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02-05-2013, 05:16 PM #1
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- Sep 2011
You can't demand to be honoured: Sharmila Tagore
She's on a break from films, but that doesn't mean Sharmila Tagore hasn't been keeping busy. In fact, she says that she now has more time for things that matter to her — working with children, travelling, reading, and even daydreaming! In Kolkata for the Book Fair, the actress spoke to TOI on life after the Padma Bhushan, the Vishwaroopam and Salman Rushdie controversies and how sexism is rampant in Bollywood. Excerpts:
There can't be a dearth of trophies in the Pataudi household. But how did it feel to get the Padma Bhushan? How did Saif and Soha react?
Both of them actually got to know from the papers! I was in Jaipur when the Home Ministry got in touch. I tried calling Soha, but could not reach her and I didn't tell anyone else. To be honest I wasn't expecting it, since I didn't lobby for it. And I believe you don't get these awards unless you lobby, isn't it? Anyway, I don't get too excited by awards. Basu Bhattacharya used to fondly say that when the news of my Filmfare Award arrived — in those days they used to send a telegram — he couldn't believe how calm I was! (Smiles) Of course I'm delighted by awards, but that doesn't change me as a person. It's not that I have to have parties and tell people. I don't know what it is, maybe a character flaw?
I get quite excited though when the children get an award. I remember there was some doubt over whether Soha would get through to Oxford. I remember the night before the results, we were sitting and talking and I kept telling her that no door was forever closed... The next morning she called up and said she had made it. I was really very happy then. But I never feel that way about myself.
This is also the year that Rajesh Khanna got the Padma Bhushan posthumously. The two of you have worked together in many films. Do you think it came a bit late for him?
Of course it came late for him. But then, it came a bit late for me too! But that doesn't take away anything. It's people's prerogative; you can't demand to be honoured. You should lead your own life, do what you have to. If people recognize you, it gives you support. If they don't, how does it matter? The best encouragement is when your films run and people who watch it say "Well done". I'm an actor by choice and I love facing the camera. There's a little bit of exhibitionism in all of us. We like the limelight. I live by my own values and if I'm appreciated for the qualities I value, that is enough for me. And I think I've got that. When I'm travelling or in a public place, the kind of love and appreciation I get is enough. What more would I want? Recognition is great... but the life we lead is the ultimate investment, and recognition for that is the greatest award.
You've been the censor board chairperson. We saw how Vishwaroopam's release was stalled in court even after the board cleared it. Does the censor's work get devalued when such things happen?
When I was with the board, we had a problem with Jodhaa Akbar, Da Vinci Code and a few other films. Finally, it's the judge's prerogative. He can always throw it out. In the case of Jodhaa Akbar, the judge said that the film had been running for two weeks and refused to stop it from being shown. But litigation on every small thing trivializes the freedom of speech debate — both for and against. When the producer is losing money almost every day, it's very unfair. Films are huge economic machines. I haven't seen Vishwaroopam, so I have no way of knowing. But Salman Khan watched it and had no objections. He's the face of the Muslim audience; he's like Rajinikanth for them. So if he says okay, it should be okay, I think.
I've heard that the film says that Mullah Omar came and stayed in Coimbatore. And this information is referred to as 'facts'. Coimbatore has already seen some violence. The board is eternally vigilant about these things. I know lots of people scream at us for that. But it's all in the broader interest. So if cutting a film a little here and there — and believe me, these are not great works of art — allows it to be released without any problem, what's the harm? As for the film's makers, they're taking a calculated risk. Given that you're a commercial filmmaker — like a Mani Ratnam or a Yash Chopra — you should expect a reaction like that. Curiously, Vishwaroopam didn't even go to the board's review committee. And I'm quite surprised, since the film has such controversial content. Censors have to keep things transparent. At times, board members are in awe of big producers.
Ashish Nandy, V i s h w a r o o p a m , Salman Rushdie — there's been one flashpoint after another. Is India becoming an intolerant country?
