Filmmaker Onir, on his role as producer of acclaimed ‘Chauranga’, factors that drive his art of filmmaking and double standards of Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).
In 2014 at 16th Mumbai Film Festival, Chauranga was much appreciated and bagged Golden Gateway of India Award too. Now that the film is releasing for mass audience on January 8, what are you expectations?
Last year when Chauranga was screened at MAMI and even now when it is being released for mass audience, for me, it’s more or less the same. To an extent I have observed that the Indian audiences have become bold, generous and are ready to accept such films which are unconventional. In terms of business if you say, I work beyond that. I am not a filmmaker who measures the success of a film on the basis of box office collection. I love working on projects that I am happy with and feel connected. Chauranga is among the list of those films that makes me smile when I am back home and recollect my hard work over a cup of coffee.
It’s exactly a decade for you in bollywood. How do you see your growth over a period of time and industry too?
I am going through mixed emotions actually. When I started, the industry was taking off with unconventional subjects, but today it is in full swing and I feel that is worth appreciation. But, the most disappointing part is with the double standards of CBFC. Even with my latest project Chauranga, what the board did was they showed the dual mentality towards filmmakers and I feel suffocated with such behavior. I think in this era of internet, where we have access to all type of content, what is the purpose of censoring the scenes. Words like bold and obscene are very subjective in nature and hold different meaning to every individual; and censoring scenes on the name of it is injustice to the audience. I am of strong opinion that there should be no censoring in films on the name of entertainment. Filmmakers are also part society and as far as Indian audiences are concerned they are sensible enough to understand the context.
With Chauranga you will debut as a producer. So, this role had limitations or you were at ease while working with Bikas Ranjan Mishra?
In a way I am debuting and in a way not, because before this I have produced all my films. The only difference here is that I am not directing the film. It was never forceful, I opted to be the producer, because when the film was developed at the Screenwriter’s lab in 2011, I had a strong sense that Bikas has better understanding of the place and people where the story is established and he can do justice to it. The role came to me with much freedom than limitations and I was very much part of every single thing in the film.
In a recent interview Sanjay Suri had said that you people work on films that you both like. So what kind of films Onir like and associate with?
Films that have strong storyline and a grasping plot forces me to get associated with. If you look at my track record, my films never have celebrated artists, but yes they have strong content and a message that is seamlessly flavored throughout the film. Entertainment is like fruit and flower of the film, but strong plot and story works as root and I like working on root.
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When it comes to filmmaking, what drives you as a filmmaker?
I am driven by great real life stories and relationships. When I make a film, the story needs to be strong and should have emotions that stimulate my energy, because every film is a work of craft and hard work. During the course of making the film I try to live each character, similar to the way I did with my next directorial project ‘Shab’ which is all about human relations and is expected to release in first half of 2016. While shooting I lived each character. The best part of doing so is that, it keeps you motivated inside and at the same time keeps the flow of film picture perfect.
As Chauranga is set in remote area of Jharkhand, was shooting an easy job or it was a tough call?
Certainly it was a tough call. Chauranga was majorly filmed at Santiniketan and in Orissa. During the shooting schedule it was heavy monsoon in Kolkata plus there were union rules at Santiniketan that made the entire process more challenging. Even in Orissa as we chose to shoot the film in a very remote location, right from travelling to resource management everything became challenging for the entire crew. But when I saw the final output, it was satisfying and it paid off with Golden Gateway of India Award last year.