Cinema is a medium that can change your thought process – Om Puri
Veteran actor Om Puri is a name synonymous with versatility. In a career spanning over four decades, the actor has been part of mainstream, art house and international cinema. As his latest film Project Marathwada, that talks about the issues of farmers hits the big screens, we had the opportunity to catch up with the celebrated actor. Mr. Puri who is known for his unique style of acting talks to Pandolin about the film and his views on cinema made today.
In the past, you’ve worked with ace directors like Satyajit Ray, Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani, Gulzar and Richard Attenborough. How was it working with Bhavin Wadia,who’s making his debut with this film?
I had a very good experience. Bhavin has done a lot of research and spoken to a lot of farmers before writing the entire script. It is quite nice on the part of the producer to invest his money on such a film. I request the audience to remember the producer and not let his efforts go waste. It’s okay even if the film doesn’t make much profit but it should at least help the producer to raise the money he spent on making the film. Only then can the producer go forward and make more such films with social messages.
There was a time when both commercial and art films went hand – in – and. Nowadays, many commercial films are being made but art films have taken a back seat. What is your opinion?
See, these days, people hardly make films on villages, villagers and their problems. In earlier days, people did make films on villages. Nowadays, only films with city backgrounds are made or films are made for the city audience. And there are some nonsensical films that are being made which have no proper intentions and messages at all.
Once when these types of films come out, audience get a notion that these films are made for film festivals and thus the entertainment value of such films become too low. How do you react to it?
Cinema is a very capable medium that can change your thought process and perception of things. When directors, in the Golden Age of Indian Cinema (1950s – 60s), like Bimal Roy, Guru Dutt, Mehboob Khan, V Shantaram made films, they generally made social films. These films used to run in halls and people used to go and watch them too. The films had songs too, which had a particular intention, were uniquely poetic and the music used to be soft and soothing. Entertainment is also necessary. I am not saying that entertaining films should not be made. But, making this potential medium only a source of entertainment, is a sign of our ignorance. We need to make more of meaningful films and more people should realize their importance and think as to how can they contribute to it.
You are known in the industry for versatility. How is your role in Project Marathwada different from the roles you’ve done so far? Did you face any challenges while shooting?
I play the role of a small farmer who looks forward to a concession after a bad harvest and the unfortunate suicide of his son. I represent all those poor farmers who work in this immense heat, and don’t get the money they deserve after all thier hard work. They also have run around government offices for their concessions and subsidies. As far as the challenges while shooting are concerned, since it is a very sensitive issue to be portrayed in cinema, we had to be a bit careful with the dialogues, so that no one is hurt.
What message does the film aim to convey?
The government is giving subsidies and the law markers and leaders have announced it. The government clerks should fill up the forms, take signatures and give the subsidies in hand. Why should the poor farmers run around the city? They are farmers and not beggars. They are an integral part of our society. Around 40 years ago, we did not have much crops. Wheat used to come from America. But today we’ve enough food crops, actually more than enough. We can even help other poorer nations. But still isn’t it quite shameful that 15 farmers commit suicide every year? This film aims to reach out to the middle class people like you and me regarding these problems. This film also aims to reach out to the lawmakers in order to fasten the process of development regarding the subsidies and concessions and in order to curb the corruption in the process.