Nila Madhab Panda spoke to Down To Earth about his film and doing ‘realistic’ cinema
Why did you think of making a movie based on the theme of water conservation?
Well, there is an emotional issue to it because as a storyteller, every director has something to do with the story of the movies he makes. For me, this story has to do with my childhood and early life. I belong to the Kalahandi-Bolangir area in Odisha, where we have seen water crisis three decades back. The water crisis was because of human-made drought. Of course, the area was a rain-shadow region. But if water would have been conserved, the population would not have suffered. I decided to make something on this issue. I have already made a lot of documentaries on this. Then I thought, why should I make another dark documentary telling the truth? Instead, why not make a film showing what happens when you do not have water. The idea was to make a satire, where you learn about the importance of water and learn how to conserve it.
Why are mainstream moviemakers taking up more and more projects on realistic issues?
I think audiences are changing. They are smart now. They have exposure to all kinds of cinema from all over the world. People are no longer interested in just mindless entertainment. Also, story-telling has changed with time. People love seeing reality in movies. The newer breed of directors, when they see this, make movies that are realistic and yet entertaining. And such movies sell well too.
Is there a market for realistic cinema?
India is still struggling in that regard. For instance, if you go to Europe or America, there is a large market for documentaries and short films as well. Here, the market is largely dominated by Bollywood and in that, by the mass entertainers starring big stars. But that is slowly changing. The multiplex audience today likes a Paan Singh Tomar, an I am Kalam and a Dum Laga Ke Haishaa. This market is still in its nascent stages, but it is growing.
If you make a realistic film and it does not do well, does that deter you from repeating the experiment?
As an artist, it is my job to tell a story the way I like it. Otherwise, what is the difference between a builder and me? A builder will construct a two-bedroom flat if that is what the public wants. Similarly, a populist filmmaker will show sex and violence in his movie if that is what the public wants. But that is business and not art. Of course, there is a huge investment that has to be recovered. But at the end of the day, as an artist, I have to explore all kinds of stories.
Will realism become a recurrent theme in the cinema of the future given our ever-increasing problems?
I think that is where we are heading to. In the last 8-10 years, the new India which has emerged is an arrogant one, flushed with new money. Because of this new money and mass globalisation, we have forgotten our own cultural moorings in trying to ape the west. We tried to become modern, but have we really become that? Our next generation, which has grown up in these times, will definitely be more realistic in their outlook towards life and this will get reflected in the cinema of the future.
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