Bollywood is An Enormous Elephant in the Room…

 

Is the honest observation by Venita Coelho, the only Goan on the Indian Jury. HERALD gets her views

CHRISTINA VIEGAS goasheartbeat@ herald- goa. com Tell us a little about your selection on the Indian Jury. How did it happen? I was surprised by a call from the Deputy Director of the festival, Tanu Rai. I am so used to living my activist avatar in Goa, that few people know that I am also a film writer and maker.

… And on the pride and honour of being the only Goan on the jury? Being the only Goan on the jury meant that I got to be a bridge for the other jury members to a better understanding of our state. I am always happy to be able to explain that Goa is about much more than just sunshine, sand and the carnival.

Are you happy with the selection of the films in this section? We had over 140 films to watch and choose from. What was frightening was the number of films that were technically awful. Since the explosion of the digital age, everyone is buying a digital camera and attempting a movie. But the final selection we made was very satisfying because it was such a wide range of films. From ‘ Bandhon’, which is a classic by Jahnu Barua, to ‘ I. D’. which is a cutting edge experiment with digital shooting, we have a really interesting spread.

Isn’t it true that despite celebrating 100 years of Indian cinema, majority of the spotlight is on Bollywood films? Unfortunately Bollywood dominates our national imagination, our myth making and our entertainment. It’s like an enormous elephant in the room. You can’t ignore it – and it takes up an enormous amount of space. Yes, the spotlight is on Bollywood films – but look at the size of that particular elephant! For instance, with due respect to Akshay Kumar, isn’t it strange that he was our chief guest at the inaugural? I am in full agreement with that. If IFFI is meant to encourage great cinema, then surely we should be choosing a personality that better represents that. I see no need to keep choosing ‘ eyeball grabbers’ or ‘ stars’. The stars for IFFI should be great films and great film makers.

Do you agree that a commercial film such as ‘ Tohfa’ ( made during a period when Indian cinema saw some of the worst films) fits into an international film festival? I have no say on that. I can only stand up for the films that I personally chose. And we agonized over our choices. It was 22 days of non- stop film viewing before we chose to the best of our abilities.

As jury member, kindly expound on your role? Imagine getting to see films from across India, from all states, in various languages – the best of the output of an entire year of filmmaking.

It was a fantastic opportunity. It was also an experience that left me worried. We had to wade through just such enormous volumes of bad films to get to the good ones. A lot of really bad cinema is being produced by India. Money is being spent and spent terribly.

We urgently need somebody to step forward and start arming would- be film makers with technical skills. As digital technology gets cheaper we will see an explosion of do- it- yourself directors. The need of the hour is more film institutes, cheaper and more accessible courses and higher standards of teaching.

Finally, what would you like to tell our Goan audiences and film delegates from India and abroad about Indian cinema? I was really impressed by the Goan film ‘ Digant’. It is a very simply told story but a very profound one. It tells the story of how Goans are living right now – of loss of identity, loss of land, loss of values. Congratulations to the makers. I was very happy to have a Goan film make it to the shortlist – and one that told the story of real Goa, not the Goa constructed by the tourism department. [H]