Lack of Original Ideas Ended Alternative Cinema Movement: Ratna Pathak Shah
A still from 'Khoobsurat'.
New Delhi Ratna Pathak Shah worked actively in the alternative cinema of '70s and '80s but the actress feels the movement, which attracted a lot of young artistes like her, eventually faded away as there was a lack of original stories.
The Kapoor & Sons star says interesting roles and the youthful desire to change the world motivated a lot of urban, educated actors to do such movies.
"There was this nice little youthful business that we are going to make these films and change the world. I did not see that happening. The film's that were made were better than others but they were not going to appeal to everyone," the actress told PTI.
"The movement faded because a lot of the people who made films like these did not have many more interesting stories to tell. The whole movement sort of petered out." She says at its peak, it was a huge thing for them to discover films such as Ankur, Nishant, Bhavni Bhavai, Mandi, Mirch Masala, Ardh Satya, Sparsh and Paar.
Ratna, 59, believes the alternative cinema was talking about things that mainstream Hindi films were not addressing. "For a lot of urban kids growing up at that time who did not know what life was like in rural India, it was a huge thing to discover films like Mirch Masala Manthan or Paar. They gave us parts which were different from mainstream. What kind of part would I get in a Hindi movie? They did not think I would be suitable for running around trees.
"These kind films offered us some opportunity. I got little even in these films. The big reason for us to do these films was because we did not get interesting work outside. We all did TV and other movies to run families but everytime we got a role in an interesting film, we wanted to participate."
Recalling the time she spent working on Ketan Mehta's Mirch Masala, which was recently screened as part of Zee Classic's India's Finest Films, Ratna says the film made her realise how easy her life had been. "During the filming, I remember thinking 'Is this how Zamidars behave with women? Is this how people survive? These films brought us in contact with reality which as urban people we did not know existed. It was true for me and a lot of my friends."
Mirch Masala was unique in the sense that it saw the actress working with her mother Dina Pathak, sister Supirya and husband Naseeruddin Shah, who was in the role of the antagonist opposite Smita Patil.
"There was my family and at least a dozen friends. We all felt that we were one big family when we were working on that film. We came from similar background and a lot of us were educated in the same way, going to the film institute and drama school. We all believed that we were there to change the world. It was a special time, definitely."
Ratna says Mirch Masala was made with a lot of difficulty as they never had enough money. "Much shabbier and stupider films were made with much more money than films like Mirch Masala or Ketan's other film Bhavni Bhavai or Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron. It was incredible with the way everyone came together. We were hardly paid anything.
"These films were made with a lot of difficulty. There were many hardships, confusions and fights. The fun is when you see a whole film like this put together. That it worked out in the end was great. I remember being extremely unhappy during the making because I was not getting what I wanted to do."
The actress says despite the hardships during the shooting, Mirch Masala was an eye opener for her.
"Working in a field full of drying red chillies is extraordinarily hard on your breathing apparatus. All of us were coughing all the time but the women who worked there regularly were doing it without turning a hair.
"It was such an eye opening experience for me. I thought 'This is the kind of hardship and difficulty that people work with on a daily basis and here I am a little girl from urban place pretending to be a village girl. I learnt a lot out of that."