Updated: Mar 14, 2020
Filmmaker Akshay Indikar at Berlinale for the world premiere of Sthalapuran
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This is part two ( continuation) of interview done on RAD TIMES MEDIA. You can read part one here.
RAD Times: Do we find a story in Trijya then? How did you approach the film? Does it tell a story?
Akshay Indikar: Story, I believe, is a very interesting phenomenon. It is something that gets completed only when it is told. That’s the fun part. It reaches its end only when it is told. Story is not a fixed entity. Therefore, how it is told is the story itself. How a story is told is important. Not what the story is. See, for example, we all know Ramayana. There was Ram and Sita. They went to the forest for 14 years. Or Romeo and Juliet. There’s a boy, there’s a girl from different sections of the society, they come together and we know what happens next. That’s what there is to it. The important thing is how we tell it. Story is always about telling. How you tell it! So, in Trijya, it is about a 25-year-old man/boy who has migrated to Pune. It is his experiences, let’s say it is his story. And how do I tell it? I tell it the way I want to and how I make the way of telling unique. How I try to find my own unique way is the effort. That’s the challenge. Cinema is that effort. The effort of cinema is the effort of telling. The effort to find a unique way to tell. How to tell the story, how to share the experience, how to make the experience universal is what cinema means to me. How to make something personal universal. Every person watching the film should feel that there is something of his own in it. He should be able to relate to it. A kid from Hungary or a 50-year old professor lady from Shanghai should feel, “This is my journey. There is something mine in what I am watching.” How you make the process of telling interesting is the secret. While doing Trijya, this is what I was focusing on. How rich can I make it linguistically…cinematic language I mean. How can we use the grammar of film in the best possible way was something we were trying to seek.”
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RAD Times: How was the response at Shanghai, Tallinn? How did the audience react?
Akshay Indikar: It was a completely new experience. In Shanghai, the first two shows went house full. I was of the opinion that why would people from Shanghai, China come and watch a Marathi film. Why would they find it interesting? But people came. Maybe they were excited and curious about the film after reading the synopsis and stuff. What is the film about? What does it talk about? After the screening, during the Q & A, I felt I was watching my film in a completely new way. ‘This is how it can be watched too. This is what people are able to find in the film.’ See, while making we don’t always think about these things. We don’t write a scene after studying the socio-political elements in it. It happens automatically. But the viewer is able to find these layers while watching. It was a feeling of rediscovery. For example, a scene where a boy goes to see a girl for marriage. You know, how arrange-marriages work in India. A person asked if girls are ‘shown’ in this way in arranged marriages. I said yes. It is so in India. When such things happen, it is as if we are getting to understand ourselves. You know… ‘Ohh…okay…this is how it is.’ It is a rediscovery. It is as if we are watching our film in a completely new way.
RAD Times: You mean, every person while watching a film is trying to find his own meaning in it, right?
Akshay Indikar: Yes. Cinema is something like that! Cinema is not mathematics. Being an art form, in cinema, 1 + 1 is not always 2. 1 + 1 can also be 1. Cinema is not a riddle to be solved. For me, cinema is poetry, cinema is like painting. It is different for everyone. No one is right, no one is wrong. There is no such thing as right and wrong. Everything that each person feels at that moment is right for him.
RAD Times: That means, once you make a film, you cannot say how one should interpret it?
Akshay Indikar: No. Once it is done, you’ll have to leave it. I cannot say it is mine anymore. It’s gone. It is yours.
RAD Times: Film, you say, is poetry. Then, what would you say about filmmakers like Abbas Kiarostami, Tarkovsky. You have obviously watched their films again and again. Do you find any influence of their films on your work?
