There's a Real Dearth of Good Producers in India, Says Nandita Das
Nandita Das, who turned 50 today, talks about the scarcity of good producers and the struggles of independent filmmakers in India.
During an insightful session with Dutch-Palestinian filmmaker Hany Abu Assad at the MAMI 21st Mumbai Film Festival, filmmaker Nandita Das said it's extremely difficult for a first-time or second-time director in India to find a home for their relevant and urgent voice.
Das, who broke new ground for independent cinema in the country, feels the emerging filmmakers are not being met with the right kind of support they need once the film is completed.
"In India, there is a real dearth of good producers. Many directors have become producers by default. I never thought I would ever do producing work. That was not even my interest. I almost resisted. I didn't even want to learn it. It's very unfortunate," Das said.
"We used to have NFDC. We still have NFDC but they used to do more things. For young filmmakers, it's become very important to know where to show their films. It's a genuine problem. I think there could be some kind of committee or support system. Having been to so many festivals myself, I'd be really happy to volunteer. I'm sure there are other filmmakers who would be happy to come together to at least guide the new filmmakers about how they could go about it," she added.
Citing her own struggles as an independent filmmaker, Das recalled how distribution challenges made it hard for her last directorial Manto to reach out to wider audiences.
"The way Manto was released was very tragic. For somebody who has worked on it for six-seven years, I had the film in so few theatres, that too, at odd times. But that's the struggle of independent cinema. It is extremely difficult. But it is difficult not just for me, for independent cinema at large. Many young filmmakers tell me, 'I have a script, can you guide me?' or 'I have made a finished film but it doesn't have known actors so I don't know where to take it.' In that sense, maybe I was a little more privileged that at least Manto came to theatres," she said.
As fearless and talented as she is behind the camera, she's equally so in front of the camera as an actor. She has received critical acclaim for her brave acting choices in films such as Fire, Kannathil Muthamittal, Earth, Azhagi, Before the Rains and Bawandar.
When asked about her process of getting into the skin of every character, Das said, "I became an actor completely by default. So sometimes it's both an advantage and a disadvantage. The disadvantage is obvious because you haven't really learnt the craft of it and there is merit in learning the craft. But the advantage is when you don't know the grammar, you don't fear failure because you don't divide your work as right and wrong. You go much more with your instinct. So I've always gone much more with my instinct instead of doing any method. For me, I have always been attracted more to the stories that I'm going to be part of. And, if I find the director authentic and the story interesting, something that resonates with me, then I see if I was in that character how I would have reacted.
"Even as a director when I audition, I actually seldom audition. I just meet the people and I see how comfortable they are with their body. If you're comfortable in your skin, you'll comfortably melt into another person's role as well," she said.
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