Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan says freedom of expression is a continuous struggle for artistes around the world and he also wonders why the Berlinale chose him as the jury member for the prestigious film festival.
“American artistes fought McCarthyism in the 1950s. India artistes braved the emergency imposed by the state on artistic expression,” said Aamir Thursday at a press conference held in the German capital to introduce members of the international jury of the 61st Berlinale which opened Thursday.
“And today Jafar Panahi (an Iranian director who is also on the judges panel) is imprisoned by the government in Iran and unable to be with us at the Berlinale,” he added.
Aamir also said that artistes have to be very patient when faced with censorship by the state without giving up their struggle against the throttling of artistic expression.
The Berlinale fell in love with Aamir after having watched his production venture “Peepli Live”, which was screened at the fest last year.
The seven-person jury, headed by Italian-American actress Isabella Rossellini, includes Australian film producer Jan Chapman, German actress Nina Hoss, Canadian film-maker Guy Maddin, British costume designer Sandy Powell, Aamir and Jafar Panahi.
However Panahi is unable to travel to Berlin as he is in prison since last December serving a six year term and is banned from making films or leaving Iran for 20 years.
Rosellini said that the Berlinale has not given up hope that Panahi will join them and in the same spirit his place in the jury is symbolically left empty.
Aamir said that he was not sure why the Berlinale chose him as a jury member.
“I wonder why I am selected to be a member on this jury. I make films instinctively. I have not studied films. I have no formal education in filmmaking.
“For me, filmmaking is very subjective. It is about the art of story telling. I make films because I like the thought of touching people’s emotions with a good story. I like my films to make the audience laugh and to cry. I will look out for films that touch my core and make me enlightened about myself,” Aamir replied to a question as to the kind of cinema he looked forward to seeing at the Berlinale.
Asked why the Indian film industry that makes more films than any other in the world is so poorly represented at international film festivals Aamir said: “I think it is because Indian film makers know that there is a large and healthy audience at home for their films and they are not looking for audiences outside of India.”
“But this attitude is now changing. Many talented filmmakers in India want to reach out to a more diverse audience. Since Indian film makers themselves want to communicate with a more international audience now, there will be a larger presence of Indian films at international platforms such as the Berlinale in the future.”
Aamir added that perhaps the kind of grammar and language that is typical of at least mainstream Indian cinema does not communicate with some non-Indian audiences.