Shekhar Kapoor: “At This Rate Bombay Cinema Will Become Regional Cinema”

I caught  the super-talented Shekhar  Kapoor for a chat on his chairmanship of the just-concluded  85th National film awards just before he  flew off to Boston

As  the chairperson  of  the jury, Shekhar just couldn’t stop raving about the quality  of  work he saw in the non-Bollywood  non-Hindi languages, known  until very recently as regional cinema. “I cannot tell you what an  enriching experience  these past few weeks have been for me. I  was actually supposed to  be  at the  Boston MIT as a honorary professor.When SmritiIrani  insisted that I  do Jury duty I finally relented and postponed  my Boston assignment by ten days.”

 And boy,  is Shekhar glad he took on the  jury job! “The  kind of cinema I saw  in the regional languages…it just blew mind mind.  Sorry, but regional cinema  is  no more regional. Very soon Bollywood , as we call Hindi cinema, will become regional cinema. The films in the non-Hindi Indian languages  are taking us back to the cinema of  Raj Kapoor….films that are from the heart, for the heart.”

Shekhar says  the quality of work he saw in  the non-Hindi cinema left him deeply impressed. “I’ve decided to champion the cause of non-Hindi cinema. Such gifted directors! The girl Rima Das whose Assamese film Village Rockstars has  won the Best  Film, is self-trained.What a film she has made! The quality of  cinema and performances in the regional languages is so  much higher than in Hindi. I mean, look,  with all due respects…Newton andRajkummar Rao were fine. But I saw  far better films and performances in  non-Hindi cinema. Sometimes I’d see two actors in one language and say, ‘My God two such brilliant back-to-back performances. Then someone  would tell me it is the same  actor in both. My God! They are so dedicated to doing their jobs, not bothered with success, not looking anxiously  over the  shoulder to see  who’s looking.And the actor (Riddhi Sen) who has won the Best Actor… so so brilliant  in the Bengali film Nagarkirtan. This is unselfconscious cinema.Nothing in Hindi is comparable with this.”

 Does Shekhar feel Hindi cinema has  lost its heart? “Look, I feel the spotlight and  glamourhas been  concentrated  for too long on Bollywood. The regional cinema  has been sidelined to the shadows.  It’s  time to celebrate cinema  in languages other than Hindi, and I plan to take  the  cause of regional cinema  to the West. This is  the cinema that we need to be recognized  by in the West.I just may make a  film in a non-Hindi language.”

 As for Sridevi’s best actress award Shekhar candidly admits he had reservations, “Brilliant as she  she is , every morning I’d remind  the  jury that I’ve been closely associated with her and  it might look a little  improper if she was given the award. We also saw somemindblowing performances by other actress ,  like this girl in a Manipuri film, then the actress in  the Malayalm film Takeoff and the Tamil actress in To Let… But  the jury was adamant. They wanted  Sridevi. So it was Sridevi.”

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