Lit for Life Session 1: New Wave Cinema (Featuring Rakeysh Om Prakash Mehra (ROPM)

The discussion began with the history and the transition of the Indian cinema. Post independence our films reflected a mood of euphoria. Thus we had films which showcased the celebrations of independence. Songs like ‘saathi haath badhana ‘ were examples of the mood. Then we realized that everything we have is imported, songs like ‘Mera joota hai jaapani” sermonized that excepting the heart rest all was imported. The mood slowly mellowed down, and gave way to cynicism, where one used to imagine that independence was actually not what the nation had aspired. Songs like “jinhe naaz hai hind pe who kahan hain’ summing up the mood. This gave way the filmmakers to ideate and give us escapism, Shammi Kapoor being the first star to show us how to shake a leg. Since people were alteady sad enough, films shifted gears and presented a rosy picture and larger than life cinema was born. This continued till the 70’s until Big B changed it all. Where the system was the villain and somebody had to challenge the status quo. This also made the shift from quintessential good boy image to the anti hero image as well. This was really followed by cinema which depicted real and believable cinema, where the life of the Indian diaspora was explored.

The rise of filmmakers like Nihalani, Benegal, Sidhir Mishra etc changed the cinematic landscape. Bold hard-hitting subjects were treaded into and met with success. This was the so called new wave, but essentially the history of new wave was French cinema, where people who thought that the society needs to be documented and shown to the public to make them understand the current issues. Random cameras were put to use and to record the lives of people and were exhibited at various cinemas across France. People paid to watch them. This was real new wave. According to ROMP any cinema which can create a movement and has the power to move the audience in a major way and have a ripple effect can be termed as new wave cinema. On being asked about RDB, Aks and Dilli 6, and his inspirations to write them, he said that Aks was essentially the good and evil residing in oneself and their conflict. This philosophy was really followed and is the crux of the film. For the influences for the cult RDB, he says this was a result of all the various events in his life. Staring from the model MIG’s at his school at “Airforce Bal Bharti’ to his school days and his gradual advance to the college. Here he was mostly aloof from the reality of india and used to complain about India being a country gone to the dogs. Then during his college there was a change in him and he and his fellow mates considered that they have to take the onus of changing the society.

This was the time when the mandal commission happenned, to the mass movements during the mandal commission made him also participate in candle light marches and people standing up against the system. Then there was the system which reacted in a way no one ever expected. In the midst of that he also used to booze and jump into surajkund and the other places shown in the film. Influences of Bhagat Singh were there where Bhagat singh at the age of 21 knew that they were not fighting the foreigners but were rather fighting the exploitation and the suffering which was brought about by them. The HSRA knew that Indians would be free from the British only to be governed by another group of tyrants. So they had a vision of a nation building rather than that of fighting the british. All this khichdi as he puts it translated into RDB. The only case being the parallels of the 30’s and the 2000’s.

The question was really what made the guys /youth like bhagat singh a student, Bismil and Ashfaqullah who were poets put their pen down and really take the gun? The reason was exploitation. The enemy within. All these were forces which helped him develop RDB. On delhi he dabbled with the topic of good and evil residing in oneself, his experiences of the class and religion divide which he experienced during the Delhi roits. The local boys loosing their manhood to jalebi an outcast. All these were primarily personal experiences which he wrote about and later made them into films. On being asked that earlier Hollywood studios majorly investing in writers almost 10-15 people per script to develop it, ROMP replied that a story that needs to be told will always be better than a one which is tried to be made. For screenplay writing one needs to think like an editor, his job was created because of writers and filmmakers. Thus screenplay writers need to think like an editor before writing. Interesting tips were writers need to experience life, depict experiences they have gone through, inspirations. Basically a pictorial story is a film, so it has to have all ingredients.

He also said he was looking about a modern day script of Karn which really made the journey of the 2000 0r 3000 years and his version of the Karn of today. He also spoke about Indians being a poor copy cats, we have our own culture and can have original ideas but still ape and make really pathetic versions of Hollywood cinema. He lauds the fact that foreign authors and filmmakers do a better job at making films with an Indian backdrop. Will write about the other two sessions later..

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One thought on “Lit for Life Session 1: New Wave Cinema (Featuring Rakeysh Om Prakash Mehra (ROPM)

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