Acclaimed filmmaker Onir, who is as brutally honest with his words as with his films, is appalled at the “bad to worse” situation of the country, where people’s sentiments keep getting hurt by anything and everything shown on screen. He says Indian movie-makers in the country are at the “worst receiving end” of censorship and tax issues.

“The country is going from bad to worse as everything is becoming an issue. Anything that we talk in cinema is hurting people’s sentiments. We are becoming very closed as a society. We can’t laugh at ourselves, we can’t crack jokes and that is the sad thing which is affecting our cinema,” Onir told IANS in a telephonic interview from Mumbai.

“Filmmakers are really always put at the worst receiving end of many things like censorship, sensibility and tax,” the filmmaker asserted.

A National Award winner known for “My Brother… Nikhil”, “Bas Ek Pal” and “I AM”, Onir has always picked socially relevant issues like the stigma attached to AIDS patients in India, sperm donation, gay rights, Kashmiri Pandits and child sex abuse through his films.

He conceded that the medium of cinema is powerful; however, many factors need to change in society for the industry to grow in the right direction.

“First is to make cinema a part of Art and Culture, and not Information and Broadcasting. Cinema is the youngest form of art and this country is not realising that. Also, one has to keep a check on the entertainment tax… It is killing our industry in a big way.

“All these issues, including censorship, need to be addressed, because in the age of Internet, when everything is so available, how can one put a ban on things like adult films’ Or, for instance, look at the way the film ‘Aligarh’ (on homosexuality) was treated. We don’t seem to change for the better at all,” he added.

Onir, who has in the past worked with actresses like Juhi Chawala, Raveena Tandon and Urmila Matondkar, also feels that the Indian film industry is still not so open to talents who come from non-film backgrounds.

“Being the largest film industry in the world, there is a serious lack of number of actors and actresses we have at any given age. If you look at the Hollywood space, there are 20 different actors and actresses, but here it is just four or five.

“I feel that very little talent gets encouraged here because you don’t belong to the film industry. So, I feel that the film industry needs to open up a little bit more for talents that don’t belong to a film family,” he said.

Focus on independent films is also vital, he said.

“I feel that there has to be a little bit more awareness towards advertisement and print and publicity spending, so that smaller budget films with good content get a fair chance to survive. If independent film space gets stronger, it will also contribute to mainstream films. They are not a threat to each other.

“The support needs to be a little bit more,” said Onir, who has widened his horizons by venturing into ad film direction for the AND Fall 16 collection.

He shot with actress Kareena Kapoor Khan for the campaign titled #WhoYouAre, and is also busy with his next movie “Shab” that will be out soon.

(Nivedita can be contacted at [email protected])

By Nivedita