For Kumar Shahani, one of the country’s most respected directors, life is a celebration and he feelsconfident that he has made use of every single drop of that wine called life.
However, he views that Indian cinema today lacks the same emotional
audacity and artistic instinct. “Globalisation has started taking a heavy toll on original art. Money is the prime emotion that drives everything. ‘Shringar’, the 'rasa' of creativity has been reduced to prostitution. When you have shunned all your creativity, how would you expect to understand good cinema?,” he asks.
He believes that manufactured emotions are being thrust on the audience as everyone is looking for instant gratification these days. “Patience and aesthetic sense are completely lost. The portrayal of sensuality and attraction should always be on a higher plane, not brought down to the level of vulgarity,” he says.
He fondly remembers his close associates and friends. “I was all in awe of the late Chandralekha, the renowned danseuse, who choreographed for my first film,’ Mahadarpan’. She was a person who celebrated her passion- dance. She got a lot of flak for being herself,” he says.
He also painfully remembers his long lost friend M F Hussain. “Hussain was somebody who was always true to himself and his art. He was seriously misunderstood, and banished from his motherland. We tried our best to bring him back. But the Indian Government was not ready to give him protection. It was painful to see his plight.”
About Malayalam films, he says there is a dearth of committed actors. “With heroines, talent goes out of the window after ‘ kalyanam’. I really do not understand the hue and cry caused over marriage. If it works, it’s okay. Otherwise leave it. Why should you sacrifice your talent for it?” he asks.
Though Shahani did his BA(honours) in political science and history, it was in films where he saw his ‘karma’ calling. " It happened as a sheer coincidence.” he says. He fondly remembers that it was his routine walks with his father that led him onto the path of film making. "Though I accompanied my father on his walks, I was too little to cover such greater distances with him. So he used to put me in any random movie theatre on the way and would pick me up when he returns.That’s how the wonderful world of cinema happened to me.”
Kumar Shahani was one among those who created ripples in the 60s. Sahani was also under the tutelage of the renowned filmmaker Ritwik Ghatak. “We used to fondly call him ‘dada’. Though he was an anarchist, he was full of passion for films,” he remembers.
“There was this incident which I still remember. Once he came to the classroom wearing an eye patch on one eye.
It seems he had got too drunk and had hurt himself. In his drunken state, he did not know how to get to the hospital. So he went to police and asked to be arrested.
The policeman said he couldn’t do that. Someone then ended up taking him to the hospital,” he says, remembering his mentor with great affection.
Kumar Shahani lives in London with his two daughters and sons -in-law. Shahani also have a Kerala connection, as his son-in -law is a Keralite from Thrissur. He says he loves the place and has plenty of hopes from it.
by Shalet Jimmy
published in the ' The New Indian Express'