27 January 2007

Preaching to the converted

In the past week, while writing about film directors Francois Truffaut and Satyajit Ray, I had brought up the matter of films influencing our lives. The question is (or was then): Do they? And, as an extension to that, what relevance do films have in our lives? More importantly, is there a connection between storytelling, truth, art and films? For, like Truffaut, Ray and many others, I, too, have spent weeks on end thinking about these questions.

Fortunately, as I see now, I’ve not been alone. Recently, while surfing the Net, I came across an interview of Indian actor (and Minister of Parliament) Shabana Azmi by Nermeen Shaikh on AsiaSource, going back to October 2002. In the interview, Nermeen Shaikh asks some pertinent questions on whether, and how, films influence our lives… and Shabana Azmi answers them competently, giving examples from her own life.

Here are some excerpts from that interview:

“…if the whole purpose of art is to sensitize people, how can you say that this sensitivity is only going to be directed towards yourself and giving a better performance? This is simply not possible since the best resources of an actor must come from life itself. So when you are in films playing characters struggling with social injustice and exploitation, then a time comes when you can no longer treat your work like a nine-to-five job.”

“I grew up in a family that believed that art should be used as an instrument for social change. Both my parents practiced this principle: my father, through his work as an Urdu poet of great repute, as a film lyricist and also the scriptwriter of films like ‘Garam Hawa’, and my mother as a stage actress in India, who also worked with the Indian People’s Theatre Association.”

“Films have such a strong influence in India but when you try to bring about political or social change through art cinema, you are really preaching to the converted. In mainstream cinema, on the other hand, you have a much wider audience and a large number of issues to cover.”

There’s more, of course. To read the full interview click here.

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