Venkatesh Maha might have directed just one original feature film, Care of Kancharapalem (his second, Uma Maheshwara Ugra Roopasya was an adaptation of Maheshinte Prathikaaram) so far but he has established himself as a voice to watch out for in Telugu cinema. In a recent interview with Film Companion, the filmmaker spoke about the impact of cinema and why it's imperative that filmmakers possess a certain degree of social responsibility while crafting their films.
“The purpose of art is to incite a change. If a filmmaker wants to make something completely as per his/her wish, then why are they asking society to pay money to watch it? They can screen it in their private space to their friends and relatives, right?” Venkatesh asks. “But a film is made to express something, whether people agree with it or not is a different aspect. But a personal expression creating a negative impact on society is not right.”
Venkatesh goes on to add that filmmakers tend to conceal some inappropriate choices and portrayals using certain techniques and pass off problematic elements seamlessly. “Sometimes, the audience cannot see through the real intentions of the filmmaker, say, if you use great music. That’s why cinema, or any kind of medium, is used for propaganda too. It impacts the audience. The power of cinema is that you are bringing together different forms (visuals, music and dialogues) to create one expression.”
“Cinema is more powerful than God,” the filmmaker asserts. Elaborating on the statement, Venkatesh says, “See, even a teacher has more powers than a God. In fact, all the mediums command that kind of power, because you can install any thought in one’s mind. However, people seek entertainment. While only those who want to get educated go to a teacher, every individual, regardless of their educational and societal background, comes to watch films. It is easily accessible to everyone. You can simply sit on a sofa and watch a film without any effort.”
“We absolutely believe that the thoughts we are planting in the audience's minds should help humans win at the end of the day. That is our major principle. We strongly believe that cinema impacts the audience. I don’t like the argument that cinema should be consumed just as cinema. People don’t see cinema just as cinema. If people see a film just like a film, why would ugly fights take place on social media? Even recently, a man committed a murder and cited a film as an inspiration. By employing dialogues, songs and background score, we are creating and sending a new person out of the theatre. When the impact on the society is evident, we have to take responsibility.”
This, however, is not a simple, binary argument though. If a person is mental state is volatile enough to commit a heinous act like murder purely instigated by a film, aren’t his/her social environment, parents, and teachers complicit too? Isn’t it a collective failure of the society? Venkatesh says, “Yes, it is the collective failure of society, I agree. But since we are making films, let’s all be responsible about what we are saying.”