Saeed Mirza, who made the original Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyon Aata Hai, and his protege, Soumitra Ranade, who has directed a film with the same title, weigh in the similarities and the departures from the 1980 classic. Edited excerpts from the interview…
What are your earliest memories of Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyon Aata Hai?
Soumitra Ranade: I saw this film first in 1980. It was one of the most inspiring films for us. I was in my second year at the JJ School of Arts. I remember being stunned by it. It was one of the films that inspired me to go to the FTII (Film and Television Institute of India, Pune).
The retelling of Albert Pinto… in the modern context…Has it been at the back of your mind for very long?
SR: After this whole new development happening in the country, the opening up of the economy there has been this hype that now things are going to be ok. I travelled a lot into the interiors and found people getting angrier. It should have been the other way round now that we have mobile phones, super highways and all that. I felt this anger had not been represented in the media. If you see the news there are these figures thrown at us that we are doing really very well. The social tension has increased so much.
I started writing this script. It wasn’t Albert Pinto… at that time. I finished three-fourth of the script and realised the way he [the protagonist] is responding to situations was like Naseer (Naseeruddin Shah) in [the earlier] Albert Pinto… I finished the script and showed it to him [pointing to Saeed Mirza] and thought he’d throw it out of the window.
But it seems he didn’t… Why didn’t you [Saeed Mirza] throw it out of the window?
Saeed Mirza: I have known him as a student at the FTII and I have seen his work as a student over there and admired it. He was different. We worked together in a couple of projects. What I liked was an independent mind. This, seeing things his way. When he showed me the script I told him it was his take on Albert Pinto… I can only critique you within the parameters that you have chosen for yourself. I can’t try and impose something else. I am flattered that it is being made with the same title but it is a different take.
How do the two compare and contrast?
SM: I think mine was far more social, within quotes. It was to do with ethnicity, belonging to a social, minority group. Soumitra’s is more political. There were political undercurrents in my film that never came to the fore. His is far more angst-ridden. It is more angst of our times. Yes Albert Pinto belongs to a minority but a larger question is raised here. Actually it is beyond Albert Pinto. It goes for a larger picture. It starts from the specific but is far more generalised social anger put into the character. In fact he also probes why there is a lack of anger. It is a very tortured mind in his film and I respect that. Mine was more a fight for identity.
SR: Things are becoming dark, situation is becoming so desperate. If you are sensitive about the space you are living in, your environment, the country, the society, it’s becoming hopeless. Back then there was still a sense of hope. So [my] Albert Pinto goes more and more into his shell. It’s a psychological thing. It’s the helplessness of an individual, the fact that you can’t do anything. If you look at the TV debates and social media there is so much of violence of language, abusiveness. Because we are so angry and frustrated, there is no proper outlet for a debate.
So what has stayed from the earlier film, is the anger and the name of the character but you have redone it entirely?
SM: There are cross-references. There is a connect and yet there isn’t one. There is a Dominic, there is a father and a mother but it’s far more abstract.
SR: Over the years the title has been used as phrase. I have seen headlines like “Sonia Gandhi Ko Gussa Kyon Aata Hai”, “Mahender Singh Dhoni Ko Gussa Kyon Aata Hai”. It has become a phrase of our times.
The anger in the film also comes at a time, when there is a lack of questioning, in fact an obsequiousness all around. Do you see anger as a positive force?
SM: It is damn size better than the conspiracy of silence in the campuses. When young people are not angry, something is wrong with the country. To me personally, when smugness creeps in, there is a problem. It helps maintain the status quo. I often think about the youth. Why shouldn’t their concern be about jobs? But then it should also be about the state of affairs. Larger questions need to be raised.
I have always maintained that we have this incredible capacity to flog someone inferior and getting on to our knees for someone stronger than us — politically, economically, socially. It worries me.