Not quite the angry, young man

Ambika Shaligram
Saturday, 12 January 2019

Filmmaker Govind Nihalani, who was in the city to attend PIFF, spoke candidly on filmmaking and learning from playwright Vijay Tendulkar

Govind Nihalani calls a spade, a spade. But he gives adequate thought before saying so. The cinematographer-director for films like Aakrosh, Ardh Satya, Thakshak, Anumati and Tee Aani Itar speaks in an unhurried manner, giving you the satisfaction of hearing your question carefully and answering it in depth. In the city to inaugurate 17th Pune International Film Festival’s (PIFF) new initiative PIFF Forum, Nihalani spoke candidly on the changing technology in filmmaking, his interest in literature and his association with the late playwright Vijay Tendulkar who scripted his movies. 

A trained cameraman, Nihalani turned a filmmaker with specialisation in cinematography. Having worked with 35 mm film, which continues to be his favourite medium, Nihalani is welcoming of technology. Says he, “Technology is always designed to make things easier, better. Things are improving every day. We have to accept changes. New technology gives you new ideas, new ways of creating images. There will be some who would like to experiment with celluloid now. But we have to take into account how and where we will store the raw stock? I would say that technology will challenge you as a filmmaker, it will make you think and see what you can think, imagine. I am a very optimistic person. We are living in exciting times.”

By his own admission, Nihalani learnt the craft and tricks of his trade at Shree Jaya Chamrajendra Polytechnic in Bengaluru. But considering the technological advancement and newer mediums of learning, would he still recommend learning filmmaking from an institute? Rima Das, whose movie Village Rockstars, is the Indian nomination for Academy Awards, learnt her skills from YouTube tutorials. What does that say?

“Theoretically, you don’t have to go to an institute to make cinema,” he says, gesturing, to the film posters put up by National Film Archive at the venue. “This work is by masters. They were not trained, but those who are trained today, they are at an advantage. By the time they come out of the institute, they are far more technologically conscious, they are tech savvy. This gives them more time, more opportunity to use their imagination and ideas,” he says. 

When the conversation moves to his films, which portray lot of anger and violence, Nihalani credits it to his writers, especially noted playwright the late Vijay Tendulkar. “His contribution to script writing is seminal. It has a tremendous influence on me, how I look at cinema, my characters. Even now, when I read something, I try to imagine it visually. Tendulkar’s writing was complete. When he wrote, he wrote for cinema and not for a play.  His contribution as a script writer to Indian cinema has not been fully recognised. In fact, all the writers must get their due,” he adds. 

At present, Nihalani is reading Perumal Murugan’s One Part Woman, which was originally written in Tamil as Madhorubagan. Ironically, Murugan came under the fire of religious groups for the same book and the writer had declared that he won’t write again. Nihalani says, “Perumal Murugan is a fine writer.” 

Responding to questions on censorship, self-censorship, he says, “Censorship should be avoided. If there is a war, or there is communal or social tension, then you should restrict the work for certain period of time. After that, it should be allowed to be seen by everyone. In today’s world, with so much communication across countries and cultures, censorship doesn’t seem to be very important. The committee members of censor board have seen inclusion of young people, so the minds will change.”

When asked how film industry should respond to fringe elements opposing the release of movies, Nihalani says, “These people should be allowed to speak. Once they speak, they know that they are talking bakwas. They will know their level. People should be allowed to agree or disagree, but at no cost should movies be banned from being released in theatres.” He signs off with saying that he will be bringing one of his works in the public domain this year. What it will be, remains to be seen.

Related News