‘Cultural synthesis between India and Russia’: Imtiaz Ali

Imtiaz Ali.

Imtiaz Ali.

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Imtiaz Ali, director of the Hindi movie ‘Tamasha,’ which is due to premiere in Russia soon, spoke in a wide-ranging interview to RIR about the film and his views on how cinema can bring people closer.

RIR: Do you think that cinema is a universal language?

Imtiaz Ali: I think cinema is a universal language which unites all of us. Sometimes I do not really need to know a certain language or a certain culture to enjoy cinema of that language.

European movies are not so popular in India. Do you think it is connected with a problem of understanding?

Of course there is something that you lose when you translate a movie, it is like translating poetry but there still will be enough for people to enjoy, like I have seen a lot of Russian films with subtitles but I have really enjoyed them. We have used so many Russian songs in our films and those songs have been enjoyed by all of us. So there is a loss in translation, but I think the movie can definitely be enjoyed. It is not a question of understanding.

You talked about Russian movies. Have you got acquainted with Russian culture, literature?

I have a very deep relationship with Russian culture, and I have been to Russia a few times. I am planning to go there again, I have friends there. But more than that, even as a kid, I have grown up reading these books from Mir Publications in Russia. Those were small story books that were available in our house. Even while I was a kid, I used to read all those and there were stories about crows and about boys and girls, the girl called Misha, a crow was a hero of a story. So, these Russian short stories for kids I used to read when I was a kid, when I grew up. Then I read Anton Chekhov a lot, his short stories, and Tolstoy, and Maxim Gorky. I used to read Gorky’s ‘The Mother’ many times.

Do you think that India and Russia are attracted to each other?

They have always been attracted to each other. You know what used to happen is that Russian movies are the first European movies that came out into the world and then, there was a time when the old Indian film directors and actors used to watch Russian films and vice versa. Indian movies have been more popular in Russia than any other language film during the times of Raj Kapoor and others. There are certain very big similarities between Russian people and Indian people because, from the heart, they are emotional people, so there is definitely a cultural synthesis between Russia and India.

Can you confirm that movie ‘Tamasha’ will be shown in Russia?

Yes, we are trying to figure out a date of release for ‘Tamasha’ in Russia. It will most probably be the 14th of February on Valentine’s Day that it will release in Russia. This will be a dubbed version of the film, not a subtitled version because in Russia, people enjoy that, and it is almost done, the deal and everything is almost done. I am really looking forward for this movie to be released. It is also going to be a wide release. It will not be released in just a few theatres, it will probably be 300 screens where this will release.

Can we expect you for the Russian premiere?

I am really looking forward to the Russian premiere and I am just waiting for somebody to give me an indication and I will be there.

Media reports said the Indian Censor Board issued a certificate about the length of some kisses between Ranbir (Kapoor) and Deepika (Padukone). Will we be shown the full movie in Russia or an edited version?

Unfortunately, the censored copy of the film has to be the one to be sent for international distribution.

Do you think that one day Bollywood will not be able to live without kisses, like Hollywood?

Yes, I think the day will come because we are coming from a traditional space. We are coming from a place where even a touch between a man and a woman was a big thing for us. So we are changing and we are becoming more tolerant towards intimacy between a man and a woman. So that time will also come where kissing will not be looked upon as anything indecent but…yes, just like the West, because the media is anyways becoming one.

Don’t you think that if Bollywood movies will show blood and kisses, like in Hollywood movies, dreams and fairy tales will die?

Dreams are of different types and stories are of different types. Not every story needs to be a fairy tale without blood or kiss and there will be some other stories that will be with kisses and blood. When we talk about Indian cinema, we are not talking about one film, we are talking about multitudes of stories and each one can have a different treatment and like even in Hollywood, there are some films which do not have kisses and blood and there are some that have kisses and blood. That is going to happen anywhere else in the world.

You are calling for balance?

Yes, there has to be a balance. Yes, there has to be a purpose of a story and the story will demand its own treatment and that is how it will be made, but I do understand that we should not stop dreaming in our films. That is also important but sometimes your dream has blood, so that is okay.

Many common Indians react to Bollywood movies as reality and literally follow dreams they see in them. Don’t you think that your movies can mislead people?

If my movies are saying that you should follow your heart then it is definitely not misleading the people, it is actually leading them. I am not suggesting to them that they should start doing something that they do not want. All these movies are trying to say is that you do not have to become a prisoner of the system and I have no qualms or regrets about that.

Is the target of the cinema to show the right way for the people?

No, the target of cinema is to tell stories, and since stories are about people, it will also be about their true attitudes and what they really feel and in that way, it will be about what we feel, it cannot be disconnected. So it is not possible to make a story without ethics and morality, not possible.

One of the main themes in your movies is a journey. What attracts you so much in this?

I like personally to travel. I like to meet new people and involve myself in new cultures and food and music and people, I love that and I feel that for a normal person, journey is the most accessible entertainment which gives a lot of freshness to his life. So I think journeys in my films also give freshness to the lives of my characters where more dramatic and interesting things can happen. So I think that is why the journey.

Ranbir Kapoor in ‘Tamasha’ is telling the story of zero and becoming hero. Do you have such hero-zero line in your life?

I have failed at many things. I do not know whether I am a hero or a zero but I have seen myself…like I failed as a kid in school, I was a failure in the 9th standard, I had to repeat it and then I became a very good student. I then stood first in college. So I have seen that it is possible for the same person to be zero and then hero and in the examples of many other people, I have seen the same thing.

Women in your movies are strong persons. What opinion do you have of them?

For one thing, I feel that women are more intelligent than men, at least that is what I have seen and I feel that a woman is more beautiful than a man, at least for me. I am fascinated by women. I have met women in my life that have been very strong and admirable and intelligent and fun. So I have no option but to have women in my movies also like that because that is what I have seen in my life, whether it is my mother or now my daughter and various other women, they have always been smart. So that is how it represents in the film and I do feel that a man can progress only so much in his life and then, it is the touch of the woman that takes him beyond that. To reach somebody’s true capability I have seen that a woman’s touch is necessary.

Is Bollywood searching for new markets, such as Russia?

Indian movies are definitely looking for more markets. Also, I think Indian movies and Indian songs are getting popular in Europe and other places. I have seen it and we are also looking for more markets because what is happening now is that the movies we are making are more universal. Initially, those movies were very typical Indian culture and only Indian cultural people could understand or enjoy it but now, it is not the same. As the world is opening up and becoming a little more similar. Like look at the clothes we are wearing, it is the same. I am not wearing a kurta pyjama and you are not wearing your traditional clothes. So now, things are opening up and becoming universal. So Indian movies are also pushing offshore in a big way.

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