BENGALURU: It is filmmaker Panah Panahi’s first visit to Bengaluru and second to India. Without wasting any time, he has been catching up on movies. “I have been watching four movies a day. Indian movies are long. I haven’t had much time to do anything else. Last night, my wife did some shopping and I did some waiting,” says Panah with a coy laugh.
Bollywood movies are quite popular in Iran, and Panah is aware of the music too. “In Iran, we have access to Bollywood movies and some Satyajit Ray movies too. So I didn’t have much of an idea about other Indian movies. It was my first time watching other Indian movies. I like the music but having it all the time in movies is distracting for me. If there is music in every frame, then you can’t hear the natural background sounds. At times, it is a bit noisy for me,” he says.
Panah, son of Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi, is in the city to attend the ongoing Bangalore International Film Festival. Hit the Road, a comedy-drama film written and directed by Panah, is his first feature. The movie is about a family who is on a road trip to the Iranian countryside. It might look regular in the beginning but later in the movie, it is revealed that it is their attempt to get one of the sons smuggled out of Iran. Panah confirms there have been many real-life incidents like this, even when his sister left Iran, except she was not smuggled. “My stories are inspired by what I see around me,” says Panah, who has been living in Paris for the last six months.
Being the son of a celebrated filmmaker has come with its own pressures. “My whole life has been filled with pressure, and that is more of a reason to find a way to express myself. I feel that I am being judged and constantly compared to my father but with the help of Mahsa, my wife, I found a way to make my film,” says Panah.
From a very young age, Panah has a close encounter with the political pressure of his father’s movies being banned in Iran. In 2022, his father was also arrested. “There is no activity in Iranian cinema but I saw Jafar’s movies even after he was banned from filmmaking 10 years ago, yet he found a way to express himself. It will disturb any director when a film can’t be shown to our own people.
For any artiste, it is important to be heard. Jafar always had problems with his first film, the government didn’t allow him to show his film in Iran. But being with my father, I have observed how he controlled his anger,” says Panah.
Hit the Road was released in 2021 and was the last movie directed by Panah. Currently, he is busy travelling with the movie for various film festivals. “Due to Covid, my movie was screened in various film festivals after 8-9 months of its release.
Until now, I was busy screening my film in other countries. We have had protests going on in Iran for six months now. The Iranian cinema industry has almost closed down right now but I am working on a new script and hoping I find a good time to make my new movie which will be set in Iran,” says Panah.
Director Panah Panahi, who is in the city for the Bangalore International Film Festival, speaks to CE about his film, the pressure of being the son of a popular film director, and the current state of the Iranian film industry amid the ongoing protests