This actor, thinker, cerebral politician and member of the CBFC board personifies the name ‘self made’. She speaks of her recent visit to Cannes, her role in the CBFC Board, among other things.

Images of her clad in a chic blue Varanasi woven sari on the Cannes red carpet splashed across all the newspapers, paparazzi blogs and television screens. There she was, the only woman in a line up of legends, A R Rahman, Shekhar Kapoor, Nawazuddin Sidiqui, Prasoon Joshi, R Madhavan, Ricky Kej and Anuraag Thakur, Minister I &B. Yet Vani Tripathi seemed to hold her own in this galaxy of stars, a true protagonist of cinema and its ever shifting, near ephemeral sand.
A proud Pahadi from the hills of Uttarakhand, this actor, thinker, cerebral politician and member CBFC board personifies the name ‘self made’. A gritty girl born to academic geniuses (“ Both My parents were respected literary scholars and I grew up imbibing works of writers, thinkers and activists.”) she started her acting career as a prodigy of Ebraham Alkazi, working with Barry John and Maya Rao.
A teacher in acting who is largely responsible for bringing the drama school in Bhopal, Bharat Bhavan back to its feet, she has to her credit an acting career in mainstream Indian cinema. Though her heart has always resided in what one called parallel cinema in the eighties and in today’s parlance has become the main stay of cinema that matters out of India.
She chats with Anshu Khanna on her recent sojourn to Cannes, her role in the CBFC Board and which side does she see the winds of change blowing.

Q. This trip to Cannes was special. How so?
A. Firstly it was indeed a very happy coincidence that the 75th year of independent India also coincided with the 75th year of Cannes. India is not just the largest filmmaking nation of the world; it also enjoys a deep relationship with the festival. It dates back to 1946, the year when India was still fighting for its independence. The same year Chetan Anand bagged a Grand Prix for his film Neecha Nagar. So if you look closely Independent India has been a constant at Cannes.
The genre of cinema represented from India has always been inclusive. It is not the blockbuster masala movies that have found their way to the festival. Instead movies like Lunch Box, Gangs of Wasseypur, Satyajit Ray’s cinema, that are inclusive, representative of the under- dog have been celebrated in what is the largest festival of good cinema. Why even Neecha Nagar was an expressionist look at the gulf between the rich and poor in society. It was based on a Hindi story, written by Hayatullah Ansari, inspired by Russian writer Maxim Gorky’s The Lower Depths.
Even the delegation lead by our minister Anuraag Thakur comprised of people who are true protagonists of inclusion. Sterling actors who rose from the rank. Film makers like Shekhar Kapoor who right from his super hit movie Mr. India has been talking of and to the common man.

Q. Yet it is dolls on the red carpet who make the maximum noise in mass media. Does that bother you?
A. No, let us not forget that cinema is also glamor. Yes I am opposed to the adornment of empirical beauty where women are objectified and looked upon for their beauty and not their brains. But women like Deepika and Ashwarya are privy to both brain and beauty. Deepika is a master at her craft and did immense justice as a jury member.

Q. There is a special link that the two countries: France and India share in cinema. Could you elaborate on that?
A. I think at a subliminal level both the nations believe in the realism of cinema. In a narrative that talks of real people and real existence. That is why France has supported films like hazaron Khawishye Aisi and Lunch-Box that were made in India.

Q. You and Shekhar Kapoor were immersed in research on Non linear narratives through the pandemic. Can you share some context to that?
A. India is a land of non-linear narrative. The Mahabharata and Ramayana are the greatest symbols of immersive story telling. There are stories within stories, connected yet linear.
Shekhar Kapoor has been talking of the emergence of this non-linearity of narrative since a decade. His prediction came true when through the pandemic we saw families hauled up together, addicted to episodes on Netflix and Amazon. These stories are told in episodes that are connected, yet non linear. You can easily view episode 5 individually or binge watch all the ten episodes in a go.
Shekhar and I got together to conduct this study on how the future of Indian media rested on non linear narrative. He was in Uttarakhand at that time and I was nursing my ailing mother in Delhi. A 1000 zoom calls later we were thrilled to see not just the completion of our research paper but the birth of a Media think Tank that is absorbing the emergence of a new world of OTT, VR and AR which will dawn upon us much faster than we think.
We are already witnessing the onslaught of OTT that is going to eventually destroy the 35 MM world. No longer do creative film makers have to become victims of the horribly mal functioned distribution network of cinema. Or go with a begging bowl to a financer, or wait for months to get a date from a star or a scriptwriter. This is indeed the Hum Log or Buniyaad moment of OTT. I mean 127 countries see one single web series in one night!

Q. Does that also make you aprotagonist of the new world of virtual reality?
A. It is indeed celebration time for content. Soon all the exemplified stories will be on the cloud. Gaming today is entertainment with coders writing scripts for games how it was written for films. I was spell bound with A R Rahman’s VR platform La Musk. I mean not only were you absorbing the fragrance and the ambience, you were also witness to a poignant story of a child who loses his parent.

Q. Do you hope to be as enchanted with IFFI, slated to held in Goa later this year?
A. Indeed you will a see strong imprint of the Cannes narrative of in-depth film making getting repeated in Goa. The same conversations will go forward in IFFI. I can see that the government is working real hard to make IFFI GOA the Cannes of the East.