I don't know what really happened over Rushdie's visit since the Boi Mela authorities and he have given different versions. Who should we believe? Last year too there was trouble in Jaipur over him and now he's become the face of a controversy. Most of the protesters haven't read 'The Satanic Verses'. None of them know what the origin of the book is. Yet, if he is invited, there's a problem. Everyone wants visibility; they all want to be the champion of the Muslims even without asking them! It's an election strategy and it's not surprising that the state government wanted to keep him out. It was the same in Jaipur last year. In fact, much of the intolerance that we see around us is a political ploy.
We've seen a spate of rapes across the country recently. Cinema — especially Bollywood — is often accused of objectifying women. How do you react to that?
The violence that you see on the streets and the images you see on the screen are completely different issues. You can't blame images. I may see a gold necklace in a showroom, but I can't take it without paying. I'll be arrested. You have to exercise your willpower. Then, if you're talking about obscenity or vulgarity, it's a matter of taste. You'll never get a consensus on that. Yes, we must critique sexist images and portrayals, but to blame only one aspect, like item songs, is grossly unfair. The lyrics can be really bad, and they're out in the market for months, but no one objects to that. Children are dancing to those songs at shaadis and mama-papa are very thrilled.
At the same time, you can make an arthouse film that's very sexist.
In Bollywood, take the example of Ishaqzaade. It's a very sexist film. The idea of revenge where the woman is made to sleep with the guy is so problematic. There's commodification of education, health. You see sari-clad women — whether it's Hema Malini or Sharmila Tagore — selling masala, ghee.... that's sexist too. A woman celebrating her youth and body can be seen as a sexually liberated person. Think about Parineeta, naughty songs with their double meanings have a place in our culture. But problems arise when we see the woman's body — whether on the screen or the street — as the provoking agent... If you're in trousers you can be raped, if you're not wearing certain types of clothes, you're not worthy of respect. The danger is, by that logic you're taking the agency away from the perpetrator and making the woman responsible. So there is that argument: 'I had alcohol, I had no control. I watched pornography, I had no control'. In fact in such cases the sentence should be doubled.
What about sexism in Bollywood? When heroes age, there are roles tailormade for them. Why don't the heroines get such roles? Aren't we missing out on some great performances by senior actresses?
They are not writing for woman at all, for someone like a Waheeda Rehman. The construct is extremely patriarchal. As for me, yes I do feel that there could be more to do, but then I get on with life. Within the sphere of my influence I do what I can. For example, I've always taught my children that they should say their mother is 10 on 10 even though she's a working person. We were among the first women to have come out of our homes to work, and that too in films. The perception then was that a woman who went out to work was neglecting her home, hence she was bad. In my lifetime, I've seen films become a coveted profession. But even now, when young people want to join the industry, their mothers are worried. It's such a hypocritical thing: they can go fida over you but when their children want be in films or there talk of marrying an industry person, then there is a problem. Duur se dekho toh thik hai. Yes, perceptions are changing, but slowly.
We haven't seen you in Bengali films for a while...
I get offers but nothing that I really like. I'm not a very career minded person. I have worked for various reasons — a role or money or whatever else. But today it has to be something special. Also — and I never thought I'd say this — I'm quite happy to do different things... travelling, daydreaming, walking, watching a good film, chatting with friends. I don't want to work for the heck for it. At the same time, when I face the camera I do come alive and then I know how much I've missed it.
Do you keep track of what Tollywood is producing?
I've watched Bhooter Bhobishyot and I quite liked it. Ask me where I saw it! On my tablet. I was in London and someone sent it to me. It's witty and smart, but yes, it seems that there is an effort to say a lot of things at the same time. Just a little bit of editing was needed... But yes, regional films are getting better, be it Marathi or Assamese or Bangla. The best part is, the money is getting better. There is a regional audience that is supporting their own films. There are these young, educated Bengali filmmakers, who are breaking away from the tradition of kannakatir chhobi. For a while we were aping Bollywood in a very irritating fashion. Now sensibilities are changing and the future of regional cinema looks bright.
02-05-2013, 05:18 PM #2
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- Jan 2013
i can't read this article
Last edited by crazy raman; 02-05-2013 at 05:25 PM.