Indian cinema is much more than Bollywood: Benegal

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Bangkok, Oct 26 (UNI) Indian cinema is much bigger than Bollywood, noted film director Shyam Benegal said here on the occasion of the screening of a retrospective of his works at the 2008 World Film Festival of Bangkok opening today.

Addressing representatives of the Thai film industry and the Indian community at a reception organised by the Indian Embassy, Mr Benegal said Indian films are made in many different languages in different parts of the country and "each area has a very evolved film culture". "Lots of people outside our country, don't get an opportunity to see these films which is a bit of a misfortune," he said.

Five films of Mr Benegal, who is widely regarded as having pioneered parallel Indian cinema in the 1970s, will be shown at the Bangkok film festival. These are Mandi, Manthan, Bhumika, Samar and Zubeida. Speaking of his forthcoming film on the life of the Buddha, Mr Benegal said it is a joint production with the Sri Lankan film industry. The film's script is being studied by scholars in Sri Lanka.

Its cast would include artistes from India and Sri Lanka "and whoever else will participate in the film", he said. The language of the film would be Ardh-Magadhi which was spoken in the time of the Buddha.

"We want to create the flavour of that language as it was spoken 600 years before Christ. This was a decision that was specifically taken because we felt that there was no point in making a film in a language that they did not speak," he said. The film would be subtitled in English and other languages. "Today he (Buddha) is very important to the world. I think today it is very important to make a film about the Buddha," Mr Benegal said.

Speaking on India's famed Mumbai-based Hindi film industry, Mr Benegal said, "I must disabuse you of this particular notion that Bollywood cinema is Indian cinema. Bollywood really describes Hindi cinema, the pan Indian film that travels all over the country, and generally all over the world." "When you talk about Indian cinema you should also remember that we have films in so many different languages in all the different regions of the country and each area has a very evolved film culture." "(However), "in the (Hindi) film songs you have some of the finest lyrics and some of the greatest poetry in Hindi and Urdu." Some of India's greatest poets wrote mainly for Hindi popular films "because that was the only way they could get their poetry across to the people of the country".

Asked why his recent productions have not included actors who made a name for themselves under his direction in the 1970s, Mr Benegal said this was due to financial and time constraints.

"Sometimes, what happens is that you cannot afford them anymore.

And then, some of them are so busy that if you want to make a film with them, you have a wait a long time. And sometimes you cannot afford to wait so long." Insisting he had no right to take credit for the emergence of big names of Indian parallel cinema like Shabana Azmi, Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri and others, Mr Benegal pointed out that it was really a question of "the right people being at the right place at the right time".

"It isn't that I discovered any of them. They are hugely talented people. It so happened that their first films were with me. It doesn't mean that they wouldn't have become what they have become if they had started with other people." "So there is no point in my sitting here and taking credit for having introduced all these wonderful actors as though they were my creations. They were not my creations. They were creations of God." UNI XC BDP BST0910

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