Aruna Vasudev, who has a doctorate in film studies from France, discovered contemporary Asian cinema in 1984. Four years later, she, along with Latika Padgaonkar and Rashmi Doraiswamy, launched Cinemaya, a quarterly dedicated to Asian films. “I was sick of looking at Kurosawa or Ray with Western eyes,”?she says. “So we had a magazine for Asian writers on Asian cinema.” Cinemaya, in turn, led to Cinefan, the festival of Asian cinema, and to the pan-Asian organization Netpac, or Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema. Ahead of celebrations to mark 20 years of Netpac, which include a film festival, a conference and allied events, Vasudev talked to Lounge. Edited excerpts:
Cinephile’s corner: Aruna Vasudev. Pradeep Gaur / Mint
What has Netpac accomplished?
In our efforts to promote and show Asian films in Asia, we have reached out to decision makers in India and other countries and packaged Asian films for film festivals across the globe.?We instituted the?Netpac?award?for?the? best? Asian films at 28 film festivals, including at Busan, Karlovy Vary, Bangkok, Locarno and Rotterdam. We have done all this working voluntarily while holding other jobs.
What are your views on the commercial and art divide in Asian cinema?
There isn’t one any more. There used to be a clear divide. There was the new wave in Hong Kong in the 1980s, for instance. But now it is not so distinct. Actors and directors switch bet-ween both, art as well as more accessible cinema— in India, there’s Aparna Sen and Shyam Benegal. Aishwarya Rai stars in a Rituparno Ghosh film and Mammootty in an Adoor Gopalakrishnan?film.?What do you call Anurag Kashyap —art or popular cinema? It is just good cinema.
What about the quality of Asian films in the last 20 years? Has the audience grown?
It has improved enormously. Be it in terms of production or cinematic quality. For instance, these days, even technicians are from film sch-ools and so they have high production values. There have been outstanding film-makers like Im Kwon- taek in Korea, and Jafar Panahi and Abbas Kiarostami from Iran.
Anyone in India?
No one who has reached that level. Maybe, to an extent, Mani Ratnam now.
Has Asia caught up with Hollywood or Europe in quality of cinema?
Yes, but we need more public support and a larger audience. People come to see films in festivals, but theatre is where we need them. At the moment, the West seems to be obsessed with Bollywood. For younger Indian film-makers, Bollywood is a hindrance. See how Udaan has run in the theatres only for a few days.
So it would be fair to say that Asia has fewer discerning film-goers than the West?
There are no discerning viewers in the West—most people go to the films to “chill”. But yes, to an extent, there are more viewers in the West. But now, younger audiences are more aware. I still recall how, in 2003, we decided to screen a tribute to Wong Kar-wai in Delhi at the Cinefan festival and I thought a few people would show up. But the rush was such that there was almost a stampede. It was an eye-opener.
Netpac celebrations will run from 18-22 August in New Delhi. For details, log on to Netpacasia.org