Films can start a dialogue, can’t change society

Leena Yadav
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By Ankit Sinha

New Delhi–Filmmaker Leena Yadav’s directorial “Parched” follows the lives of three ordinary women who begin to break free from centuries-old traditions in India, touching upon a “universal topic”. She says movies can spark a dialogue on issues that matter, but can’t alter the ways of society.

In an age where women-centric films like “Nil Battey Sannata” and “Angry Indian Goddesses” are being made in India, Yadav believes that the people’s mentality is changing.

Leena Yadav
Leena Yadav

“Films start a dialogue, but I don’t think they can change society. Films can start a dialogue and dialogue is the beginning of change. We can’t claim as filmmakers that we will change people. Even if a film makes five people think differently, then it’s a big achievement. I know it’s (‘Parched’) affecting people,” Yadav told IANS on phone from Mumbai.

“Parched”, which stars Radhika Apte, Tannishtha Chatterjee, and Lehar Khan in key roles, will open the Bagri Foundation London Indian Film Festival on Thursday. Backed by Ajay Devgn, the movie has garnered international acclaim.

Yadav, who has directed films like “Shabd” and “Teen Patti” in the past, said there’s a need for distributors to support films that are not big-budget productions.

“Distributors will say put them (films) out for the masses. Otherwise these films get labelled for the ‘intelligentsia’. What is this intelligentsia? Films have an emotional language and everybody understands emotions. If a film made in a village in India is so widely appreciated in France then why not in India,” she questioned.

She also made an appeal to stop labelling films.

“Let’s stop calling a film an art film or commercial film. At the end of the day even an art film has to make commerce, right? Why are these labels there? Just focus on content. Let’s have variety. Let’s have mindless entertainers too. Just give a completely different flavour to the audiences,” Yadav said.

“Now the audience is changing on a daily basis. The content has increased so much everywhere on the internet and television,” she added.

Leena Yadav
Leena Yadav

With the advent of online platforms like Netflix, films have got a much wider reach. Acknowledging the impact of the medium, Yadav said: “‘Parched’ has to ultimately go there (Netflix); I am not at all in denial for that.”

Her film, she says, “is much more than gender”.

“It is about humanity, it is (a) universal (subject). It is very, very personal. It has been very different and overwhelming, and a very transformative film for most of us, for our personal selves,” she said.

Although the film’s premise is set in rural India, Yadav says that the issues that the women go through there are no different than in the cities.

“When I was writing the film, these were revelations that happened with me. I had conversations in a village and then I came back to Mumbai and realised, ‘Oh sh*t! Who am I fooling?’ The same sh*t is happening here. We think we are more progressive. It is human tendency… we look for the problem elsewhere,” Yadav asserted.

She also slammed the perception that gender bias only happens in villages.

“Similarly, in the cities we think all that stuff is happening in villages. We have these misconceptions. We don’t acknowledge that it’s happening much more around us. As human beings I am saying even if it is happening in one part of the world, we are still responsible.”

About her upcoming projects, Yadav said that she is working on an Indian film, “which I will hopefully shoot at the end of the year”.

“I am working on a couple of scripts for international projects, which I will discuss with producers in Los Angeles”.


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