Thank you rediff! Yet another in depth thoughtful interview for me to pick through! This time with Gauri Shinde, talking about what I was just talking about in the first part of my Dear Zindagi summary, how funky and sidewise career paths can be in the Indian film industry. Along with other interesting things.
Whole thing is here, READ IT!
In my Dear Zindagi summary first part, I talked about how Alia’s character was hoping for a very specific career path, picking a specialization, getting trained in it, and then slowly rising to the top of her profession through promotions up the ranks. Which is a career path people can have, it wasn’t inaccurate for her to want it. But I felt the need to point out that, especially in Indian film, you don’t always have to follow the expected path to success.
Which is what Gauri Shinde describes about herself in this interview!
I wanted to be a businesswoman at first, but I realised that I suck at numbers. So I started with advertising.
I wanted to work right after my Class 12, in the summer holidays. So my father got me an internship at Pratibha Advertising in Pune. That was my first taste in advertising. I was there for two months.
Then I did my Mass Communication with Symbiosis.
Films were never on my mind. Of course, I loved watching films.
I did a course in advertising in New York. I made a short film there.
I got excited thinking I could make ad films. I never thought about feature films….I worked with Siddharth Kak on Surabhi right after my post grad. I was in Lintas for the maximum time and met Balki (her husband, adman and filmmaker R Balakrishnan) there…Balki used to talk about wanting to make a film, that’s when those influences came in.
I was already a director making ads, so films were the natural culmination….People told me I should try making a film. Also, the short film that I made in New York… that’s when the germ actually came in my mind, but I wasn’t confident at that time.
You don’t have to start out saying “I’m going to be a cinematographer and slowly rise up through the ranks to become a director.” You can start out saying “I want to do advertising” and then somehow end up making ad films, and then slowly discover you want to make a feature film.
That was the bit of the interview that was most interesting to me, but there are three other interesting things she covered. First, her point about parents in Indian culture (which rediff used for their headline, because it is so ground-breaking):
In our country, we treat parents almost like Gods.
They are faultless. That’s a very high thing to follow. Nobody is God-like. We are all human beings with flaws.
Children need to be respected. We always tell children to touch the feet of elders. But why?
Why can’t a child be respected? They are far more innocent and fragile. That’s what needs to be respected.
There is so much we don’t look at. For example, in English Vinglish, nobody asked the child’s point of view at all, why she was behaving like that.
Now, with Dear Zindagi, one or two people have asked but what about the parents?
We always think about the parents, not the children.
Nobody till date has questioned about the children (in English Vinglish). Of course, the parent was the protagonist and that’s how the story was, from her point of view. But this was still never questioned.
But when a child does something (in Dear Zindagi), there’s always an ‘arrey but…’
I feel very strongly about these things.
I find this fascinating, as someone from a different culture! Often, growing up in white America, there are discussions or concerns about how the parents are so disrespected, forgotten, considered a burden instead of a blessing. The flip of what Gauri is talking about, basically. Children are spoiled and given freedom and everything they want, and then they go off and forget the parents, because there is minimal social value placed on respecting your parents. Which, yes, is a problem.
But (and this is just how I see it) this is all just a problem of social values, not human relationships. In every culture in every place, there are going to be selfish parents and ungrateful children. The only thing that is different is how society looks at it. In the particular segment of America I grew up in, you would get lambasted up and down the street for leaving your child with their grandparents. You would still do it, but everyone would judge you for it. On the other hand, if that child grew up and moved away from home and never came back, most of society would be pretty okay with it. It would still be a hurtful and possibly unhealthy thing for the child to do, but social judgement wouldn’t be part of the problem.
That’s what, I think, Shinde is getting at here. Watching Dear Zindagi in India, people were conditioned to try to find a reason to forgive the parents, to think about things from their side. But watching English/Vinglish, there was no social conditioning to consider the child’s side of things. These stories are universal, every culture is going to have 13 year olds who start dismissing their mother, and parents who choose other things over the happiness of their child. But what is not universal, is the socially acceptable reaction to the story. In America, we get dozens of Dear Zindagis every year, we are always ready to blame the parents (maybe because we are a country of people who left their homes?). But we get very few movies like, say, Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, where it is all about struggling to fulfill your father’s wishes. (by the way, that’s what’s still unusual about English/Vinglish, that instead of having the parent’s perspective through a main character who sympathizes with a parent, the main character actually WAS the parent!)
Shinde’s next point would normally be my favorite part of an interview, financial industry analysis! Woo!
I wish I can give hits like Rohit Shetty!
It’s all 100 crores (for him).
I believe it is important to make money because this is also a business. It’s not just an art form for self-indulgence.
I definitely feel that pressure that it needs to do well. I don’t want people to lose money. They should make money and it should be a viable project.
Because of my subjects, I’ve always maintained a very conservative budget. That’s how I’ve been in advertising too. I don’t overspend.
That line about “it’s not just an art form for self-indulgence”, that’s why I love the Indian film industry. In America, a lot of the time, people like to pretend it is an art form for self-indulgence. Or, more than that, that it is “noble” to make art without considering money. But, that’s silly. First, it’s lying to yourself about reality, which is never good. Films have to make money so that there is money to make more films. And second, to my mind, film is a mass medium and it should speak to the masses. And money is as good a measure as any as to the success of that effort. When a film like Fan fails, the commercial failure is also a sign of an artistic failure. There was something missing in the movie that made the audience unable to connect with it. You can’t just say “people are stupid” and walk away, you have to really think about it and figure out what didn’t work. Because a movie that connects with more people is a better movie.
(You know Guru Dutt was considered kind of a hack during his lifetime? Because his movies just did well with the masses. And then decades later they were re-discovered, and everyone realized the masses knew what they were doing!)
Like I said, normally that would be my favorite part of the interview. But she talks about Shahrukh! So naturally, that is my favorite part.
You seem to be a Shah Rukh fan.
Yes, I mean, I’m not a fan fan as such, but yes, I’ve really liked his work.
For our generation, he’s been the representative of romance!
Of a gentleman you feel respected by. That’s the sense you get from his aura.
Yes! That’s it exactly! Shahrukh’s romances are about someone who loves and respects women. Yes, you can get into the specifics of things his characters have done, or plots of movies he has been a part of. But his “aura”, as she puts it, is always someone who is happy to spend time with women, concerned about their happiness, and, well, a gentleman! Which is why you can draw a straight line from the young man helping his girlfriend find her mother in Dil Aashna Hai aaaaaalllllllll the way to the older therapist helping a young woman make peace with her mother in Dear Zindagi.