Prasoon Joshi wears many hats. He is not only an eminent poet- lyricist and chairperson of the Central Board Of Film Certification, but also a kind of creativeadviser to the Prime Minister and now the author of a book that ruminates over the exigencies of contemporary India.
Congratulations on the release of your new book. Thinking Aloud is a public meditation on the dynamics of Modern India.
I constantly write. My natural tendency and natural discipline is to write poetry and I do so nearly every day. However there are issues, subjects and viewpoints that need to be elaborated upon. So I used prose as a form and exploration as a guiding principle which prompted me to write this book that contains contemplations on different aspects like culture , creativity, cinema, etc which I have experienced and delved into.
What prompted you to pen your thoughts in this book?
As I have said in the book, Life for me is a vantage point. Things exist as they are – fluid ,amorphous.It’s a frame of mind , an individual interpretation that gives form and makes them unique. This book and the myriad thoughts are from my vantage point. Many of these thoughts struck me whilst working and understanding different segments of our society, many whilst in conversations and discussions with colleagues , other artists and friends that’s why the title Thinking Aloud .
There is often a debate on censorship of intellectual thought in our country. And you are the chairperson of the censor board. Did you find yourself censoring your thought process while writing this book?
I have always believed that artistic expression and sensitivity go hand in hand. A dimension of sensitivity is not just to be cognizant of how minutely you feel but also how your words, piece of music, act , art is going to impact the receiver. When you live in a society and create to share with people at large then filters that are natural come in. Filters that don’t curb your freedom of expression but emanate out of concern for your fellow human beings and in interest of the society that we live in.
But do you believe in art for art’s sake?
Of course I believe in art for art’s sake . But I am also aware that every true artist understands the difference between art for self-expression which is personal and art created for commercial reasons. Art that is created for commercial viability and for people at large needs to carry with itself natural filters of social responsibility.
Did you find yourself censoring your thought processes while writing this book?
As I have said in one of the chapters in my book ,sure, the role of art is to push boundaries , break templates, introduce fresher thought and in this process, some feathers are bound to be ruffled. But, overall, the freedom of individual expression comes bundled with a quid pro quo- an obligation of concern and sensitivity for the whole. Freedom cannot be a blank cheque it comes with a fair barter of responsibility.
You are seen to be very close to the Government. You have also been seen sharing the dais with the Prime Minister at international events. How much do you think this alliance influence your current reflections on the nation and its exigencies?
Nation Building is a collective job. I have always supported correct intent, right polices and hard work . It is not an alliance. It’s a collective belief that all those who look beyond personal gains, resonate with. This is how I run my personal and professional life. And I see the right intent very clearly in the current govt and its leadership. My life is an open book. People are free to open any chapter and I am confident that an unbiased person will see clarity honesty and sensitivity in all I do.
But yoo do get a lot of criticism for what is seen to be your proximity to the ruling regime?
It’s easy to be an arm chair critic and point out what is wrong. But that is a convenient way. Years ago in Rang De Basanti I had written “ Koi bhi desh perfect nahi hota, usse banana padta hai” It’s tougher to roll up your sleeves , dirty your hands and get down to work and set things on the right path. That’s what I believe in: doing. You get clarity by doing things not just by being a mere spectator. I have high regard for constructive criticism for that makes one introspect and course correct but it’s high time we dump armchair critics who have a muddied lenses of narrow personal agendas and gains.And get down to work to improve things around us.
A question that I’ve often wanted to ask you is, how do you manage to balance out your various roles as a poet, lyricist, censor chief, author, etc?
For me there has been no conflict, I consider myself to be a person of ideas and thoughts. Thought its most natural for me to express myself through poetry, but for me, expressions can be in various forms but they emanate from the same source. Be it a campaign or a script or a short story or an article or composing or singing. Yes at times some roles come naturally and some others may not agree with my basic construct, But then growth lies in experiencing more . I don’t compartmentalize , i see my various art forms intertwined and feeding off each other. They complement and enrich my core. To answer your question simply- I don’t overthink, I simply do it. If the intent is correct and one is willing to honestly work hard, the rest falls in place.
An artiste like you brings a certain intellectual finesse to the hoary art of lyric writing. The songs of Manikarnika are enlightened passionate articulate and accessible. What would you like to say about the plummeting standards of lyric writing in Hindi cinema?
I am mostly an optimist and like to search for that ray of light in the darkness. If you read historically great art has emerged in times of extreme decadence. Besides life is a great force. Through the haze of the funeral pyre of a loved one , with tear washed eyes you have decided to live on. This is a hard truth but reaffirmation that life is stubborn and it’s green shoot will sprout in the most barren of lands. I feel a similar way about lyric writing today. There is immense decline and it saddens me but I still want to keep on writing . Well, that is what is in my hands, one can do one’s job well and I am always hopeful that true creative people get inspired from each other.
What made you take up the job of writing lyrics in Manikarnika?
I have always felt strongly about women issues and it has reflected in my songs poetry words and actions. In the film, too I have tried that the threads of true empowerment are visible. I have tried to stay authentic to the inherent feeling of valour, patriotism and love for one’s motherland, Its natural for me so less of hard work. It’s difficult for me to understand when people dissect deconstruct and over analyse one’s love for the nation, For me there is no debate here, Certain relationships and emotions are not there for trivial intellectual stimulation .Yeh Buddhivilas ka Vishay nahi hona chahiye.
What is your vision of an ideal India?
Who wouldn’t want a world without boundaries, without division? Especially for any spiritual person not just humankind but the entire universe is one . But let’s face it to exist and function we have created certain structures and orders and least we can do is protect the sanctity of it. Sure it does not imply that there has to be blind worship of any thing but an open heart is a must for any true relationship.
Finally, what according to you is the role function and the range of jurisdiction for censorship In India?
I have touched upon this earlier in our interview when I talk about artistic expression and sensitivity and responsibility. I would really urge the readers to go through my book where I have written extensively about this and similar issues, it will answer many questions at length and also make one ponder more deeply. It’s our society. We need to together as a collective consciousness work, to question the negative and utilize the positive. The answers have to collectively be sought with intellect, concern and fair play.