Utpal Borpujari

January 23, 2015

Gulzar Retro in IFFI gets a high with Libaas premiere 26 years it was made

By Utpal Borpujari
Panaji: Of all the films that are having their premieres at the ongoing 45th International Film Festival of India (IFFI), one has been a 26-year-old, but it hogged the maximum attention when it got screened.

Yes, you heard it right: a film getting premiered after 26 years of having been made. But it was not surprising that it attracted great attention, because the film in question is Gulzar’s “Libaas”, made in 1988 but never released in India.

So, when it was screened at IFFI as part of a special retrospective on Gulzar, not only the regular festival delegate, but Gulzar himself was excited and emotional. Starring Naseeruddin Shah, Shabana Azmi and Raj Babbar, the film was never released its producers considered it too bold for its time and apparently developed cold feet.

“I was worried that the film would look dated. But I guess the intricacies of the human relation are eternal and universal,” Gulzar told the audience immediately after the screening that was attended by, among others, director Vishal Bhardwaj and his singer wife Rekha Bhardwaj.

“The film remained unreleased because of some issues with the producers. Many approached them for rights to release the film on DVD and even on television, but they continue to refuse,” Gulzar said, adding in his inimitable style that “after watching the film after such a long period, even I feel I am a good writer”. Though the film was unreleased, its songs, composed by R D Burman, including “Silli hawa chhoo gai”, “Phir kisi shakh ne” and “Khamosh sa afsana” have remained ever popular.

“Human relations are so incredibly complex, there are several layers which you can keep uncovering. It will never go out of fashion. What excites me is the study of human nature. It is something I draw from real life. It never fails me,” said Gulzar explaining the philosophy behind the film.

Just before the screening began, however, Gulzar was as excited and nervous as a youngster appearing for an exam would be. “I feel like a school kid appearing for an exam. The dubbing quality could be bad. Maybe we might not get to hear some of the dialogue,” he had said. After the screening of the print was reasonably of good quality, he heaved a sigh of relief. “What a relief!” he said.

The film’s story revolves around a theatre couple, played by Azmi and Shah, and how their relationship undergoes an upheaval when Babbar’s character, a friend of Shah’s character, enters the scene.

The Gulzar retrospective comprises, apart from “Libaas”, seven other films by the Dadasaheb Phalke Award-winning filmmaker-poet-lyricist. They are “Aandhi”, “Angoor”, “Ijaazat”, “Koshish”, “Lekin”, “Maachis” and “Mere Apne”, thus encompassing his journey as a filmmaker.

“I just couldn’t stop crying after watching the film. For the past 23 years I’ve been wanting to watch the film and here at IFFI 2014, my dream came true. I’m so glad that I didn’t miss the film’s screening. Libaas has touched my soul, I feel so satisfied now,” said Rekha Bhardwaj after the screening.

(Published in Eastern Chronicle, http://www.easternchronicle.net; 08-12-2014)

My film shows democracy has to be imbibed: Makhmalbaf

By Utpal Borpujari

Panaji: Many have seen shades of real life characters in his satirical “The President”, which had opened the 45th International Film Festival of India (IFFI), but legendary Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf says the film is not about any particular character but about the way the word “democracy” is facing threat in many parts of the world.

“It is my way of saying that democracy has to be imbibed, and cannot be gifted by bombing and attacking a country,” says Makhmalbaf, a retrospective of whose films was a major highlight of the just-concluded 45th IFFI.

“Syria, Egypt and Libya, all of them had revolutions but the results have not been really positive. That is why in The President, I have shown how one has to imbibe democracy and cannot get it gifted through bombing and attacking a country.

Democracy needs education and development,” says the director, who has been living outside Iran for many years now after his strongly-political films ruffled feathers of the Iranian ruling class.

As compared to Iran and many other countries, Makhmalbaf says, India has imbibed the values of democratic practices much better. “The diversity in culture, philosophy and languages in India is because of the kind of democracy being practiced here,” he says.

All films and books by Makhmalbaf, who was jailed as a 17-year-old for his political protests against the then Shah regime, are banned in Iran, and he was forced to leave Iran ten years ago. Since then he has made London his home but continued to make films with stories based in Iran.

“In prison I realised that our political problems have roots in culture. That’s why I started making films and writing books to change the minds of people. When I was young I used to follow Che Guevara’s ideals but in jail I learnt about Gandhi’s non-violent principles. Making political films is risky but there is no other way,” he says.

In his film “The President”, a despotic president of a fictitious country is shown to be forced to go into hiding as a common man with his grandson following a coup, which is when he finds how much people hate him. This brings a change in his mindset. Through satire, Makhmalbaf makes a strong comment about the situation in many countries of the world in this film.

“I watched my his first film when I was 22. Cinema’s impact on me was like a blind suddenly getting vision. That’s when I decided to use the power of this medium to serve the people,” he says. About the philosophy behind his latest film, he says, “Killing the dictator does not solve the problem as it kills individual but not the dictatorial tendencies. My film stresses that the need is to change the mindset of people.”

45th IFFI showcased this very journey of Makhmalbaf, screening films like “Daddy’s School”, “The Day I became a Woman”, “Kandahar”, “A Moment of Innocence”, “Salaam Cinema”, “Sex and Philosophy”, “The Silence” and “Time of Love”.

(Published in Eastern Chronicle, http://www.easternchronicle.net; 04-12-2014)

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