Prakash Javadekar knows nothing: Derek Malcolm

Prakash Javadekar knows nothing: Derek Malcolm

Renowned film critic Derek Malcolm was part of a long conversation at the Maquinez Palace where he and Malayalam auteur Shaji N Karun were seen fending off Subhash Ghai’s commercial aesthetic. (DH photo: Pushkar V)

One of the most renowned film critics of the English speaking world, Derek Malcolm’s association with Indian cinema has been long. He personally knew some of the best names in Indian cinema, including Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, Shyam Benegal, Raj Kapoor, Shashi Kapoor.

After a long conversation at the Maquinez Palace, where he and Malayalam auteur Shaji N Karun were seen fending off Subhash Ghai’s commercial aesthetic, DH caught up with the renowned writer to speak about films he has seen and the filmmakers he has met.

“I have almost met young filmmakers too but they have stopped making films now,” Malcolm says, referring to the just-finished conversation, where he had stressed on how the distribution process has pushed many independent filmmakers to give up on their film.

He said he believes initiatives like the Criterion Channel, the OTT platform associated with the Criterion Collection, which is involved in restoring some of the best films of the world, could help the situation.

"I think it's difficult to make independent films everywhere in the world, not just in India. The problem with India is that it's not very outward-looking. It's got its culture and anybody else doesn't matter. If you criticise Bollywood, they say, ‘We like Bollywood. It’s our culture’, Malcolm says.

“All that’s true in a way but sometimes they don’t think it’s necessary to progress at all,” he adds.

Asked about how, on the other hand, many Indian artistes are appreciated only after the West recognises them, Malcolm says, “Exactly, that often happens. I notice that the fine filmmakers like Aravindan are only recognised when they are dead. Or John Abraham. Until they are dead, it’s ‘he is drunk’ or ‘he is no good’. And finally, when they die, they are suddenly thought to be heroes.”

Asked if there is some way to fix things, the writer says, “Well, as Indians become more middle class and more educated, let’s hope they are more educated in culture. At the moment, I don’t think Modi and co have the slightest interest in culture. It’s a shame really. I met the minister of film yesterday. Terrible man, he knows nothing.”

Asked if he was talking about Prakash Javadekar, Malcolm says, “Yes, yes, that’s right.”

He then remembered an experience he shared with Satyajit Ray. “Ray used to listen to western classical music but also used to take me Indian classical music concerts. Now, very few people listen to Indian classical music. I am a little bit worried about everybody’s culture. Everybody doesn’t understand that their culture is very important. And I don’t think there are very many good critics in India to teach people and to signal when a really good film comes out.”

“People have to be led to it through the nose sometimes,” he says.

When asked if he had read any Indian film criticism, he says, “Yes. Well, they are pretty awful.”