Asking home audiences to “demand more” from their filmmakers, noted actor Naseeruddin Shah has said that in terms of quality and substance, Indian cinema still has “light years to go”.
“As far as quality and substance in our cinema is concerned, we have light years to go. There are the occasional glimpses of hope but too few and far between,” Naseeruddin Shah said.
The 63-year-old Indian thespian, who is in Singapore for one-night for the staging of the play ‘A Walk In The Woods’, that talks of relationship between India and Pakistan.
Naseeruddin Shah plays a Pakistani diplomat and actor Rajit Kapoor is his Indian counterpart.
The original play by American playwright Lee Blessing has been adapted to feature the tense ties between India and Pakistan, the two nuclear-armed neighbours.
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Talking about the Indian audience psyche, the actor said, “Our audiences are too easily satisfied. I wish they demand more,” the Straits Times today quoted Naseeruddin Shah as saying.
“Until that happens, we will go on churning out the same brain-dead stuff we have been churning out the last 100 years,” Naseeruddin Shah said.
Pointing to the treatment of the play featuring the cross-border nations, the actor said, it is “free from Bollywood stereo-types”, and, it was important.
“I refuse to see any jingoistic Indian film, but it is futile to blame commercial cinema for pandering to the basest possible instinct – that is its function,” Naseeruddin Shah said.
On the adaption, the acclaimed actor said, “It was no point doing the original”, and that the India-Pakistan setting “made for engrossing and meaningful drama”.
“We feel that the issues in this play, namely friendship and peaceful co-existence, are important. It offered a possibility to study these well-meaning people with references
to the problems that exist between the two countries,” he said.
And, Naseeruddin Shah felt, “the way to exorcise this visceral hatred for the other is to try and make a friend on the other side…We hope we are contributing to this cause by presenting the Pakistani character as a sensitive though gregarious person who talks sense, instead of the bumbling idiot he is always presented as in Hindi cinema”.
The play is directed by Shah’s wife Ratna Pathak Shah.