Akshay Indikar: That is bound to happen. These people are influential. You cannot avoid getting influenced. Once you watch their film, their impression, the experience that you witness is bound to get imprinted on your mind. It is obvious. And there many such filmmakers, even in India. Satyajit Ray. I admire his work immensely. Or Amit Dutta. I like his films a lot too. Then there’s Malayalam filmmaker John Abraham. There’s G. Arvindam. Every filmmaker teaches you something. A person like Antonioni teaches you how to look at the space. Modern architectural design and human relationship – how are these two related, how to look at it, how your geographical surroundings affect you, Antonioni teaches you all this. Kiarostami shows how one can achieve spirituality in the simplest things of life. Tarkovsky helps you understand different layers of your own memory, how can you make those layers breathe. Memory is like a crystal. It has different angles, different layers. For example, a simple memory of your childhood experience. You go to a farm from your house. How can we look at this memory from different angles, discover its different layers? Not just going to the farm. The coldness there, the journey. How one can show all this cinematically is what Tarkovsky teaches. You’ll find a lot of colours, aroma, touch in his films. You can feel the air, you can feel the sunlight falling on your body. His films can evoke memories. If there is water, you’ll feel it. Tarkovsky gives you that sensual experience. You learn how to do that through him. If you want to understand the Indian psychic, the changing India, then you can see that in Satyajit Ray’s films. Every director has something to offer. Lav Diaz has given me the courage to make films, I guess. To make films the way I want to make them, without thinking about anything else is what I have learnt from him. If I can watch films made by a Filipino filmmaker sitting at my home, my films too will be watched by someone in the world. Lav Diaz gives me this courage. Do you want to dance according to the set norms of the entertainment industry or work freely, independently? Do you want to run behind the box office numbers, behind the Friday release or create something last longing? It’s been five years; people are still talking about Udaharnarth Nemade. I am interested in such things. I don’t want to work for one Friday, one weekend. I don’t want to play that game of ‘Friday, Saturday, Sunday.’ I mean, okay…if there’s this system of releasing films on Fridays, I’ll do that but am not interested in the game. I don’t want to prove anything by Sunday or Monday. I don’t to be a part of that rat race.
RAD Times: Isn’t it too bold a stance that you are taking, that too in today’s time? I mean, today when cinema is so strictly bound by these compartments like commercial and so-called arthouse films, where do you get this approach from?
Akshay Indikar: See…it depends where do you look at it from. I mean, I would love to release my film in theatres, but that’s not the end goal. That is not why I make films. I’ll be happy if my film gets released online.
RAD Times: Yes, a lot is being said about the digital platform. It is liberating and it gives independence.
Akshay Indikar: Yes, it is. I wouldn’t have thought of making films if there wasn’t a possibility of releasing films digitally. Earlier was it possible for us to even see what a movie camera looks like? No, and therefore, it was dominated by one section of society. It’s not there anymore. The barriers are gone and the medium is democratized. There are both advantages and disadvantages to it. Okay. But all that’s not so good will fade and the good will remain. But it is possible to do now. Earlier it wasn’t. No one can stop us now. Earlier, you’d have to become the 7th assistant, then 6th…now a 23-year-old boy can make anything he wants to make.
RAD Times: Okay. How do you look at the genres that have come into being over time? We try to define films by their genres. Do you think we can really bind films to one specific genre? Haven’t we created some artificial compartments by doing that? If yes, don’t you think we need to restructure it somewhere?
Akshay Indikar: I think it depends on what kind of cinema we are talking about. If it is industry-specific, made solely for the ‘industry’ purpose, then you’ll find these compartments. The concept of genre itself depends on that. The system works on that. But then, I feel, people who broke away from this genre system could really make something…how do I put it…true cinema. The filmmakers we talked about, what genre would you put them in? What genre would you put Tarkovsky’s Mirror in? The concept of genre, basically, is Hollywood centric and Hollywood itself is an industry-centric thing. Commerce oriented. Non-Hollywood cinema interests me more than Hollywood. Films from other small countries…I like films from the Philippines, I like Taiwanese films a lot. Iranian New Wave, Romanian Cinema. Then there’s East-European Cinema. I feel there’s more magic in these films. Films about simple things in life. I like such films. Superhero, Superman…these things never interested me.
