INTERVIEW WITH FILMMAKER RAHUL ROY was conducted during Film South Asia 1997
By Sushma Joshi
RR: I got involved in gender issues by accident. I had a lot of friends in college, when I was doing my BA - some of my women friends who were feminists were doing a street play and they wanted a "man". So they sort of roped me in. And then gradually what happened was that the groups got involved in various sorts of protests and issues. Then I got into TV and film school and did my Masters there.
Immediately after that, I started working with my - at that time my girlfriend, now I am married to her - and most of her films were around gender issues. But somehow, throughout, I was very uncomfortable. And by gender issues, I mean basically women's issues. I was extremely unhappy throughout. I couldn't understand what I was so uncomfortable with. It was after almost five, six years - more - that what was actually bothering me was that my involvement with women's issues - I was not involved with it in my position of being a man. I was taking an almost genderless position in my relationship to the filmmaker and the subject.
Once I understood that, over the last couple of years I have started addressing my films from the perspective of being a man, on gendered terms. Now I am focusing on making films about men and masculinity, that is my current obsession...Violence kind of fits in. I believe, the way the two sexes interact and communicate with each other, has lots to to do with violence. Violence is the language of communication between the two genders.
According to me - i might be wrong, but I am not a theoretician or an academic - I feel that ultimately what we are looking for is a genderless society. I don't believe that gender as one of the necessary ways in which society has to be organized. I think the point that we always get caught in is this whole thing - that men are not feminine enough, or that women have to break stereotypes and identify with more masculine symbols. But I think that that is not the answer. I don't mean to in any way suggest that women have to lose their female identity, or that men have to lose their male identity.There are certain things which come almost from their bodies, certain energies - which I think are very important, this distinction between the two sexes. But masculinity and femininity are cultural constructs. And I think those have to be destroyed, for any gender equality, for violence between the genders to disappear.
One of the ways around which society has been organized is around notions of patriarchy, which is a power sytem, which is very important for the way we approach our social and political lives. The genders play out a certain roles, certain ideologies - that since the inception of setting out patriarchal basis for society.
INT: Men and women have not achieved cultural equality - what's stopping it?
RR: All these factors - cultural, political, economic - they are all linked together. The point is that the power that is experienced by both genders- or the powerlessness that is experienced by both genders has to be removed. So many factors are so critical to this whole relationship between the genders. So equality as a concept has to permeate through these various notions - not just notions, but these relationships, whether it is economic, cultural, emotional, romantic, whatever. All round throwing away of patriarchy - easier said that done, but the point is that at least we have a fair understanding of it now - we know that that's the way we have organized ourselves. We know what we have to dismantle.
INT: What was working with your wife like? And what were the problems you encountered in terms of decision making and whether there was conflict between you two?
RR: Any man or woman working together - there's bound to be problems. The way we are constructed socially -we carry our baggages. Sometimes, very unconsciously, we behave from our gendered positions. So it is not really possible not to have conflicts. People say it is - I'd like to see that. So there has always been problems - but the point is that we both understood the problems. So I pointed out the problems to her, so ultimately we could understand. We actually enjoyed working together. Looking at the world together. IT's been nice, as well as had its bad moments.
INT: Are you planning to work together on projects with her in the future? Or have you two decided to have your own separate projects?
RR: We will be working together in projects in the future. At the moment, we have taken the decision to work separately since we had become too intertwined and interdependent. So we thought that separating ourselves from each other - because what happens is that often two people are working together - you sort of start becoming experts on one part of the work. That becomes really limiting. When you know the other person is taking the responsibility for something else, you withdraw. You are not really participating - so we took a decision to work separately in order to experience other aspects of work. But we will be working together... At the moment, we are working separately.