Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Hyderabad Literary Festival - Day 2 belongs to Saeed Mirza

I was wondering if I should drive all the way to Taramati Baradari yesterday morning again, alone, as Vinod went back to work at the Disaster Management cell, but the first session of the day was too tempting to ignore. A conversation with Saeed Mirza, the maker of many wonderful movies and more importantly the TV serial 'Nukkad', with Mohana Krishna Indraganti, director of 'Golconda High School', 'Ashta Chamma' and 'Grahanam,' and Vijay Kumar of Muse India. It was exhilarating stuff and the best session at the HLF so far for me.

Much of what Saeed Mirza spoke was the result of some fine issues raised by Mohana Krishna and Vijay Kumar. Saaed Mirza spoke clearly that he would like to speak as a writer here, since his second book 'The Monk, the Moor and Moses Ben Jalloun' which is just published by Harper Collins is out. He said that he felt that the cinematic medium could not contain all of his ideas and he needed more space, which he felt the novel allowed him. He spoke of how mediocrity ruled the day today and how we put everything on a pedestal and genuflect before everything - the novelist, the film star. He would rather be concerned with ideas than mere promotion of mediocre stuff. I agree.

The West he says has its own ideas of civilisation and was trying to push these ideas to us, which we unfortunately are lapping up. He was unhappy with the 'civilisation of Islam', of the idea of fundamentalism, and more importantly of the colonisation of the mind. He felt that war is a western concept, in current circumstances, and it was being thrust on us, the people of the world and worse, we are buying into it.

Interestingly, he said that all the games, gadgets and stuff that everyone is lapping up today are aimed at shortening or reducing our memory. And when our memory is shortened we forget our history, our uniquenesss, our identity. Speaking vociferously against the concept of democracy that was being advocated and followed, he says we are far away from that concept and will take many years to reach there.

He also poked fun at how snobbish we were, as Indians, how smug, as a nation, happy in the thought of India Shining and that of an impending superpower. 'Can you imagine how we will behave if we do become a superpower?' he asked. 'We will be genuflecting before all that is higher and kicking all that is below us.'

While on the subject of the West dictating terms and ideas to us he recommended the book 'Orientalism' by Edward Saeed. 'We've been had,' he said. 'And that is the first thing you realise once you read that book'. To Mohan's comment that the filmmaker must 'fight the audiences as well' he mentioned how when he was in Cannes for 'Albert Pinto to Gussa Kyon Aata Hain' he saw a promo of Superman on a plane, a stunt that cost four times what it cost for him to make his movie. We must fight them he says, from here. He debunks all the institutions of Nobel Prize, Cannes and says that there is nothing sacrosanct there that we need to ape shamelessly. In fact one must keep experimenting and pushing the envelope, even within the framework that is set already. While sipping tea later he was chatting with us and I asked him whether this phase of mediocrity will ever be pushed over, and he said it would be - but it will be after much violence. When the priest ad the businessman get together, it is a dangerous sign he said.

I love the kind of passion that remains in Saeed Mirza, and people like him, and would like to retain such passion myself. So impressive was he that I got a copy of the hardback of 'The Monk, the Moor and Moses Ben Jalloun' at a princely price of Rs. 380 and got it signed by him. He was most gracious and signed it for me. I forget now the questions that Vijay and Mohana Krishna asked exactly but they did a fine job and kept it going wonderfully. A case for having the right kind of moderators to make sessions come alive.

1 comment:

Rajendra said...

I want to buy a copy to- next week in Hyderabad, maybe.