and Delhi, where we train Dastangos and we perform all over the world. It’s been more than 15 years that we’ve been working with this form, and now I think it has fully been revived.
You’re also known for the work you do with the inmates of Tihar jail...
We work on the Tihar Akhbar , a newspaper circulated within the premises of the jail. We’ve also started our own theatre group called the Tihar Players. Our latest work is called The Gallows Project .
We deliberately only work with people who are out on bail, who have been acquitted or those who have finished their term, and try to give them a space where their talented is respected.
What are your current projects?
I’m doing two projects with Drishyam Films.
Are there any updates on ‘Opium’, the film you were scripting a couple of years ago?
That film is based on the novel, Sea of Poppies, by Amitav Ghosh.
It is a project that will make us reach the international space... it could be on par with Attenborough’s Gandhi . Whether I make it or someone else does, this needs to be made someday.