Tribute

Tribute: Filmmaker Altaf Mazid was a man of global ideas and hyper-local concerns

A neighbour, protégé and friend recalls the lasting influence of the director, who has died of a heart attack.

Eminent film critic and documentary filmmaker Altaf Mazid Rija died in Bangalore on April 13 after a heart attack. Mazid was a multi-faceted talent: he wrote extensively about cinema, made experimental documentaries and helped restore the first Assamese film Joymoti in 2001. His most recent documentary, The Broken Song, was screened at the Mumbai International Film Festival. In a deeply personal tribute, his neighbour, protege and filmmaker Shaheen Ahmed reveals Mazid’s love for cinema, his wide range of interests, and his ability to bring the world to her doorstep.

It’s a rather strange position I find myself in today. I have spent the last two months in Guwahati hunting down lost memories and narratives and today I find myself dusting the vaults of my memories of someone who was a very dear mentor and father figure to me, Mr Altaf Mazid.

Mr Mazid was a well-known and respected filmmaker and critic from Assam. His list of awards and achievements would fill up pages, but I am struggling here to talk about what he meant to me personally. Mr Mazid or Rija Uncle was my next-door neighbor in the Lakhtokia locality of Guwahati. Uncle was always a multi-faceted man, in an area bereft of any intellectualism, Uncle fostered a deep understanding of intellectual and local historical traditions.

He was also a voracious reader of pulp fiction. I know this because he would always visit our house and borrow the pulp fiction that my dad would read and come back for more. He loved Frederick Forsyth and Jack Higgins. In fact, just last month when I did an article on Sirat Library in Lakhtokia, he told me how he loved the Mohan Detective series and the Pa-Phu series. Growing up in Lakhtokia, Rija Uncle encouraged me always to read, watch films and foster an intellectual spirit.

My introduction to the cinematic image was through him. Though Uncle was an engineer in the Public Works Department of Assam, he breathed cinema through his life till his last breath. Uncle shifted out of Lakhtokia and went to a more spacious house in Guwahati in the early 2000s where he devoted one floor to his cinematic practice. It was his studio, his library, his viewing space and where he deliberated with many on what is cinema and what ought to be cinema.

In 2003, when I was just out of school, Rija Uncle asked me to write a ‘film treatment’ and a ‘synopsis’ of the project he was working on. I forget today what that film was, but it was the moment when I understood that the cinematic image included these intense processes of writing and thinking. During that period he shared film scripts with me so that I could learn the cinematic language of the script. He enthusiastically showed me the films he was working on at that time, which was One Night in Las Vegas and Crazy on The Rocks. As a theoretician and as a practitioner myself, I can say that my interest in the non-linear narrative was borne out of watching his films and filmic practice from a young age.

Uncle’s films were never for the faint hearted – he never took a safe route. His films always spoke of a narrative that was unsettling, that bothered the viewer. He was a doer, a stubborn man. If he made up his mind on a project, he would go ahead and make it and more often than not with his own funds. His most ambitious project was the restoration of the first Assamese film, Joymoti, from the dustbins of history and his revival of the archives of the famed and reclusive writer, Saurav Kumar Chaliha. Uncle, in fact, made two films on Chaliha, Lakhtokiat Golam and Bhaal Khobor, and started a trust to archive of the writer’s work.

Rija Uncle also was someone who was working on reviving the lost narratives of the state. All through his life, he attempted to bring out the lost and alternative narratives and historicities of Assam. He was also very keen on reviving the lost narratives of Khilonjia Muslims of Assam. When I started my research on these two narratives, the first person I called was Rija Uncle. He shared his memories on Sirat Library and was so happy to know about my endeavors. Post the publication of the article, he was contemplating reviving this library which he loved, where he read the Mahabharata.

When I wanted to do the story on Madan Kamdev, he was so enthusiastic that he told me he would take me there and if possible make a film. When we met last month, he was buzzing with ideas. He was thinking of making a docu-fiction on Nellie through the eyes of three girls. On our way to Madan Kamdev, he stopped on the way to meet a Nellie survivor who he had met almost a decade back. He took out his ten-year-old diary where he had jotted down the man’s name and number and went to meet him, to know about how the survivors are doing today.

