Asian cinema should be properly recognised: Shabana Azmi


The time has come for Asian cinema to be recognised and represented internationally, says actor and activist Shabana Azmi, who is heading the international jury for the inaugural Asia Pacific Screen Awards (APSA) being held here.

"The Asia Pacific Screen Awards is an idea whose time has come both politically and culturally. It is only fair that Asian cinema which comprises nearly three-fourths of world cinema is properly recognised and represented," Shabana told IANS in an interview here.

"The Oscar award seems to be the definitive award filmmakers aspire for. We are going to create in the times to come an alternative to that so that Asian cinema gets the recognition it deserves," she said.

APSA has covered over 100 films from 30 countries across the Asia Pacific region. However, only one Indian film - "Gandhi My Father" - is among the five nominated in the best screenplay category.

"I think there could have been much greater representation from India. The film that is here, 'Gandhi My Father', is an excellent film and I'm glad it is here. There were efforts to get 'Chak De! India'. It didn't happen because producer Yash Raj had concerns about piracy as the film hadn't released in cinemas at the time of selections, which APSA was very happy to respect," she said.

APSA is bringing together films from the classical and traditional to the experimental and cutting edge industries - from the stylised horror genres of Japan, to the allegorical tragedies and comedies of South Korea. It is also showcasing the extraordinary tapestry of Chinese cinema, the multifaceted industries of India, the poetry and reality of Persian cinema and visionary narratives of the Middle East. The awards will be presented Tuesday at the plush Sheraton Mirage here.

According to Shabana, as the world shrinks and becomes a global village, it is important that cultures are understood within their own paradigms and not as yardsticks imposed by the West on the East.

"What APSA is doing is a step in that direction and that is why it is very important. It is a great opportunity and window into the cultures of the world. What has been available has been Hollywood. Where do we see all these countries - Lebanon, (South) Korea, Palestine - making films?"

On the future of the Australian-Indian film connection, Shabana said: "Co-productions should always be encouraged. Australia has such fabulous locales and is offering lots of incentives to Indian cinema. My son Farhan Akhtar shot his very first film 'Dil Chahta Hai' in Sydney and he was very happy. All the facilities here were great."

About the quality of submissions for APSA, Shabana said: "Some of the films are very good and some not so good. This is bound to happen because it is the first such awards."

Her favourite is a film from Israel, "The Band's Visit". "It is an exquisite film that has deeply, deeply, deeply touched my heart. The film demonstrates how cinema has the ability to enter your hearts and touch across all cultures and classes and there is something universal about it."

Two of her films are ready for release.

"In 'Das Kahaniyan', there are 10 different stories strung together. It is produced by Sanjay Gupta and directed by Rohit Roy who managed to get Naseer and me together after 15 years in one episode. It will be released on Nov 23."

"I have done a film for my son with Boman Irani called 'Positive'. It is a film about HIV/AIDS produced by Mira Nair and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It will be released in December," she added.

For now, Shabana is enjoying being in Australia. "I am here with my two school friends. No husbands, no children. We are having a great time. I love Australians as they are warm, happy, friendly and generous people."

(Neena Bhandari can be contacted at [email protected])


Indo-Asian News Service