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Interview -Little Magazine-Madras

Mamallan-From your short film 'the solitary sand piper'-I read that you are interested in the subjective world of the artist..that seeks to be one with nature..what does spirituality mean to you?

Ajita-Yes..the artist’s inner world is what interests me..the inner landscape of his memories,dreams and desires- which is often elusive and camouflaged by his outer being…

Mamallan-Your film travels so poetically on the invisible line between the real and the surreal..as if both are one..How did you achieve this intense experience..did you give room to spontaneity apart from the script..what kind of process did you follow?

Ajita-Well…it’s interesting that you have actually felt that ambiguity throughout..for I leave a lot of gaps for the viewer to transpose himself and enter the world being depicted on the screen..and I leave that experience to him alone..the boundaries between dream and reality are definitely very obscure..and I conceived it that way..the scripting was very tight and I worked out the whole structure quite meticulously but I believe that cinema and filmmaking can never exist without that element of chance and lot of the times filmmaking is defined by chance..and what you call spontaniety was definitly a part of the process -we improvised some scenes and left a lot of room for inspiration from the environment and location - but the actors did go through preparation..and dialogues were thoroughl;y rehearsed…

Mamallan-The pratogonist of the film seems to have lived the experience..such a intense and meticulous performance by the actor.how did you cast her for the film and what is the style you adopt to direct an actor?

Ajita-…infact the woman who played the lead role..was never my intended actor..she happened to be a friend visiting India at that point and had shared and exchanged ideas on cinema with me..she was also helping me as a double for my main lead and rehearsed the lines for my benefit everyday..as luck would have had it..my main actor could not make it to my shoot due to other compulsions..so I cast my friend - the indonesian -yes the fact that she was rehearsing each day - and had discussed lot of things with me and understood the nuances of the character..and had so fallen in love with the role herself..just helped the film more…I work both ways..sometimes I go for extensive preplanning and rehearsals..other times I just work with the script to create my mis-en-scene and go right into filming without any rehearsals - but yes the emotional life of the actors is important for me…if you see the “Ghost” played by another friend-(both actors were non-professional actors-they never acted before)Sharmin Kharrazi is quite good even without saying a word..the depth in her persona is astonishing..and she performed like a seasoned actress..she was right in the first takes most of the time..and with the limited footage we had-she was a blessing..she performed the swimming sequence in one take…!!

Mamallan-.The images of the film and the vision of you as a filmmaker have become one..the chemistry seems to me very promising and strong..as a filmmaker what kindof relationship you share with your cinematographer?..do you agree that cinematographer is a co-author of a film?

Ajita-The cinematographer is definitely a collaborator in the creative process but I strongly believe in the “auteur” ..for the vision of the film is defined by him…and the film is the crystallisation of his subconscious…which is moulded and sculpted and chiselled at each stage by various other artisans..through his constant interaction with them..for the soul of the film exisits with his vision alone..so I cannot agree to the idea of cinematographer being co-author..by that I do not undermine him..he is an artist and collaborator and his role is very well defined, it is finally the film working as a whole which defines cinema..and the auteur’s vision is unique - no single element of the film can exist in isolation but only as a composite whole and each element -be it acting,music,image- works with other elements to create that unified whole called the film-and none can have a meaning on their own...i’m often baffled by people who come to me and talk about a particular film that- cinematography was great but the film was bad..what does that mean??

Mamallan-.The film is in many ways a shift from the modern world,the technology and machines.The return of the pratogonist to the urban landscape shown with the advertising hoarding behind,still lingers in my mind..do you feel that people are going against nature in the name of technology and power..?..what do you think is the role of an artist at this fearfull positioning of mankind?

Ajita-People have been going against nature since the advent of mankind..and I think today we are seeing the devastation caused by the modern world..otherwise why are we seeing these unprecedented changes - the Tsunami was one of the worst disasters precipitated by the modern man’s destruction of nature

Mamallan-I would like to call your film as cinema..rather than indian cinema..etc.,your film tries to transcend boundries and express the innate nature of mankind..but how do you confront with the term identity or indian identity..?

Ajita-I’ve always believed cinema should aspire for the universal..but I think unfortunately we ourselves are so confused about this state..what is universal..??while today we see ourselves as global citizens..are we really that broadminded??are nations and races willing to accept each other??the idea of global and universal are so different..the global is defined by nations and power….the universal aspires for the oneness of humanity..art should be able to transcend all boundaries -why is it that a Wongkarwai film is accepted by so many different people from different cultures? even though it is so rooted in some ways in eastern culture?? it is difficult for an artist aspiring for the universal today..because the artist has to function within his nation’s aspirations of him..and while he may not be accepted in his own nation - paradoxically he may be accepted outside his own country for his work and may forever be split between his aspirations for cinematic standards and to be the voice of the nation and his acceptability in his own country…so it’s tough the aspiration for universality..specially in your own nation…

Mamallan-How do you see the Digital era in cinema?. Many Artists feel that they are now able to express themselves freely and independently (of course we also get to see so much trash due to the enormous population of digtal films)..do you see this a good sign for the independent artists?

Ajita-I think the Digital era is interesting..in a way it makes filmmaking more and more democratic and more people will be able to make films perhaps..but the discipline of film- and working with film is very enriching and it makes you respect the medium more with dignity…with digital there is always scope for frivolous experimentation ..but there are many filmmakers going digital today for it’s sheer convenience and it’s cost..it is cheap and more intimate sometimes..one has to wait and watch though..I like it’s spontaneity..and it’s sheer convenience ,..but I’d prefer film for it’s aesthetic value and it’s discipline and strength..

This Interview was done by Mamallan for Little Magazine-Madras,a film journal on Cinema.



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