Of finer cinematic sensibilities
Filmmaker Ajita Suchitra Veera talks about the making of the film ‘Ballad of Rustom’ that was in Oscar contention for Best Picture in 2014 and her views on Indian cinema
Filmmaker Ajita Suchitra Veera looks cheerful. The last year had been an eventful one for her where she made a mark in the international cinema with her first feature film Ballad of Rustom . The two-hour full-length Hindi film with her original script and screenplay was in the Oscar ‘contention’ in 2014.
Having received international critical acclaim for the film, Ajita is looking forward to releasing the film’s release in the theatres this year. With a few science fiction projects in the pipeline and some Indo-Hollywood productions, the young filmmaker, who hails from Hyderabad, is brimming with energy. During an interview with MetroPlus , Ajita talks about the four-year-long journey that went into the making of the film Ballad of Rustom and her views on Indian cinema.
About the film ‘Ballad of Rustom’
The film is very close to my heart in many ways. It’s about a young man in a small town in India who is an amateur inventor. The film centres around the dreams of this young man and his little aspirations that people in the small town have. It is also a philosophical film and unique to Indian cinemas in many ways. It was a conscious decision to create a very stylistically different film. I wanted to have total artistic control over the film which is why I did the entire film on my own.
I am a science graduate and would have become a scientist when I switched paths and took to cinema. Both were my close passions, but cinema is a medium through which I can express myself.
The uniqueness of the film
Firstly, it is a film that is not structured with a beginning, middle and end. The film keeps cutting into Rustom’s dreams and his world — a slightly non-linear narrative which is one of the most important elements of the film. The other reason that makes is different is that it does not express everything through dialogue. There is a lot of space left for the audience to sit and wonder what is happening in the film. This I feel is very important where you are not trying to spoon-feed the audience like a formula film.
We shot the film on cinemascope and did a special processing on a negative which is called the bleach bypass. This takes away the colours to an extent and gives a kind of a de-saturated look. For me it works because it gives the feel of a painting.
The character of Rustom appealed to me for many reasons. Here is a small town guy, who is not very well educated but he has a great imagination. He is not your regular St. Stephen’s guy.
But probably he is much more than that. The idea was to bring such characters onto the Indian screen.
Have you come across such people like Rustom?
A lot of them. In fact, I was in Delhi at the Innovator’s festival where I met many young people from different parts of the country who were just high school graduates but they had come out with these strange and interesting innovations. There were girls who created a bike that started only when you wear a helmet. There are many such fascinating people making incredible discoveries.
Where did the journey in cinema begin for you?
As a kid I grew up in a very liberal atmosphere and watched a lot of European cinema. But the director who played a big role in enhancing my cinematic sensibilities was Satyajit Ray. I watched Pather Panchali when I was in high school and then many number of times later. It made a lot of impact on my mind. If you look deep into the film, it had many scientific elements in it. For instance, the shot in which little Apu creates the sundial.
Views on Indian cinema
I strongly think there is some kind of a spark happening in the Indian film industry. A slow movement where people are trying to experiment.
However, they are not great departures from what already has been done. I wish we have that space to do a film like Interstellar in India. My wish is create that space in cinema where you can do science fiction, detective stories and on an epic scale.
Independent cinema has a lot of liberty to experiment but the studios should come together to make films on large canvas on tasteful subjects without de-standardising them. We should experiment with the style as well. Unless you show the Indian audience something new, how can you expect their tastes to change?
My wish is create that space in cinema where you can do science fiction and detective stories on an epic scale.