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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Tibetans can never become Chinese

May 23, 2009

May 22, 2009

Arvind Iyer, a Mumbai-based independent filmmaker
whose Tibetan Avideo album Paradise Lost was
featured at Cannes at the Short Films corner
recently, gets candid in an exclusive interview:

You were faring well as a website designer, so why the career shift?
I worked as a website designer in the late ’90s
and I gave it up in 2002 as I had creatively
burnt out. My clientele then had spanned the
jet-set -painters, musicians and models from the
world over. But I could not see myself creating
art anymore and I was creatively dead. During
this period (2000)it was my association with with
Indian cinematographer Santosh Sivan that gave me
the opportunity to understand his world through
the eyes of film. His film The Terrorist is one
of my all-time favourites. He even cast me in the
film Asoka. I have fond memories of my first take
with actor Shah Rukh Khan in the icy cold waters
of the Narmada in Madhya Pradesh with Santosh
Sivan’s gigantic camera staring at me in the
face. I knew that this energy had to be an integral part of my future.

What was your source of inspiration for the video
album Paradise Lost? How did the idea come about?
Paradise Lost is a musical track from Tibetan
opera singer Namgyal Lhamo’s upcoming album that
is due for release this year. I am also her
business manager. Lhamo has performed with
singers like Alanis Morrisette and Bjork at
Freedom concerts in Amsterdam and New York. When
I pitched the concept of the music video to our
producer Achille Forler, CEO of Deep Emotions
Publishing , we didn¹t have a clue as to what lay
ahead. I just knew that that this was a pressure
project as it featured Namgyal and British
rockers The Wolfmen, and I was aware that Namgyal
is the best Tibetan classical singer in the world
and The Wolfmen are former members of the punk
band Adam And The Ants, who even got a Grammy
nomination in the ’80s.This had to be a concept
that would cut through race, religion and language.

It was when the crew assembled in Bangkok last
year that riots broke out in Lhasa and Tibet was
exploding. The foreign press latched onto Namgyal
and she was on the front page of a newspaper that
read Free Tibet and the situation in Tibet was worsening.

How did you go about working on your video album?
We decided to travel up north in Thailand towards
the Golden Triangle to the Lost Valley- A patch
of no man’s land (which was once famous for its
poppy fields) where the Tibetan Akha nomads lived
on the edge of the Burmese border. It has a
strong Yunnanese population. We met Hollywood
tattoo artist Poh Khungsa and it was around then
that I could sense that Namgyal was thinking on a
different plain. The concept of the video just
happened. It just fell from the skies. This would
not have been possible without the vision of
Achille Forler. He is a maverick in the music
production business and a true representative of
artists’ rights. Namgyal is signed to his record label.

China is averse to those who raise concern over
Tibet, so how did you manage to air the video
album during the Beijing Olympics?
I am a simple person and I do not understand
politics and I never will. The reactions were
pleasantly surprising. The Tibetans loved it and
many Chinese people in the West did too. I only
attempted to try and speak from the depths of the
artist’s mind and believe that I have done so
sensitively and responsibly. There was some hate
mail though, but nothing serious. I believe that
Paradise Lost is a very dignified statement and
only echoes what many Tibetans across the world feel.

Your film will be showcased at the Short Films
corner at Cannes from May 13. How are you feeling about it?
It feels good mainly because it is the only
Tibetan language presence at the short film
corner. It screens there till May 23. It is not
in competition and screens independently.
However, the screening of the video in as an
official selection in competition alongside
Chinese, Japanese and Korean films at the Asian
Hotshots Berlin film festival in January was more overwhelming.

How can art or music contribute towards the cause of free Tibet?
Any art is a medium of expression and must be
used aesthetically and responsibly. Saving
Tibetan culture is very important. It is vast,
rich and very ancient and the world order must do
whatever is in its capacity to conserve its
culture and address issues that directly concern
the aspiration of the Tibetan people. Tibetan
people have a strong cultural identity, it is a
root that no amount of development can tweak.
Tibetans can never become Chinese.
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