India - Interviews
Watershed - India resurges in the global scene by virtue of the strength of its economy and the potential of its market. Does economic success naturally generate greater interest in the culture of a country?
Ibirá Machado - I would say not only economic success of a country generates more interest in its culture but also the country itself feels more capable of externally promoting its own culture. Much of this has been happening in India. If on the one hand, she has been enjoying an enviable economic performance that puts her on the agenda and the world starts wanting to consume what she offers, on the other hand, she herself matures the offer mechanisms of what she produces. The cinema, obviously, is one of the anchors of this movement as far as its cultural production is concerned.
WS - How do you see India today: is it a country that really desires to become a superpower or a country that looks more to itself?
IM - I think that the wanting to become a superpower has been gaining significant importance that cannot be denied. However, the last at least five thousand years of civilization are also present in a very intensive form. Young people are seen not knowing how to react to the desire for modernization and westernization and how to do that maintaining the traditions; or how to transform that in a healthy manner.
WS - How has this global projection influenced the Indian cinema?
IM - The Indian cinema is undergoing a profound transformation that began right at the beginning of the years 2000. They are transformations that concern the updating of cinematographic resources in practically every sense. There were changes in the forms of doing scripts and themes to be approached, forms of filming in general, capturing of sound, in music, acting…and that came obviously with an increase in the budget for productions, which was practically concomitant with the rise of multiplexes on all sides of the big cities.
WS - The Mostra selected films that deal with themes related to the Indian identity. How has the cinema contributed to the search and understanding of this identity?
IM - Just as with any art of a country, in some way the cultural identity ends up being represented. Alternatively, if it is not exactly that way, the implicit and explicit desires of the people appear naturally. The Indian cinema, as a cultural phenomenon. The Indian cinema, like every unmatched cultural phenomenon in the world, always had a very important role in the strengthening of national and regional identities in the country, promoting and strengthening socially recommended behavior centuries ago. At the same time, however, the Indian cinema also brought to the screen possibilities that, in real life would be almost impossible, giving hope and sometimes even provoking small revolutions.
WS - What are the impacts of the Partition in 1947? Is there a Pakistani component in the Indian identity?
IM - I would say that the Indian identity includes Pakistan and Bangladesh, as well as India itself, since it was in this entire region that the entire Indian civilization developed. The Partition is historically something very recent and does not concern the conflict of identities but of interests. Nowadays, unfortunately, it is common to see apparent certain anger on the part of Indians (Hindus above all) in relation to Pakistan, and that appears often in the cinema. That anger comes from the times of the Partition itself when the greatest exodus of the history of humanity occurred when thousands were brutally murdered, and therefore, ended up causing a cycle of terrorism that until today has not finished. That without mentioning the atomic bomb that both countries saw themselves as being obliged to develop. However, underneath it all, and in essence, they are brothers.
WS - Many Bollywood productions are done in Urdu and have a large audience in Pakistan. Could culture be the flagship for peace between these countries?
IM - It is not exactly in Urdu but a language that mixes vocabularies of Hindi and Urdu, since in practice both are the same language. This mixed language that can be called Hindustani, is that which is becoming more and more spoken in the North of India. I do believe that cultural interchange can contribute with strength to the bringing together of two countries. However, in the case of India and Pakistan, I am of the opinion that between them it should not even be considered interchange, since they are already of a same culture. If it depended on me, both countries would produce culture together; in fact, if it depended on me they would never have separated. However, since it does not depend, I hope that individually the inhabitants of the two countries may change their consciences in the direction of peace.
WS - How does the Indian Diaspora contribute to the internationalization of the Indian cinema? Does this internationalization go through an adaptation of the “product” for the European and North American publics?
IM - The Indian Diaspora was and is fundamental for the exportation of the Indian cinema. Still today, the films from India enjoy significant projection in countries with Indian communities, having little by little conquered local populations too. In dozens of cases, although not all, several films that are exhibited outside India end up being “adapted”, which means a reduction of scenes, dancing...although I think that several films in fact did not need to have certain scenes of dancing and music in determined moments, I also disagree that these films should be altered in accordance with the public who sees them. If it is made in a certain way, let it be shown that way to Indians and the world.
