Naresh Sharma is Curator of the Indian Film Festival in Stuttgart and works in India as a filmmaker. He graduated as cinematographer and still photo-grapher, shoots shortfilms, commercials and documentaries and teachs film subjects in film schools in Mumbai and Delhi.
BNA-Germany did have the opportunity to talk with Mr. Sharma about his work, about Bollywood and the Indian cinema in general:
BNA: Mr. Sharma, please tell us something about your work.
Naresh Sharma: I’ve started my career as a still photographer. And then I went to the Film and Television Institute of India/Pune to do my three years of cinema photography course, some people call it cinematography. So I’ve finished my course for three years and then I went to Mumbai in 1994. I worked there as a director for photography. I also teach media subjects in film schools in India, mainly in Delhi and Mumbai. And whenever I have time I write scripts, shot scripts, I current festivals like this (Stuttgart Anm.d.Red.) and I watch films.
BNA: You work in Mumbai or in Europe?
Naresh Sharma: I mainly work in Mumbai and sometimes people are kind enough to get me over here. But in the past I shot in the US along the caribbean side and Bahamas. That was an underworld project for 8 month. Then I was in Ljubljana, Slovenia, almost five years back.
BNA: What’s your opinion about this film festival here in Stuttgart?
Naresh Sharma: In terms of the type of films, in terms of programming I will not say that this is good or bad. I would say that this is a different kind of programming. Because what works for european market mean not work for indian market. So the films we’re looking in India could be different films as for the european market. So this festival presents all kind of films and we can consider whether some of the films are great, are brilliant or amazing, or whether some are ordinary films also for indian audience. But for here it might look different. It is a different perspective on looking at Indian cinema. But if you look from this different perspectives, these films are also made in India. There is only one particular perspective on Bollywood. And the presentation of those films are important.
BNA: What do you think: the audience prefers the focal point on Bollywood or more on beyond Bollywood?
Naresh Sharma: All kind of films should been shown. In India, we have international festivals where all kind of films are presented: commercials, arthouse, documentaries… It presents all kind of sections. But if you look this festival (in Stuttgart Anm.d.Red.) in India, people won’t say „wow“. If you look at this festival from the european point of view than yes. Because they want to have an idea of all those kind of films. Last year we presented ten films of FTI Pune. It’s one of the important film school and those films need to be seen by the people. This films are made in film studios and you can’t see them in television. So this festival is a good platform to show these films, which you can not see otherwise.
BNA: You personally prefer the Bollywood part or the Beyond part?
Naresh Sharma: I prefer the films which are born in Bollywood, which means it has to have a Bollywood Star, but it has to be strong narrative. What is happening in Bollywood is taking the big of the Hollywood films and copy them. It’s like old wine in a new bottle. A recycled idea with different cast and different locations.
BNA: That’s bad?
Naresh Sharma: Yes. That’s why we have called it „Bollywood“. It’s an indian word creation and doesn’t exist officially. But now people have realized that we have a large literature in India. Take any novel, any short story and a Bollywood Star and make a NoMasala film. I call it “Formula” and “NoFormula”. Formula means: this and this has to be there. Films based on a novel work on an international market. But at first it has to work in your own country. The face value is very important for the Indian cinema. Is there Madhuri Dixit? – No. Is there SRK?– No…Well forget this film. The films has to have a selling face.
BNA: I think that’s the sad part of this thing. Because you have only two or three families of actors or producers…
Naresh Sharma: Not really. Because they have realized that you make money by let other people work hard. Directing is more important than producing to me. For example Yash Chopra is not a director. He’s a producer and distributor, but Aditya is starting directing and producing. That means that Yash Raj Films are directed and produced.
BNA: But when you read the most recent interviews you can read that they not want to be only the money-making machine…
Naresh Sharma: That’s all nonsense. All what they are doing they doing it for making money. When you look at Karan Johar: he takes one scene from this film, takes another scene from this film and put it together to a new film, but at the same time they have got the formula, and the formula is working. All Yash Chopra films have a different kind of formula.
BNA: But he tells openly, that he loves making love stories.
Naresh Sharma: There are different kinds of love stories. There are other people who make love stories for many years. The love story is a cliché and Indians are such brilliant people, they don’t fed up.
BNA: In Germany Bollywood is a niche. Because we have to see it in Hindi in the original version subtitled mostly in English and the Germans are not used this. And now we are at the point that we don’t accept the term Bollywood. Bollywood is connected only to Masala Movies. And we prefer the term Hindi-Movie, because it gives you the impression that it’s a movie done in the Hindi language.
Naresh Sharma: That’s where this festival is doing something. Because it’s called Bollywood and Beyond. Bollywood is more popular in some ways. People think Hindi Film Industry means Bollywood. It took them ten years to make a film like “Black”. This is Bollywood with a potential for crossover. It doesn’t have a cliché. “Parineeta” is very bollywoodish but in a beyond style.
BNA: If you’re speaking so openly: What do you think about “Devdas”?
Naresh Sharma: There is a form I call minimalist and there is something I call lavish. It is a lavish grandeur, commercialized version of an interesting novel. They use this Bollywood nonsense in a classical style.
BNA: What do you think about “Rang De Basanti”? It’s a movie totally discussed in Germany. What’s the message? I try to find out what they want to tell me.
Naresh Sharma: There are problems in every society, but you can’t see them visually. And the youth in India also has a problem, due to the education system and so on. In that film what they try to do is try to identify with the characters of Bhagat Singh and his friends. He’s totally a rebel in his own way. The film tries to show, how they react in the momentary situation.
The problem of India is people don’t think. I don’t know about Europeans, but in India they don’t think. They are so occupied with the daily nonsense of their life. They don’t think critical about the political system and they don’t protest. That’s another thing, that they don’t protest.
BNA: Could it be due to the religious way of life. They accept their fate…
Naresh Sharma: No, the problem all over that is that they don’t protest again anything. If the government is increasing the price, there is no demonstration against that. Only when something comes, they start to think about it: “When did they do it?”
BNA: The films you are doing: How do you exhibit them? They are short films made by students of your classes.
Naresh Sharma: This short films you can’t see anywhere. Only in the classroom we can show them.
BNA: So that are niche films as well?
Naresh Sharma: They are very difficult to make and very difficult to show. It’s a difficult genre of film making. So it’s difficult to find money and difficult to show it later. So don’t make short films! But people do make it.
BNA: I think that´s the same problem in Germany. Do you think that your kind of films will get attentions here in Germany?
Naresh Sharma: Yes, I hope so. Even if 20 people are sitting here and watching my films it’s better than zero. A little bit of progress is always good. But it needs the governments support. The government make too much money from the entertainment tax and they don’t support the cinema. No grant of any kind. You will find the governments support in Poland or anywhere in the world, but not in India.
BNA: Where will there be your incentive of making your kind of films if there isn’t any kind of support?
Naresh Sharma: I have the dream that one day I’ll make a film in France. Next year I’ll go to Poland probably and I’ll go to Slovenia.
BNA: But doesn’t it make you sad to know that you’ve got the support in other countries but not in your own?
Naresh Sharma: Yes, but this is the subject of this kind. And we belong to that country.
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