“I have travelled all over India in search of content for my films”.
“It is important for any film-maker to understand the elements of sociology and politics”.
“I think a writer or director should be sensitive about the society. You can put across your point without being offensive to anyone”.
These are the words of John Mathew Matthan, Chairperson of IFFI 51 Indian Panorama Jury and National Film Award-winning film writer, producer and director. He was conversing with film journalist Faridoon Shahriyar during a virtual In-Conversation Session titled “DO YOU HAVE IT?”, held as part of the virtual offering of 51st International Film Festival of India (IFFI), being held in Goa.
Shri Matthan has won the National Film Award for the film ‘Sarfarosh’ (1999), which he directed and produced and for which he wrote the story-screenplay as well. Speaking about this film, the maker of more than 200 films said: “Songs have a purpose in movies. At the time when this movie was made, music was a big component in terms of revenue. I did not like the idea of having two romantic songs in the film”.
In this context, he said, in present times, a film-maker is not compelled to keep romantic songs as it is not a marketing requirement. Reflecting on the songs of the film, he revealed: “The much-admired ghazal Hoshwalon Ko Khabar Kya was significant as it conveyed a dual message. It threw light on India-Pakistan situation, apart from adding to the love-story. Now, when I make Sarfarosh 2, I may keep lesser number of songs.”
Highlighting the iterative process which he underwent while writing the script of Sarfarosh 2, Shri Matthan said: “I wrote the script of Sarfarosh 2 for about 5-6 times, before finalizing it. When I wrote the script, I looked at its criticism and kept it aside. After 5-6 months, I started writing it again and came across new potholes. This is actually the fifth script of Sarfarosh-2 which has been finalized”. “You have to have good friends who are critical of you”, added the ace film-maker.
Revealing more about Sarfarosh 2, he said, it is about the internal security of India. “It shows how India’s security stands strong in spite of various problems”. He informed that he is dedicating the movie to the CRPF personnel, who bear the brunt of these problems.
About his strong liking for Urdu poetry, although he is a Malayali, he said, “Urdu is a beautiful language. From my Muslim friends, I have developed an interest and appreciation for Urdu poetry and ghazals”. The Late Shafi Inamdar was Matthan’s friend. When asked about his language of thinking, he said it is Malayalam – “My thoughts come in Malayalam, but I cannot write in Malayalam. I write in Hindi using Roman script”.
The veteran also reveals, “film-making is a risky business”. In the case of a particular film, Matthan could just pay back his loan and had to incur some loss.
A subject of liking for the veteran film-maker is the evolution of religion and how it has impacted the human race. He feels life has become much easier now with access to the internet. Speaking about his experience as Jury-Chairman for Indian Panaroma, he says, “I saw 180 films and realized how diverse we are”. He added, India is a bubbling active democracy. “This is a country to be embraced and loved”.