- October 1, 2005
Shekhar’s blog “Oscar shoscar.” had an interesting comment on regional films, which prompted me to look back at some of those that I have done. Many of the comments on his post were from very well informed people who, to my surprise, really valued regional films.
I say this because I have had many a well wishers say, “Why do you do these obscure films in regional languages that nobody watches?” Do they mean to say that all the people of Kerala, or Tamil Nadu or Bengal, or Karnataka or any other region of the country, don’t matter at all?!
Of the 28 feature films that I have acted in, 12 are disdainfully called “regional films”. For me doing a Kannathil Muthamittal in Tamil or an Aamar Bhuvan in Bengali were just as fulfilling, if not more so, than doing a film in Hindi. Actually let me correct myself, why am I even comparing? A Tamil or a Bengali film for me is no less or more than a film in Hindi or English. The criteria to choose a film remain the same, irrespective of the language. It is invariably the script, the director and the role, probably in that order! And sometimes it could simply be the director’s integrity and passion that is endearing and refreshing enough to take the plunge! Well, deciding on a project is always a gamble as you can never be sure how the film will finally shape up. All you can do is to make your choice honestly and for the right reasons (of course that again is subjective!).
It has not been easy to learn and emote in languages that are almost Greek to me. I remember how I would struggle with my Tamil and Malayalam dialogues the evening before the shoot and have nightmares about forgetting my lines! Even though I enjoy learning new languages, (and maybe that is why I think I have a flair for it), it is never easy; especially not at the beginning of a shoot- when all I want to do is run away! But having come that far, I dive right into it, and soon enough I am talking in my broken Tamil or Malyalam to just about everyone in the unit! And by the end of it, its yet another interesting experience. It is the same story every time I work in a language that is difficult for me!
All said and done, I have enjoyed being in films made in different parts of the country. Also, as Shekhar said, they are definitely more rooted, and being less pressured by commercial factors, less prone to compromises. There are stories to be told, there is talent to be explored and a cultural ethos to be learnt from, in all of these regions. Not to mention the variety of cuisine that one gets to savour in different nooks and corners of the country (my biggest vice is food and I am truly adventurous on this account!).
Recently I was trying to put my film clips together for the “Long Night of the Zurich Museum”, and I realized that it was almost impossible to find most “regional” films on DVD. Unfortunately, there is no distribution in place for these films outside the particular state they come from. Often my friends say, “You should do films that are more mainstream as it will make you more marketable and thereby will increase your chances of getting better roles in Hindi films.” May be they are right. It could probably also provide me with a bigger platform for the work I do in the social sector.
The eternal dilemma- do I do films that have a greater reach, but defy my sensibilities and I am unable to relate to, or do I do films that stir something within me, which I can connect with, but has a limited audience. Well I instinctively seem to have chosen the latter!