In 2011,Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi shot to world-wide fame with his domestic drama A Separation,which bagged the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Apart from international recognition,the Oscar proceedings and related travels ensured that the 41-year-old filmmaker spent time with French actress Berenice Bejo,Peppy Miller of The Artist that won multiple Oscar awards including one for Best Film that year. They ended up discussing several ideas and finally decided to work on Le Passe (The Past). This movie shows an Iranian man travelling to Paris to seek divorce from his wife,who has now found a new lover much to the dismay of her daughter. The movie,which fetched Bejo Best Actress trophy at the Festival de Cannes earlier this year,is Irans official entry for the Oscars and a favourite on the festival circuits. In the city to head the jury for India Gold competition at the Mumbai Film Festival,Farhadi talks about his cinema and process.
Like A Separation,Le Passe explores the relationship between a couple heading for divorce. What draws you to such stories?
This kind of cinema is very close to reality. The recurring theme in all my movies is the focus on families. This gives a scope to talk about relationships and their complexities. When one talks about families,there can be children,old people,as well as wife and husband in the story. A family can be a symbol of a society.
When I talk about human relationships,I believe it helps me understand myself better. Its like opening a window to myself. I would have been someone else had I not made these movies.
How important are moral dilemmas and religious issues to your stories?
For me,it is more important to talk about morality than religion. In some countries,there is a deeper link between morality and religion. In A Separation,one can see they are interlinked. In Le Passe,the role of religion is less and its more about morality.
What made you cast Berenice Bejo in the movie after she had played such a perky character in The Artist?
When I was in America to show A Separation,Berenice was there for The Artist. We ended up meeting and talking quite a lot. When I saw The Artist,I thought she had done a fantastic job. Thats how I thought of casting her in my movie. While making the movie,I lived in Paris for two years,and now I am back in Iran.
Is Le Passe going to release in India?
We have plans of showing the movie in India. We are thinking
of doing that sometime after
The Indian and Iranian societies have several similarities. Would you ever consider making a movie in India?
Iran and India have similar roots. Emotionally,our culture has been quite close to each other. I have received a couple of offers from India in the past. When a story comes to my mind that requires me to work in India,I will definitely do so. The same goes for other international projects. Right now I am mulling over two projects one set in Iran and the other needs to be shot in international locations.
As for India,I have travelled to festivals with my movies several times. In Iran,Indian movies,especially the commercial ones,used to be very popular. In one of my early movies,there is a scene which shows people watching Sholay.
You are an acclaimed screenwriter as well as director. How integral is writing to your craft?
The most enjoyable time for me while making a movie is when I am writing. Most of my time is spent on writing three hours every day. For a long time I wrote short notes. Then I collected those notes and tried to weave them together into a bigger story. I spent a year thinking about A Separation. Once I had finalised what the story would be,writing it took two to three months. Le Passe demanded more time than that.
You did theatre during the early years of your career. Are you still involved with it?
I studied theatre and worked in it for nearly six years. Sadly,there is not enough time for it now.
In Iran,filmmakers have often faced censorship problems. Has the government become more open-minded now?
The situation is better now. I believe younger directors will see a more positive time ahead.