Interviews

I am a film activist, not a filmmaker: Shriprakash6 min read

February 27, 2013 5 min read

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I am a film activist, not a filmmaker: Shriprakash6 min read

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He is not a filmmaker; he is a film activist he says. He has won the National Award for his films but he just considers himself to be an instrument of carrying the ‘camera to the place of struggle’. He is a well respected name in documentary making and his name also happens to be a protest against the caste system (he has dropped his surname).

Shriprakash has made innumerable films on hazardous effects of mining radioactive elements and various other causes but feels guilty of not doing enough, even after 15 years of documenting people’s struggling often putting everything on risk.

Those who have heard of Jadugoda have heard of it because of him; that is his filmmaking. Also his filmmaking relies on food and transport provided by the local communities and not on loans and grants.

The producer of ‘Jadugoda – The black magic’ was present for the Travelling Uranium Film Festival 2013 organised by Manipal Institute of Communication (MIC) in association with the Manipal Film Study Centre (MFSC). Following are the Excerpts from an interview by TMJ:

 

What pushed you to enter the domain of an activist documentary maker; a domain which stirs reactions among people?

Look, things are never in isolation, there is always a reaction stirred against any action. These are co-ordinates directly proportional to each other. My upbringing in an average middle class family, led to me having a romantic impression about the audio visual medium. Sooner or later, I realised that individuals were incognisant about the injustices around them; therefore they continued to take place. I felt the urge to create awareness about the prejudices breeding around them, so that the affected could make better decisions. This urged me to create ‘awareness’ and also my romanticism towards the audio visual medium led me to tell a story through my camera after graduation.

I wanted the ground reality to come out, giving people an equal opportunity to form their opinions. However, after years of experience, I have discovered that you can wake the people who are sleeping, but not the ones who pretend to be sleeping.

Being an independent documentary maker; did you ever come across a situation where you had to subjugate your ethical responsibilities due to practical considerations? If not, what makes you stick by them instead of all the hardships?

Personally, I do not approve of using the title of a film maker; since we as personas do not create something; instead we fill in the loop of taking something from society and rendering back to it. According to me, Film maker or Documentary maker is a big word. ‘To Create’ is what film making declares. I do not create something; rather I believe I am stealing something from society and giving it back. I prefer to address myself as a film activist.

In real terms, coming back to your question, the political documentaries I have worked or will work on, I do not feel that I have compromised or will ever compromise with my ethics. If you go to the affected areas, you would realise the immensity of pain the populaces dwelling there go through. Now, it’s the responsibility of the filmmaker to choose what kind of relation he wants to establish with his subject and where does he want to put himself in the debate. Therefore, there are various kinds of point of views and it depends on the film maker which one, he chooses to explore. But on a personal level, I have never negotiated on what I want to say in spite of how demeaning it may seem to society.

At the end of the day, it all boils down to the awareness and change these films bring about in the ground reality of individuals. So have your films on the hazards of Uranium Mining brought any kind of a change in Jadugoda? 

This has remained my guilt ever since, that I have made fame but things haven’t changed in people’s life. We (film activists) make films like projects and ventures, only to not care about it later. Nobody bothers what has happened to the lives of the affected individuals.  This film festival was one of my last resorts to make people aware. I shall repeat you can wake those who are in deep sleep but how can you wake those who pretend to be sleeping?  Various doctors, engineers etc. are criminals, since they know about the hazardous health impact of radioactive mining on the population of the area and still choose to keep mum about the issue.

We also tried to work with international organisations and brought down Japanese scientists (since they have prior knowledge about these issues); however the government’s reaction remained to be thoughtless. Laureates winning Noble Peace Prize have been brought down from Germany and America.  Innumerable stories have been narrated through several forms of media, but there still remains to be no change in the system.

In Jadugoda, there are two entities; the first one is the democratic framework and the other rising against the inflicted injustices, outside the framework of the constitution.  The worst part of this setup or scenario is that, there is no dialogue between these two entities, no one to give answers for the inflicted injustices. In such a case, violence persists to be a useful retort. So the whole setup in the region is gloomy and sad.

How much of an emotional turmoil have you faced on seeing the pain around you as a film activist? Do you think it has changed you in any way over the years? 

I guess I am a thick person. Also, the community I pretend to represent that is the community of film makers as you call it, there is something about that society which makes them survive (even after seeing the pain of our society) and not commit heinous crimes like suicide.

Over the years, I have believed that all of us are hypocrites; we say something and act in a different way. Besides, I feel guiltier that I haven’t done enough.

Whatever the space we have been rendered with, we are trying to bring a change within it.

Did you ever feel scared in any way while shooting documentaries?

Yes, it is humane to feel scared, but as we say somebody has to take the risk. The thought of the perils of Uranium mining or radioactivity by itself, is really very painful. You will not die immediately, it will kill you slowly. The worst part of that is; you will witness it yourself. You will witness your body deforming.

But on seeing the wider perspective, you would realize that there is a whole community facing the brunt of radioactivity. The only question popping inside your head would be, ‘Why are you worried about yourself?’

 

Sub-edited by Priyanka Sharma