RAD Times: Okay. Coming back to Trijya, I read somewhere that you started writing the film in 2009 and now, in 2019 the film is ready and travelling across the world. How was the journey? What would you tell us about it? What were the challenges…right from writing to making? How was it?
Akshay Indikar: Challenges are always there. Every step has its own set of challenges. Writing has its own challenges. How to build the narrative structure, the characters? How to make them meet in the film? All such questions are there. After writing, there are other challenges. How to actualize all this? Where to get the finance from? There are technical things to be handled. Scheduling, shooting. Production...location problems, permission problems, camera, actors, environment, rain etc etc. During post-production, there are several other things to be managed. The advantages and disadvantages that come with the digital medium are to be taken care of. After the film is ready, it is a different ballgame altogether. Selecting a proper place for the premier, Say no to 15 offers. We had offers from 15 countries for Trijya, we had to reject them. Then we decided to go to China. So, that is a different process completely. We had earlier agreed to go to Hungary for the premier, but then later we said no. We wanted to reach out to maximum people and therefore we chose China.
RAD Times: You were not much interested in formal education you said. Were you exposed to the arts in your childhood? You see, a child from a middle-class family generally doesn’t really get that exposure. How was it at your home?
Akshay Indikar: There was no exposure as such, but yes, we had books in our house. And there was also a library in our town. The library must have played a role to some extent but that’s it. There was no such artistic environment in our house other than books. Other than this…I come from a family of folk artists, but there’s no direct connection between that and cinema as such.
RAD Times: For quite a long time, it was believed that great content is coming out of Marathi films. But today we see it has somewhere stopped and the Marathi film industry has gone into a completely new direction. What do you think of this?
RAD Times: Okay, just a minute. First, tell us what is cinema for you? What do you mean by good use of ‘the language of cinema’? How would you define it and then tell us why do you think Marathi films don’t use the language properly?
Akshay Indikar: Ummm…yes yes…maybe then films that fit into my definition aren’t being made. In my opinion, Cinema is something that cannot be explained in words. It gets completed only when it is seen, only when it is experienced. One cannot tell ‘cinema’. You’ll have to see it; its experience won’t be complete just by telling it. It must be seen, it must be experienced; because it’s a time-bound experience, there’s a unit of time to it. You need to complete that journey in that specified time. You’ll have to experience that in the given time. That experience will be very personal. Such films are not made in my opinion. Films that will connect man to different knowledge wings, develop curiosity regarding other knowledge streams. It should get entwined with other knowledge streams; it should make people curious about other branches of knowledge. Which Marathi films have ever talked about philosophy, anthropology, archaeology? There are other interdisciplinary streams. Our world is so closely related to microbiology… or even data science. The world is getting changed into a system based on data. Yuval Noah Harari and many others like him…they are telling us a lot about the world, about how the world is getting converted. When will Marathi cinema deal with all this, represent all this? How long will we keep talking about marriages and keep debating over cities? We don’t find any connection between painting and films in Marathi cinema; nor do we find any connection between poetry and cinema in Marathi. Music as a form…I don’t mean film music…but music as a form…it has never found its place in Marathi cinema. The orchestral arrangement, its design, its texture…nothing of that sort is made in Marathi. Music in Marathi films is stuck only to songs and the background score. I feel I can talk about Marathi cinema, its flaws, and its merits because I have decided to be here and make films in this language. I didn’t run after the Hindi film, no, right? Then, I have the right to talk about films here, the language here.
RAD Times: Then how do you look at the commerce part of cinema?
Akshay Indikar: It will always be there. Every kind of cinema is commercial. The commerce part takes care of itself. We don’t need to care about it. Every film is a commercial film. Our films are commercial too. I mean, we went to China. We didn’t show are film there for free. We took money to screen our film there. Where ever we’ll be going in future, we’ll not be screening it for free. We are going to charge money. There’s no charity, no social service. No ‘change-the-world philosophy.’ By making films, all I can change is myself and maybe a person might begin to change after watching a film. That’s it. Make films, document things. It is like marking your presence in this infinite, never-ending time. I am marking my presence; you can mark yours. 50 years later, when people will look back and see, they’ll be able to see that someone has documented a migrant young boy’s life in Trijya. When I watch Satyajit Ray’s Mahanagar, I feel, “Yes, Satyajit Ray has talked about women in his film or in Pratidhwandi, he has documented what was going in the mind of the youth of Bengal of that time.” Documentation is an unlegislated function of cinema. It will document whatever you shoot, whether you want it or no.
