Social films shouldn’t be preachy: Tom Alter

New Delhi: Veteran theatre and film personality Tom Alter believes that films dealing with social issues get boring whenever they try to be preachy. He says filmmakers should try to present a social issue on screen by including an exciting factor in the story line so that the film doesn’t look tedious.

An alumnus of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Alter, who has been active in the entertainment industry for the last four decades, has played pivotal roles in successful films like “Gandhi”, “Shatranj Ke Khilari”, “Kranti”, “Aashiqui” and “Parinda”.

“Cinema can only tell a very good story. But what we do is whenever we try to spread a message to society, we only worry about the message and don’t try to make an interesting play or a film. We just try to give out a powerful message, but that takes out all the interest and makes it a boring film,” Alter told IANS in an interview here.

The actor, who was seen in Oorvazi Irani’s “The Path of Zarathustra” this year, said films make you think, but they cannot change the world.

“How many times we have made films on equality? But do we consider ourselves equal? Of course not. Films can only give you a hint that something like this should happen. If we think that films are going to change the world, then we are living in a dream,” he said.

He also said that films dealing with social issues must be “commercially viable”.

“Such films shouldn’t be made with a notion of preaching something to the viewers. There should be some interesting element in the story line. It all depends on the creativity of writers,” added Alter, who also starred in television shows like “Bharat Ek Khoj”, “Zabaan Sambhalke” and “Betaal Pachisi”.

An American-origin actor settled in India, Alter has been a prominent face in theatre and has acted in popular theatre shows like “Maulana”, “Waiting for Godot” and “Dr Khanna”, among others.

The actor, who was in 2008 awarded Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award of India, is also known for taking Bharat Ratna Sachin Tendulkar’s first TV interview in 1988, when the legendary cricketer was 15 years old.

Alter, who was in the capital to stage his play “Dr Khanna” at a film festival specially organised for disabled people last week, believes that movies dealing with social issues don’t find big budget producers as sometimes recovering the money is not feasible.

“Producers are only going to spend big budget on films which are going to make money. Filmmaking is a business. Filmmakers like Sanjay Leela Bhansali will not think of making another film like ‘Guzaarish’ or ‘Black’, because they didn’t do well commercially. Films talking about social issues or disabled people are only made using a small budget,” the 65-year-old said.

” ‘Sparsh’ is an excellent example of making a small budget film with an interesting story line. But you cannot force a filmmaker to make this kind of films every time. Producers spend big budgets only when they know that they are going to get their money back.

“Why would a viewer like to watch someone in a wheelchair? It’s boring. Issues are not the reason because of which people watch films. They want to see entertainment, songs and handsome actors,” he added.

Asked whether viewers in India are only keen about watching films for entertainment, Alter said: “Anywhere around the world, the viewers are dependent on entertainment. It’s not only in India. We can’t blame only Indians for it.”

“There in the West also we can see only limited films talking about disabled persons in comparison with action thrillers. Just like the Indian audience, the western audience is exactly the same. They also search for an entertainment dose in films.”

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