Tigmanshu Dhulia: Every filmmaker should have a censor board within them

The director talks about his college days, the cultural decline of society and his upcoming series, Garmi
Tigmanshu Dhulia: Every filmmaker should have a censor board within them

Everything Everywhere All At Once, which won seven Oscars at the 95th Academy Awards this year, didn’t sit well with director Tigmanshu Dhulia. “I couldn’t bear it after 10 minutes,” he says. This doesn’t come as a surprise. Tigmanshu’s brand of cinema has always been rooted in realism. His directorial debut Haasil (2003) showed a stark picture of love, rebellion, and politics at Allahabad University. The college life portrayed in the film sharply contrasts the manicured, fairytale world of Karan Johar’s young-adult films of the late 90s. Tigmanshu comes from a school of directors who are unafraid to show a mirror to society. There is no patience for alternate (even if happier) realities.

The director, who can be recognised on the street as Ramadhir Singh, the calm, stout villain in Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur, is coming up with a new series titled Garmi. The show is about a hot-headed teenager Arvind Shukla (Vyom Yadav) and how he gets entangled in a web of college politics and crime. Tigmanshu seems to be treading familiar territory. “Yes, I am revisiting Haasil,” he says. “I wanted to know how students and student politics have evolved in the past 20 years.”

And what were his findings? “Our students are running only after money. If material gains will be at the centre of any society, there won’t be any cultural progress. Earlier, it was about reading a good book or having new ideas. Nowadays, if art doesn’t create money, it won’t even be talked about,” he says.

Tigmanshu completed his graduation from Allahabad University in 1986. During his research for Garmi, he revisited the university and spoke to students and student leaders. “We used to have a dramatics hall where we performed plays. Now I see there is vegetation growing inside. That is the sort of cultural decline we are facing today,” he says.

Garmi is Tigmanshu’s third series directorial on OTT after Criminal Justice (2019) and The Great Indian Murder (2022). The director enjoys the freedom he gets in telling a story for the digital audience. “A theatrical film has to be told in 2.5 hours. The plot should be constantly moving ahead. An OTT series gives an opportunity to completely showcase the world the story happens in. The characters can be fleshed out, and placed in varied situations. It’s like writing an epic,” he shares.

Even if OTT offers liberty as a storytelling format, the scissors of censors are always looming over web series and films. After Tandav (2021) was pulled to court for hurting sentiments, there seems to be restraint from OTT platforms when it comes to series with political undertones. “I think the restraint was always there, even before OTT,” clarifies Tigmanshu, adding, “Our country is made up of different communities, castes, and religions. As makers, you need to have a censor board within yourself. You can’t show whatever you want.”

But who draws the line at a time when online boycott campaigns happen at the drop of a hat? “Social media is just a distraction. Most of these boycott campaigns are orchestrated. When an important issue is getting traction, these campaigns are used to divert attention. In reality, people’s ability to differentiate between right and wrong has weakened in the past few years,” signs off Tigmanshu.

Related Stories

No stories found.
Cinema Express