Devashish Makhija on ‘Joram’: ‘Politics and arts should be allowed to cross-pollinate’


At a time when filmmakers often filter their political views, Devashish Makhija comes across as a straight shooter. A darling of film festivals, this critic's choice urges audiences to vote wisely from public forums. Makhija's films have the rare ability to unsettle even the obvious target audience as she asks thorny questions rather than taking sides. he attracted attention Ajji (2017), A distorted view on the vengeance of an old, weak woman, and went on to shine Bhonsle (2018) And joram (2023), Where once again faint voices took over the popular narrative. Starting with our first feature, Onga (2013), Makhija questions the need to disrupt sustainable environment tribal, Without any condescending tone.

Manoj Bajpayee with Devashish Makhija

Manoj Bajpayee with Devashish Makhija Photo Courtesy: Punit Reddy

“We either romanticize or criminalize tribals in our films. Either way it counts as promotion. I have taken a humanitarian approach,” Makhija said on the sidelines of the recently concluded Habitat Film Festival joram The finale was the film.

You are one of the rare filmmakers of this generation whose films take a political stance, especially on issues of migration and immigrants. How did you find your voice?

, Maybe, it's because I survived a riot. On December 6, 1992, when I was 12 years old, our rented accommodation in Kolkata was almost attacked by Bangladeshi Muslim immigrants. Till then, I did not know the difference between religions because from cycling and karate to cricket, I did everything with the children of my Muslim neighbours. That night, as soon as the news of Babri demolition spread, riots broke out in different parts of the country. If you put it on film it will look fabricated, but just as the rioters were about to storm our building, an Air Force patrol vehicle stopped and the tension was relieved.

The next day, when the curfew was relaxed, I went to the same shops to buy eggs and bread. But my Muslim friends and I looked at each other differently. Something had changed inside me. If we had actually been attacked, the matter could have gone somewhere else. Since it remained just an idea, it confused me. I started harassing my friends, family and relatives to decide who is Baharwala (outsider). My parents were Sindhi immigrants from West Pakistan. He had seen his siblings die of malnutrition during a hiking trip to Kolkata. Those who came 50 years ago became insiders but those who came 20 years later did not. I started raising these questions in my school projects and essays.

When I shifted to Mumbai in 2003, my first project was to do research work for Anurag Kashyap black Friday, This was the time when Hindi signboards were being changed to Marathi. When I used to ask questions to police officers in Hindi, they used to answer in Marathi. I was angry because it was unconstitutional. All this remained inside me and found reflection in Bhonsle And joram, Both reflect on the outer-inner binary from different perspectives.

Under the thriller, joram Questions the development model that successive governments have offered the indigenous people…

The main question I am trying to raise is who decides what development is. If it is determined by greed then it is very difficult to negotiate because then someone has to pay the price of someone else's greed. Then it is not a matter of development. These are some of the underlying questions that I am trying to raise as a subtext and in an almost mathematical way using the sexy tropes of a thriller like the father-daughter sentiment, the three chase sequences, etc.

Don't you think that a section of people might call you anti-corporate because there is a certain amount of greed inherent in capitalism?

If it is about profit maximization, there should be something built into it that ensures equitable distribution. The moment it is greed, it is about the interests of the minority which the majority has to pay for. The model is flawed and I would question the absence of justice. I'm not anti-corporate, I'm anti-greed

How do you see the relationship between politics and cinema?

The best cinemas in the world are those that have struck a balance between the two and allowed cross-pollination between politics and art.

Do you think current mainstream Hindi filmmakers are doing this?

Most of them, in their creative voices, have become apolitical. Yes, they get political when they go home. There was a time when they had Manoj Kumar and Yash Chopra who wore their politics on their sleeves. The last time I saw politics artistically was Vishal Bhardwaj Haider, whenever i start a movie i show hot air for the team, If film is the medium of the director, then film theater is the medium of the star. The clout and charm that the star brings with him ensures that the film gets made. I am lucky that I have Manoj Bajpayee with me.

You seem to be pursuing a parallel career as a novelist…

My cinematic ideas do not get the green signal because many production houses are not ready to discuss what I have to say. Writing is an outlet because English literature is slipping under the radar. I'm about to sign a deal with a major publisher for my first adult novel that I've been trying to write for several years. This is the most political thing I'm writing. This is a fictional account of what I experienced on that December night in 1992 from the perspective of two 12-year-old boys.

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