WS - What are the main centres of cinematographic production in India?
IM - The most important in terms of budget and numbers of production are Bollywood (in Hindi), based in Mumbai, inMaharashtra; Kollywood (in Tamil based in Chennai, in Tamil Nadu; and Tollywood (in Telugu), based in Hyderabad, in Andhra Pradesh.
WS - Commercial and cultural relations between Brazil and India are incipient, bearing in view the richness and diversity that both present. What initiatives can be taken in the direction of increasing this interchange?
IM - I find it very unexplainable that we do not have more commercial and cultural exchanges between Brazil and India. As a first step, the large Indian corporations should come to Brazil as fast as possible and the large Brazilian corporations go to India. Once that is done, the Indian companies in Brazil should start a continuous investment cycle in Indian culture around here taking advantage of the resources that Brazilian legislation offers for this. There is much to be explored, suffice it for someone to really start.
WS - How did your interest in the Indian cinema start and develop?
IM - My interest in the Indian cinema came together with an interest in India, which was many years ago. However, going to India totally changed my direction in this regard. I went there in 2008 and saw close up what is in fact the cinema in this country - something that is very difficult to imagine without feeling it personally. On returning to Brazil, I was shocked by the fact that at that time, there was nothing in Portuguese on the Indian cinema. That without referring to the fact of having discovered that an Indian film had never come to Brazil, except two or three in VHS/DVD. Thus my work began, which came really with a desire to cover this giant lacuna.
WS - Who are your favorite directors and actors?
IM - As the Indian cinema has many facets, I will respond in the same way, and not limit myself to one of each. In terms of the industry I much admire the work of Aamir Khan, be it as an actor or director. In the middle term between the cinema of the industry and the independent cinema, I quite like what directors Dibakar Banerjee, Anurag Kashyap and Shyam Benegal are doing. In the independent cinema, as such, there are interesting things being done by Rajat Kapoor, Nandita Das, Rahul Bose (both as actors and as directors), Aparna Sem, Piyush Jha, Onir...and there are others but I will stop here.
WS - As a researcher, what are the challenges and pleasures of the process of choosing films for the Mostra?
IM - For me, one of the greatest challenges is not being able to bring all the films I would like since there are various hitches and impediments on the way. Even so, what we manage is an immense achievement, since the Indian cinema is still unknown around here.
WS - From the 16 films, which is your favorite?
IM - There are two: Theeviravaathi: The Terrorist, by Santosh Sivan, and Pather Panchali (The song of the road), by Satyajit Ray.
WS - How do Brazilians see India and the Indian cinema?
IM - As something very exotic - that when the comments are not worse. It is understandable that it is so, since there was never an effort to show a more realistic image of India. What are popularly known of the Indian cinema are some dancing scenes that were satirized on the internet, that without talking about some bizarre scenes that are practically no longer made nowadays in the Indian cinema. Moreover, having only these popularized images and directly related to the cinema of India, it is almost impossible to think that India can produce quality films. It is unnecessary to say that that should change.
WS - How do the Indians see Brazil and the Brazilian cinema?
IM - Brazil is seen over there also as a very exotic country, with a very different culture from theirs. Moreover, all the baggage that was sold on Brazil over the XX century is there, relating to beaches, women, football, carnival; in relation to the Brazilian cinema, it is totally unknown there.
WS - What do you most like about India apart from the cinema?
IM - The fact of India being a millenary and live civilization is what attracts me so much. Moreover, there is over there some resemblance to Brazil- and that is a mystery that I would not know how to answer to, but I know that captures me.
WS - If you were to make a film on India today, what would be the theme, location and cast you would choose?
IM - In reality, I am in a project of a film in India that basically talks about the small revolutions that may occur when the wish to do something different gains a collective weight, questioning repetitive attitudes at the same time as it maintains a respect for the established ones. That is relatively far from large cities.
WS - Your next projects?
IM - Apart from that film, we intend to professionalize the organization of our Mostra for next year, getting sponsorship, and who knows, being able to bring some personality, for example.
Interview by Marcos Guedes Pereira