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Made in China, loved in India

Published : Oct 22, 2016, 10:29 pm IST
Updated : Oct 22, 2016, 10:29 pm IST

On his maiden trip to India, Jia Zhangke talks about cinema, his connection with India and much more

A still from Platform
 A still from Platform

On his maiden trip to India, Jia Zhangke talks about cinema, his connection with India and much more

Chinese auteur Jia Zhangke on his maiden trip to Mumbai for 18th Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival said that political turmoil always affects artistes. Jia who is in the city to accept the International Excellence in Cinema Award says that India and China share a lot in common when it comes to socio-economic patterns, especially in context of filmmaking. “When I was growing up, our constant worry was hunger. From that point to where I stopped bothering about it, hunger has often played a very important part in my life as well as my films,” said Jia in a conversation with Chaitanya Tamhane, director of Court.

Jia is one of the most respected independent Chinese directors of the ‘sixth generation’, who started out making underground films. It has only been since 2004 that he has been making films with official Government approval, but Jia continues to be ruthless in his depiction of alienation against the backdrop of social, cultural and political realities in China. His cinematic portrayal of his country is poignant and has, over the years, charted the changes taking place in China, especially life during and after the Chinese economic reform.

“Poverty, destiny, faith and death,” he says are some of the preoccupations that have bothered him since a very early age. “I grew up in a small town where mostly everyone rode bicycles. And I remember once a friend had said that if he could buy a motorcycle, he would think of himself to be the most successful person,” he said. Jia, grew up in Fenyang in Shanxi province. To point at the shift in the collective consciousness of the Chinese after the reformation, he says, “Earlier, all our songs had ‘we’ in it, but eventually the songs started addressing ‘I’.”

He recalled how as a young boy a friend’s death had made a deep impact in his life and subsequently he took the resolution to devote himself to arts. “Making films was not even a distant dream then because cinema was never thought as quite accessible. So I started with writing, mainly poetry and short stories,” he said.

Jia often sites the Chinese classic Yellow Earth as one of his biggest influences in filmmaking. But India has also played an important role in Jia’s career. “When I was young, there would be lot of Indian film screenings. One of the films that I had watched and had really liked was Awaara. It was a film that I would watch with my friends and would later sing in our courtyards, which would upset the elders since it was about a thief,” he said with a laugh, further adding, “If you remember, in Pickpocket (his second film), the protagonist is a thief.”

The 46-year-old filmmaker, who also announced a possibility of collaboration with India, launched an online film platform to help launch independent filmmakers not just from China, but also from all across the globe.

Addressing the aspiring filmmakers, he said, “I always asked myself the question: why I want to make the film ’ I cannot forget where I came from and that is very important for me as a filmmaker. Personally I like cinema which is closer to our everyday reality and one has to be assertive enough to sail through and make one’s film,” he said.