A tete-a-tete with the veteran actor:
What ails NFDC and what do you intend to do about it?
My association with the organization goes back to the mid-1970s. NFDC has contributed to my career. In recent times the impact of non-mainstream cinema, which NFDC made, has slowed down. Though I won’t say it’s completely gone but filmmakers like Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani and Ketan Mehta who spearheaded the movement towards a different cinema have moved towards films with big stars.
How do you think the offbeat movement that the NFDC championed can be revived?
The importance of music to our cinema has been undermined. Gulzar, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Bimal Roy, Raj Kumar Santoshi and Mani Rathnam made meaningful films within the musical format. However, offbeat filmmakers have been shying away from music and songs, whether to be different or westernized, I don’t know. But music is part of the Indian ethos. That needs to be corrected. Stars need to value the other cinema. Only then will the NFDC films get commercial viability.
Do you think the NFDC has contributed to shaping the way Indian cinema is today?
The organization’s contribution was that it picked up new talent. Shyam Benegal, who’s associated with the NFDC, had an eye for talent. He spotted Smita Patil as a TV newsreader. NFDC backed projects starring actors Smita and Shabana. Even now NFDC is producing five films with new directors, but within small budgets. NFDC cannot afford to be emotional about films they pick up. We’ve to be ruthless and produce films that have commercial viability. You can promote filmmakers through script workshops but to produce films with untried directors seems risky today. We need to produce films that have potential to draw audiences. It’s not necessary to feature stars. The script has to be interesting.
But stars have to cut down their prices to do an NFDC film?
What’s wrong with that? I did Dhoop for NFDC for peanuts. I wanted to do it. No big star will work in an NFDC film. But stars like Paresh Rawal, Vinay Pathak, Rajat Kapoor or me would be interested in working on a corporative basis. The actor can become a shareholder in the film, share in the profits and then dissolve the corporative after the film is complete. But the main star is the script. And like I said songs should be included.