Adoor: Need a knowledgeable jury for National Awards

Neelu Vyas

Veteran Filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan in a letter to Information & Broadcasting ministry has sought a fair selection procedure in the National Awards.

In an exclusive interview to Rajya Sabha TV , the man who revolutionised South Indian cinema has questioned the competence of the jury members who clear the films. Gopalakrishnan said that most of the meaningful and creative cinema was getting rejected because wrong people are part of the jury. He also said even the wrong composition of the jury was responsible for giving commercial cinema precedence over creativity.

The noted scriptwriter and director also added that the present government was not consulting the experienced people, because of which small filmmakers were highly demoralised.

Speaking at length about his career spanning over 50 years, Gopalakrishnan took pride of how he made only 12 classic films in five decades. He went on to talk about how he did not give the entire story line to his actors.

About censorship, Gopalakrishnan said in a democratic set up like India there was no place for censorship.

Here are some edited excerpts from the interview:

Let me start by asking you about the recent letter you have written to Broadcasting Ministry seeking a fair selection process, as far as National Awards are concerned? What made you write the letter?

Unfortunately, the people who are in charge of conducting National Awards, and also Indian Panorama are totally unaware of what these are meant for and why these institutions have been set up.

During Nehru’s prime ministership in the 50s there was a committee appointed under the chairmanship of S K Patil to study the problems faced by Indian Cinema. Patil and his team was to go into details and find ways to improve things in Indian cinema. The first proposal was to establish the International Film Festival and the next proposal was to institute National Film Awards with the view to make films without compromised commercial concerns, films truly Indian but with international appeal.

Your letter hints at the composition of juries or it hints at the quality of films which are coming in?

Yearly you have to select films from amongst 100 to 200 films and you have to choose just one film from there which is the best.

When a committee is formed with people who does not believe in this kind of cinema and who doesn’t know about this kind of cinema, who don’t know the trends in international cinema, so they cannot pass a judgement.

In the yester years we have seen that the meaningful cinemas really got its due …

Yes, most of the time. There were mistakes also.

Now the trend has completely changed, do you think this is becoming a pattern to reject something which is genuine, which is original, which is aesthetic? Is this becoming a pattern?

It is not deliberate, they are innocently ignorant about real good cinema. In cinema, you have to be culturally sound, well read, you have to be aware of these things to appreciate good cinema.

Have you got a reply from the information and broadcasting ministry?

He must have just received it, just two days back.

Do you think something concrete will happen after you wrote this letter?

You never know, sometimes you don’t get a reply. But I also want the rest of the nation to know this is what is happening.

Aren’t you scared that your films will not see the daylight?

Not at all… I make films because I am a filmmaker. I didn’t jump into it for sheer fancy that I should become a director. I joined film institute long back in 1962.I have studied cinema, and I know what it is. I keep knowledge about what is going around and attend festivals. Sometimes jury members, sometimes chairing the juries.

Adoor Gopalakrishnan

Adoor Gopalakrishnan

If this unfair selection continues then are you scared that filmmakers will be demoralised?

That is what is happening. Many young people don’t make the compromise. They make the kind of films they make – they may not be great classics but they make off-beat films. Their films are selected abroad but not in India.

It is very unfortunate. I wanted to inform the Secretary about it because they may not be aware of things as senior bureaucrats. They may not be well versed about good cinemas. Someone has to tell them. The ministry may not be aware.

Your letter is the symptom of a larger problem and which has to do things with creativity, filmmakers are coming out with certain things and they are not given a proper due, so do you think that earlier governments used to take care of these things and this govt is not?

I don’t think this is because of the present govt. This has been going on, even in the earlier government. It wasn’t a rosy picture earlier. It has been sliding down to the bottom. It is the time to shake up and look at things. I am not against any government. Let it be any party or government. People who are in charge of this should be aware of these things. They should do the consultation with the right kind of people and not with the wrong people.

You have also mentioned it in your letter that degrees of jury members should be public

I am not concerned about degrees. What is important is how well the people in the jury are qualified. They need to have the acumen to sit in the judgement of these cinemas. To judge cinema they need to know some orientations about cinema. You cannot be blamed for the wrong selections. The authorities are to be blamed. The selections by authorities are a mistake.

The best films and best director went to the commercial filmmakers…

I have nothing against commercial films provided they are good films. The awards should go to the good films. You may spend 400 crores but still make a bad film. It’s not the amount of money you put in. I am not against films which are commercially successful and hit at box office. In-fact we all think about becoming successful.

Let’s talk about censorship and certifications, what are your views?

I can tell you from my experience, in 1979 there was a committee appointed where Doc ShivramKaranthand we were all members of it.

Shyam Benegal, Mrinal Sen, myself and couple of other filmmakers – G P Sippy , B R Chopra, they were all members of this committee. We were for abolishing censorship. We started discussing it. Then everybody agreed. But B R Chopra and Ramanusagar took a view that look we need censorship because the censor certificate saves us from many litigations.

So you see censorship certificate as some kind of security cover as well…

Yes. For them, that is what they thought. See there is so much of competition in this industry, somebody can go to the court and say that they don’t like this scene from the films. So this is the only reason why we said that let us continue.

Do you think that in a democratic set-up like India, censorship can thrive as a concept?

It is a very wrong concept. There should not be any censorship anywhere in any form. Plurality is the basis of democracy. We should not be having a dictatorship of the majority. The minority is also represented by the people.

There are lot of ailments within the censor board. People are unhappy about the sections of people who are appointed to these posts. And one thing we have observed that people who are close to the ideology of the govt is appointed to these posts. Do you think that justice can be delivered in this kind of scenario?

I am against the very idea of censorship. Why should I worry about who is censoring? There cannot be good censorship or bad censorship. If they follow the guidelines then it is ok. If that is the rule then let it be there. I have not faced any censorship problems in my life.

No censor has ever asked me to remove anything from my films. I know what is not in public interest, I will not show it. There should be a sense of decency of what to show and what not to show. That doesn’t mean there should be censorship. In terms of the ideology, I am against it.