Mrinal Sen

At 75, a mellowed maestro looks for a form that will redefine popular cinema
Is there any aspect of your life and work you'd want to change in your career?
Not my career alone, given another chance, I'd treat my life as a dress rehearsal and start all over again. Even as there's a sense of fulfilment, I'm aware of the lapses I've committed.

Why hasn't there been a full-length film for 5 years?
In mid-1995, my friend Amit Khanna did offer to produce a film directed by me. I toyed with ideas, drafted scripts, even organised a serious hunt for actors and locations but dropped it all. I am still on the job, looking for a subject untouched so far, a form that will push the frontiers of popular cinema.

Among your films, which one would you rate as your personal favourite?
Don't ask me to rate my favourites. I've quite a few films that are close to my heart.

Do you think the good cinema movement is dead in India?
Good cinema in India is getting increasingly uninteresting and dull. Not cinema alone, creativity as a whole is in the throes of a crisis. But I'm sure the tide will turn.

Given the growing bias against personal, non-mainstream cinema, isn't it much tougher today finding funds for your kind of films?
Barring a few, all my films have been failures at the box-office. But I've never faced any insurmountable fund barrier

Is there a way out for the so-called parallel cinema?
We'll have to practice austerity.

Is there any filmmaker in India on whom you pin your hopes?
If you ask me to name only one, it's Adoor Gopalakrishnan.

What is more important to you—critical acclaim or popular applause?
One does not necessarily negate the other. I crave critical acclaim, but nobody will be happier if my films reach a larger audience.

You've often been called a maverick maestro, a filmmaker who always swims against the tide? Is that a fair appellation?
I leave it to you to decide. It's difficult for me to assess myself.

Are you happy with your stint in the Rajya Sabha so far?
It's another world, you need a completely different mindset. I've attended only three sittings so far and it's too early to form a clear impression. You'll have to wait for a year.

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