I trust the essential good nature of people’

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By Isha Manchanda

Shyam BenegalShyam Benegal, Filmmaker

What is your earliest memory?
It’s of a moharram procession. I was on a balcony of the house where we used to live and there was a procession that went past. They were saying things like allah tallah. It seems to be a recurring memory. I must have been two or three.

How has your family influenced you?
There are two families for me — parents and then your own, which you go into once you move out of your parents’ setup. As for my parents, both my mother and my father have influenced me greatly. But my mother had more influence on me, I think. She didn’t lay down any laws while my father was strict about rules. I think that’s why I feel compelled to go against those who make the rules. My father was a photographer and my mother was a home-maker who brought up 10 children, and what a wonderful job she’s done! Growing in such a huge family was great fun. There was no time to be lonely or alone. Which meant that you either happily involve yourself with the rest of the members or you’re constantly fighting. With us, there was always a lot of both. I used to fight a lot with my immediately older brother who was very protective of me. I would trick him into doing things that would hurt him — make him fall, etc. I was the nasty one and he was the nice one.

Are you religious?
I’m not religious. Its not always possible to be religious without following rituals and I believe those to be utterly stupid. I do have a sense of faith but It’s difficult to pinpoint where that lies. I guess I trust in the essential good nature of people even when they’re nasty.

What do you dislike most in other people?
I don’t like insensitivity. When people are not sensitive to each other in their normal everyday interpersonal relationships. I cant stand boorishness.

What do you dislike most about yourself?
Quite a lot, actually. I don’t do today what I think I can do tomorrow. I’m always pushing things to the last minute, which is awful.

What inspires you?
Films and cinema of all manner and kinds as long as they’re seriously experiential. They don’t have to be necessarily realistic or naturalistic. Like all good works of art, books, music, etc, a film must offer you an experience you consider insightful in some way. That’s when a film is great.

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