RAD times: Yes. Amit Dutta somewhere in his book talks about documentation in films. He says it will happen, regardless of your intention.
Akshay Indikar: Yes! Exactly. If you put a camera here, on the road, the present time will be captured in it. Today, you have documented it in 2019. Then there will be a 2025 road, a 2027 road, in 2030 it will be different. If in 1980, someone had put a camera there, we would have had a ‘document’ of the same road of that time. So, film does that automatically. In Trijya, for example, we went shooting through the roads and lanes of Pune. They got documented. They’ll be there in the form of this film now. Even Nemade. Nemade, now, will always be there. He is captured and he’ll be there forever in the form of Udaharnarth Nemade.
RAD Times: Trijya is almost done. Tell us about Sthalapuran. If am not mistaken, it was selected at the Film Bazaar.
Akshay Indikar: Yes. It was selected for the Film Bazaar recommendations section and now…let’s see. We’ll premier it at some good place. Some good film festival, film club. The idea is to reach the audience…how that’ll happen, we don’t know. This time, we may release is directly online. Worldwide release. One platform, one time all over the world. We just want to reach the audience. Like…the population of Maharashtra is 12.5 crore, we would be glad to show our films to 12.5 crore people. Just give us a suitable platform.
RAD Times: But don’t you think, platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime are limited to urban areas.
Akshay Indikar: Yes, but films reach the audience. I mean, if a film comes on YouTube, won’t it reach to a larger audience? And people who are really interested, who are ready to take serious efforts, they will watch. Cinema is a two-way process. If we are taking four steps in one direction, the audience will also have to take a step forward. Communication is considered complete only when there’s a receiver. Both are equally important elements.
RAD Times: Considering this, do you think the audience is changing?
Akshay Indikar: Yes. It is changing. The youth is getting prepared. I have a lot of hope from them. The older people are a bit rigid. Cinema means ‘this’ is what they think. But youngsters are able to understand that cinema can be something like that too. They don’t want to know who the legends are. They don’t care. And let us accept it as a fact. They find cinema closer. ‘Yes…it is talking about me. It is like me.’ They find it closer to their lives. Some people like hero-heroine films. No problem. But there are people who want go beyond and watch other films too.
RAD Times: You mentioned Firta Cinema. Tell us more about it. What is it? What is this initiative about?
Akshay Indikar: Through Firta Cinema, we tried going to different schools in Kolhapur, Solapur, Lonavala, Pune and showed films to the students there. Good films. Films by Charlie Chaplin, Iranian Films, Satyajit Ray’s Films. I think this can be the starting point. Making kids realise that cinema is a serious affair. It is something that we need to take seriously. I think it would be enough if we are able to create that spark, if we are able to give them this understanding. And this should happen at a governmental level. But then it should not go haywire. I mean we had drawing at the school level? What did we do? We had music? What did we do? Did we create any new musical form? What new did we do with drawing and painting? We made it a 50-mark exam. That’s it. This should not happen.
RAD Times: Trijya, Sthalapuran…what next? Have you planned anything?
Akshay Indikar: I am working on a new film called Construction. It will be my biggest film to date. I don’t mean to say big budget but on a larger scale. The effort involved is much more than earlier films. There’s a lot in it. Archaeology, Anthropology, Modern Science. I have tried to do it at my level. Let’s see how it goes.
RAD Times: Thanks a lot, Akshay. It was great talking to you and understanding what cinema means to you. I think RAD TIMES readers will surely get new insights regarding films after reading this interview. Thanks a lot, and all the best for your future projects.
Akshay Indikar: Thank you.
Loves to read, write and watch films!
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