Interview to Buddhadeb Dasgupta (Amitava Nag)

The indian director Buddhadeb Dasgupta will recieve the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 18th edition of Imagineindia International Film Festival Madrid.

Here is an interview to the director by the critic and writer Amitava Nag for The Hindu :

I need my solitude. I need to be with myself: filmmaker Buddhadeb Dasgupta

Buddhadeb Dasgupta, who will complete four decades in filmmaking, chooses to stay outside the mainstream.

“When I look at a painting for some time I begin to see images beyond the lines on the canvas… When I began to make films, my only desire was to produce those non-static images that I had seen behind closed eyes.”

This is what filmmaker and poet Buddhadeb Dasgupta had said in an interview a few decades ago. He remains truthful to this vision even as he completes four decades in cinema. A regular in the list of awardees at National Film Awards, Dasgupta’s most cherished moment came when he received the Special Director’s award for Uttara at the Venice Film Festival in 2000. When I met Dasgupta for this interview in his South Kolkata flat, it was after a long interval. He looked frail now, and he spoke slowly, in a low voice. I had to often ask him to repeat himself. But his eyes lit up when he talked of images and poetry.

Your first feature film Dooratwa was made in 1978. You are on the verge of completing four decades in filmmaking. How has the journey been?

It has been a journey with cinema and poetry. The journey has made me what I am today. I always wanted to remain truthful to cinema. There were times when it was difficult to carry on, but finally it was cinema itself that inspired me to go on.

Now my health has deteriorated, but my strength of mind is intact. I have just come back from a recce for my next film. It entailed continuous travel from morning to evening to find the correct location. It was tiring but I felt the same enthusiasm as I had even before I had started shooting Dooratwa.

You are a director whose cinema is heavily dependent on images. Where do you get them from?

I am greatly indebted to music, painting and poetry. My mother used to play the piano. She would tell us, “Don’t look at me, close your eyes and listen to the music.” That is how images started suggesting themselves to my mind. This is a process I follow even now. These images are not manipulated. Initially, I had to concentrate to bring images to my mind, but now with years of practice, they flow in effortlessly. I have never borrowed any image from cinema made by others.

Who or what were your inspirations?

I have been inspired by life, nature, sounds, paintings and literature. I also get inspired watching films. For me Luis Buñuel is one of the greatest filmmakers after Chaplin. After Buñuel, it is Andrei Tarkovsky and a few others.

You have made about five-six films every decade—which is roughly one film in two years. Are you happy with your pace?

I cannot achieve a faster pace. I need my solitude. I need to be with myself. Our minds are like earthen vessels for storing water. You have to let it fill up before you expect it to provide you with water for drinking. If you pour out from it often before it is filled up, it will soon be empty.

You have made 17 feature films. Which do you think has come closest to what you wanted to achieve?

It is very difficult for me to single out any film as my favourite. But if you insist, I would say I am happy with Bagh Bahadur, Uttara, Kalpurush and quite a few others. You know, sometimes I think of myself as Lakha, the central character of my film, Charachar. There is something of me which gets invested in every character I create. When I make films I go back to my childhood and borrow images from my past. You can’t call them autobiographical but I am there in each of these films.

What is your political vision?

My political ideals are reflected in my work, both poetry and cinema. Every political faith is linked to an ‘ism’. I have never toed the line of any political party or followed any particular ‘ism’.

What pains me is that creative people in India have now started committing themselves to different political parties. I think this is dangerous.

Even during the Emergency, you would have found voices against it. Unfortunately, now you will seldom find any.

Did you ever compromise?

I have never compromised with my work. If you look at West Bengal today, you will find that most creative people have sold themselves to the state in anticipation of some short-term benefits. I can’t accept this and I can’t participate in this. I have repeatedly been threatened and marginalised for choosing to remain outside the mainstream. This has harmed me and made me a loner.

In recent years, your films have had limited distribution in India. Do you feel bad about this?

Cinema has come down from its pedestal. The cinema we used to watch—even in the 90s—has become almost meaningless to many. Most of the images you see in today’s cinema seem shallow; they don’t motivate me. I’ve never compromised because I knew that I would never be happy trying to make films in a different way. I know I have an audience in India and I care for my viewers.

When you started out, film societies were in full swing. How relevant are they today?

The problem with film societies in India is that they don’t know that they are no longer relevant. They played a great role in creating and nurturing an audience by screening films in the 60s and 70s or even at the turn of the new millennium, when international films were not readily available in India. But I fear that in the name of promoting cinema, many film society people have silently promoted themselves.

Your latest film Tope means ‘Bait’. Who is the bait and who holds it out?

I think it is the system that holds out the bait for common citizens, inviting them to succumb to its lure. We find proof of this everywhere-in advertising, in politics. I think I have never seen a worse time than this. You can call it my political stance in a way.

What are your future plans?

I am planning to start shooting my next film in October, immediately after the Pujas. I have tentatively named it Urojahaj, meaning aeroplane.

It is my own story and is about the dreams of a person who wishes to revolt against the system that tries to curb him.