'No fellow-maker should comment on a film in print'
Q: Why do you think Black worked?
Black came at a time when the audience was craving for a change. I gave them that change and they embraced my film wholeheartedly. It’s very gratifying, specially since I was repeatedly warned that Black can only be a limited success. ‘Critics and awards will be on your side. But the audience will be cautious’. That’s what I was made to believe.
Q: What are the lessons that you’ve learnt from the unexpected success of Black?
Why segregate the audience in our minds. I always believe one thing. My films are made because they have to be made. I don’t make them for money. You either make films or you make money. Sometimes you get to make some money also. But that can’t be the purpose of making a film. Trade papers weren’t favourable to Black. They kept saying it wasn’t doing well in many areas when, in fact, Black has done well over, including overseas.
Q: What are your future plans for Black?
I don’t think getting an Oscar is the ultimate goal for Black. I think the kind of recognition and success that it got goes beyond anything we expected. But, yes, the Oscar keeps recurring in all conversation on Black. I think it’s the people’s way of telling us how much they appreciate the film, and what hopes they have for it. When they say Amitji deserves an Oscar I think they want to tell him he has reached international standards of performance. I agree with that view completely.
Q: So an Oscar for Mr Bachchan and Black?
I feel the West hasn’t really acknowledged Indian cinema beyond Satyajit Ray and random parallel filmmakers. But mainstream Indian cinema hasn’t been recognised in the West. I wonder where Black fits in! People in India thought it was an off-mainstream film. But it surprised everyone by being accepted by the masses. Now they say Black is ineligible for international recognition because it’s inspired by the film The Miracle Worker. That reading of Black is a result of complete misinformation. Both The Miracle Worker and Black are sourced to the play on the life of Helen Keller.
Q: So your film goes back to the play?
Not even that! We just read the play to know about the protagonist’s life. From there we constructed our own story and characters. In the play Helen Keller’s life is taken only to a point. We’ve gone much further. Black is a completely original piece of work. I keep reading cynical comments by so-called avant garde filmmakers from our film industry. One of them thinks Black is ‘hammy’. Now what on earth is that? Another one thinks my film is overrated and unrealistic. God bless them and their hardly-seen films. I think such people are trying to get a bit of recognition by trying run my film down.
Q: Your own assessment of Black?
First and foremost, for me it’s the most important performance by one of the most brilliant actors of our country.
If nothing else then Black must be acknowledged for Amitabh Bachchan’s brilliance and excellence. It won’t return for a long time. He has performed his character with such flamboyance and elan. It isn’t over-the-top acting. It isn’t hamming. It’s a passionate confirmation of life, no less. And then to have the cynics saying it’s no great shakes?
Please, let’s have more constructive criticism. Everyone doesn’t have to like my film. But if the criticism is done merely to settle scores or to vent your bitterness, then it’s not done. No fellow-maker should comment on a film in print.
For me, Black has touched a chord in the hearts of dancers, painters, musicians… artistes and lay persons all over the world. Jealous and unimportant filmmakers’ opinions don’t matter.