After kicking up a controversy and winning a National Award for Inshallah Football,indie director Ashvin Kumar tells Talk why he wants to join “duh” Bollywood.
Sitting across the table at a Khan Market cafe,39-year-old indie film director Ashvin Kumars stern,controversy-hardened countenance gives little away. You want to know how I felt in Kashmir while filming Inshallah Football? No amount of media reports had prepared me for such horror, he says of the film that won a National Award in the Film on Social Cause category last week.
Despite winning one of the biggest honours in India,the film remains mired in problems. Inshallah Football,about Basharat Baba,an 18-year-old football player who cannot go on an exchange programme to Brazil because his father was an ex-militant,got an A certificate from the censor board. Kumar rolls his eyes. In the film,ex-militants talk of the torture they went through (without a single visual). I havent represented,shown or reenacted any of it. An A certificate here seems grossly unfair, he says,adding with a helpless smile,I havent even generated any revenue to appeal again and again. My poor financier (actor Javed Jaffrey) is crying.
Kumars biggest disdain,however,is reserved for Bollywood; he makes no attempts to hide it. Labelling it as the Duh! moment for the industry,Kumar says that he feels flabbergasted just talking about it. So the next moment is one of irony as he confesses that his sleeves are rolled up for his first Bollywood project,Hype. It is complete with a star cast,music,dancing,the works, he says,momentarily hit,perhaps,by his own polarised stand.
For someone who denounces commercial cinema dependent on stars and revenue,this choice does suggest creative inconsistency . For long,Ive been concerned about the values we showcase to the young generation with an overemphasis on trappings of success. Ive taken on this concern of empowerment cloaked in aspiration which has become a sort of cultural artefact, he says.
Kumar visits it through a 22-year-old woman who comes to chauvinistic Delhi and is introduced to the materialistic high society. Weve created an economy of aspirations,or even greed. The leading lady comes out smiling in the end,but not without extreme psychological damage to herself, he reveals. I love the idea of the irreverent and the brash,living in confusion and upheavals. I see it with a lot of fondness because I was also a part of it. Delhi is a perfect setting because it suffers from so many problems, adds Kumar.
A social message might be unavoidable given Kumars resume as a director which,since 2004,has involved experimental social cinema. His critically acclaimed film,Little Terrorist,was the first Indian Oscar nominee in the category of Live Action Short Film in 2004. Inshallah Kashmir: Living Terror,a documentation of the narratives of Kashmiris who live in fear of oppression,was released free online on Independence Day this year. Another film,The Forest,after a wait of two years and an ongoing censorship struggle,will release on May 11 in collaboration with PVRs Directors Rare.
He has the Hype,then some more. Will Hype extend a hope? Inshallah.