Idea was to address concerns about women of certain age in society: Pankaj Kapur on 'Dopehri'

Komal Panchamatia

Mumbai, Nov 18 (PTI) Veteran actor Pankaj Kapur believes that the portrayal of older women in cinema may have evolved but the reality is different with society being unkind to them and often abandoning them too.

The actor has come out with novella 'Dopehri' that presents the life of Amma Bi, an elderly widow who lives alone in her haveli in Lucknow. She eventually takes in a lodger, Sabiha, who then transforms her life.

Through the book, Kapur has touched upon some larger themes, focusing on the plight of elderly women in society and how they are neglected by the people around them.

'It was a desire that people start thinking about people around themselves, especially the elders and how those people should be paid attention to and should be given recognition. If they are not been able, then pave a way so that they can on their own recognise their abilities and talents. The idea was to address concerns of women of a certain age,' Kapur told PTI in an interview here.

The actor says when he wrote the story, his concerns were about the standing of women in society and how they have just been limited to motherly figures.

'We have travelled a little path when it comes to girl child but we still have not addressed the problem that women of this age group - 60 and 65 or 50 plus age. They are not yet exposed to today's lifestyle and brought into the mainstream of life. What about them? 'My concerns were why don't we look upon lives of this age group of people and find ways and means of engaging them and making them central part of the society and at the same time making them realise their own abilities and talents.' Kapur says in 'Dopehri', Amma Bi’s transformational journey from loneliness to self-discovery is organic and he wanted it to be about a woman, who realises she’s something on her own.

He had penned 'Dopehri' in 1992 and was printed in 1994 in a literary magazine in Bhopal. It now, after 27 years, that it has been published as a book.

Kapur says since then there hasn't been much change in real life towards older women. However, the portrayal of this age group in cinema has seen a lot of evolution.

'I would say there is a definite attempt in engaging the young girls and giving them the support, thinking about educating them and bringing them into mainstream and treating them equally, etc. But with those 50 plus women, not much has happened.

'I have heard NGOs work towards old people, looking after them etc but not in terms of people being engaged with their talents or trying to find out their abilities and talent and bringing them into the mainstream life.' In reference to cinema, Kapur believes there are better roles written for older female actors.

'Women do have better roles to play, more characters are being written. For instance, Surpriya Pathak's character in 'Ram Leela' or Neena Gupta's part in 'Badhaai Ho'.

'Today, they (filmmakers) are thinking and writing different kinds of characters. There is a movement in terms of cinema, story telling but not about women who have had no identity in life.' Kapur, who made his feature directing debut with 2011's 'Mausam', hopes to bring 'Dopehri' alive on the big screen.

He says the novella has been penned like a feature film.

'It was originally written as a film, the idea was that of a film because if you read the novella it is very visual, the way it moves. The idea is to make it into a film or a short web-series but film is preferable I will be able to tell the story in a compact way. Let's see how it works.' He further says, that if he is able to find a producer, the film 'will be done in no time.' 'It is my baby, so I would like to direct it also,' he adds.

The 65-year-old actor is happy with the present storytelling ideas in Hindi cinema.

'Our cinema is coming of age and people are realising we need to tell different stories differently and in fresh manner and not just do formula stuff and serve it to the audience.

'As an actor, my desire was always to be different, there was a desire to associate yourself with projects that bring about the contemporary situation. Above all, the hand of god on my hand.' PTI KKP RBRB