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Gautam Ghosh's journey after "Yatra"

- An Interview with Gautam Ghosh by Sankar Basu

Goutam Ghose’s last feature film “Yatra” (the Journey) was released on September 3rd, 2006 at the Festival Des Films Du Monde, Montreal, Canada with great fanfare. People waited in long lines to experience Goutam’s journey. Unlike Goutam’s other Bengali films, Yatra was in Hindi language with English subtitle. Famous Bollywood stars Rekha and Nana Patekar acted in this film. Sankar Basu was at Goutam’s side during the release of Yatra at the festival. Sankar Basu, an old friend of internationally renowned Indian film director Goutam Ghose, himself was a director of Indian National Film Development Corporation (NFDC). Sankar solely distributed Oscar award winner legendary Indian film director late Satyajit Ray’s films through out the USA in ‘70s. Now, he discusses with Goutam about his films and the Indian film industry in general.

You have started your career almost four decades ago. In these 38 years, you have made over 30 Feature & Documentary films, not to mention the numerous Corporate and Ad Films along with some films for TV; which is an achievement by itself for your kind of independent filmmaker. Tell me is getting producer still as difficult as the time when you just started?

In the formative years, I truly had problems of getting financing for experimental independent documentaries and shorts. But when I started making feature films, I frankly never faced problems finding a producer. My first feature film MAA BHOOMI (Our Land) was a runaway success. But the real problem in India is to get a like-minded producer; one who loves the project with same amount of passion as the maker. Most of the producers here are basically financiers. I was fortunate enough to get some producers who loved the projects I made. All of them have maintained a very cordial relationship with me, regardless of the film's performance at the box office. I off course have had some bitter experiences with some; but this is a part of the game of this highly speculative business we are in. Nowadays many corporate houses are coming with offers to make films. Some of them are aware of the trade and some totally ignorant. I prefer to design my project keeping the target audience and revenue model in mind. I absolutely hate unnecessary expenditure and hype of a film.

How do you qualify your kind of films?

I don't make films without a thorough understanding of the subject. Good, bad, & ugly; however, it's my kind of a film. I don't want to categorize my films. I try to use the language of cinema sincerely. Sometimes it reaches the desired aesthetic levels; at times it doesn't with all good intentions. And that’s the fact of the life.

How do you perceive Bollywood?

I don't like the name Bollywood. Beverly Hills did have woods when Hollywood was created but Bombay never had any resemblance of any woods!! I like many films made in Bombay. It's a truly cosmopolitan industry. People from different parts of the subcontinent work and struggle together to fulfill their dreams.

How about the present Hindi movies, I mean the kind of films are made now a days?

The present movies made in Bombay are very particular about their technical standards. But they lack variety. Lack of innovative content makes them very repetitive, but of course there are exceptions. India is a storehouse of fascinating subjects because it's a heterogeneous country with many cultures and civilizations. I hope young people will explore it more and find multi-layered contents for movie projects.

What do you think of the dynamics of  'Acting' today; considering the way it has changed over the years?

The Indian film industry has many great actors, but the acting trend is still largely theatrical and posy. The star system here has an inherent pitfall of making the actor rigid and limited. We have to overcome this hurdle to reach the best of international cinema standards.

You have won every possible Indian awards that you could and many international awards; do awards make difference in people’s mind when they come to view your work?

Yes, it effects the work of the whole team. However, with too many awards, an artificial expectation gets created amongst the audience. They come to view your movies with preconceived ideas. Searching for the truth is the job of a filmmaker - award or no award.

You have a close bond with the legendary film director late Satyajit Ray. Were you trained by him? Tell us a bit about the chapter in your life.

I have never trained under anyone. But I had the good fortune of being close to Satyajit Ray and of receiving his blessings and compassion. Ray was a man who knew too much; a renaissance man. However, he never did show off!! I have made a long documentary on him after his demise; that was my tribute to a great mind.

Do you still remember your days of struggle?

Absolutely, the life is a continuous struggle. That is why it is worth living. Each and every project is a struggle to achieve a certain goal. I enjoy the complex process of filmmaking thoroughly.

It is amazing the way you keep yourself distanced from the awe and the alienation of a top Director. You are absolutely free of any starry Airs. How do you do this?

I love to live a life of an ordinary man. Otherwise the so-called filmy life can kill your freedom. It's boring. I love watching stars only in the sky. They are distant, romantic and full of mystery.

What are your present projects?

At this moment I'm working on a long documentary on the Asiatic Society of Bengal; perhaps the first think tank organization of modern India formed by Sir William Jones in 1784. It's a huge cerebral exercise and I am enjoying getting to know about people who rediscovered Indian and Asian civilizations despite their colonial interests. Also two feature films are in the pipeline. An Indo Italian project called LALA which is about an encounter of an American writer settled in Italy with a displaced village boy from India who is trying hard to survive in Bombay in order to support his parents in the village. Another one based on a recent novel by eminent Bengali writer Sunil Gangopadhyay on a Baul poet Lalan Fakir from Bengal who created religious harmony and was an epitome of true secular wisdom of tolerance.

Gautam Ghosh

Gautam Ghosh was a strident political activist and a photo journalist who toured the country to document images of life and times in India. His encounter with reality, in stark close-up, inspired him to use cinema as an effective instrument of self-expression. One that makes a powerful and lasting statement. HUNGRY AUTUMN was his debut, a prize winning documentary. Goutam (born at Calcutta, 1950) graduated from the University of Calcutta and then became involved in the theatre as entertainer and director. He acted in Grihajudda by Buddahaeb Dasgupta in 1982. He is a professional photo-journalist and directed his first short New Earth in 1973.
Notable Films:
Maabhumi (1979, Telegu)
Dakhal (1981, Bengali)
Paar (1984, Hindi)
Antarjali Yatra (1987, Bengali)
Padma Nadir Maajhi (1992, Bengali)
Patang (1993, Hindi)
Gudia (1997, Hindi)
Dekha (2001, Bengali)
Abar Aranye (2003, Bengali)
Yatra (2006, Hindi)