He was not someone who believed in easy binaries, but took an intellectual and an organic argument on any issue and in his cinematic practices. Trauma was one topic we had a discussion on throughout that day, and ideas flew thick and fast between us. My first curatorial project on cinema which worked on ‘memories, trauma and India’s North East’ of course had to include his work. Rija Uncle was elated to know about my curatorial project and told me, “You have the green signal to use whatever you want to, no questions asked.”

Today when I see my works, I know that Uncle played a huge role in shaping up my interests, in digging up the hyperlocal, in understanding how lost narratives must be revived. He was keen on digging up such historicites himself and the project that he was almost completing was the Karbi version of the Ramayana, which has many feminist shades. There were many plans that he made, taking me to a forgotten historian to know about Guwahati, working on a project on the Assamese Muslims, and me returning his precious copy of the rare book Luit, Barak aru Islam by Medini Choudhury. He was into gardening these days and wanted to send over some home-grown lettuce and tomatoes since I love salad. They never came. The torn and frayed Medini Choudhury book shall remain with me now as his parting gift to me. A terrible loss for Assam, for filmmaking and for me.

A longer version of this article first appeared on raiot.in

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Putting the patient first - insights for hospitals to meet customer service expectations

These emerging solutions are a fine balance between technology and the human touch.

As customers become more vocal and assertive of their needs, their expectations are changing across industries. Consequently, customer service has gone from being a hygiene factor to actively influencing the customer’s choice of product or service. This trend is also being seen in the healthcare segment. Today good healthcare service is no longer defined by just qualified doctors and the quality of medical treatment offered. The overall ambience, convenience, hospitality and the warmth and friendliness of staff is becoming a crucial way for hospitals to differentiate themselves.

A study by the Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions in fact indicates that good patient experience is also excellent from a profitability point of view. The study, conducted in the US, analyzed the impact of hospital ratings by patients on overall margins and return on assets. It revealed that hospitals with high patient-reported experience scores have higher profitability. For instance, hospitals with ‘excellent’ consumer assessment scores between 2008 and 2014 had a net margin of 4.7 percent, on average, as compared to just 1.8 percent for hospitals with ‘low’ scores.

This clearly indicates that good customer service in hospitals boosts loyalty and goodwill as well as financial performance. Many healthcare service providers are thus putting their efforts behind: understanding constantly evolving customer expectations, solving long-standing problems in hospital management (such as long check-out times) and proactively offering a better experience by leveraging technology and human interface.

The evolving patient

Healthcare service customers, who comprise both the patient and his or her family and friends, are more exposed today to high standards of service across industries. As a result, hospitals are putting patient care right on top of their priorities. An example of this in action can be seen in the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital. In July 2015, the hospital launched a ‘Smart OPD’ system — an integrated mobile health system under which the entire medical ecosystem of the hospital was brought together on a digital app. Patients could use the app to book/reschedule doctor’s appointments and doctors could use it to access a patient’s medical history, write prescriptions and schedule appointments. To further aid the process, IT assistants were provided to help those uncomfortable with technology.

The need for such initiatives and the evolving nature of patient care were among the central themes of the recently concluded Abbott Hospital Leadership Summit. The speakers included pundits from marketing and customer relations along with leaders in the healthcare space.

Among them was the illustrious speaker Larry Hochman, a globally recognised name in customer service. According to Mr. Hochman, who has worked with British Airways and Air Miles, patients are rapidly evolving from passive recipients of treatment to active consumers who are evaluating their overall experience with a hospital on social media and creating a ‘word-of-mouth’ economy. He talks about this in the video below.

Play

As the video says, with social media and other public platforms being available today to share experiences, hospitals need to ensure that every customer walks away with a good experience.

The promise gap

In his address, Mr. Hochman also spoke at length about the ‘promise gap’ — the difference between what a company promises to deliver and what it actually delivers. In the video given below, he explains the concept in detail. As the gap grows wider, the potential for customer dissatisfaction increases.

Play

So how do hospitals differentiate themselves with this evolved set of customers? How do they ensure that the promise gap remains small? “You can create a unique value only through relationships, because that is something that is not manufactured. It is about people, it’s a human thing,” says Mr. Hochman in the video below.

Play

As Mr. Hochman and others in the discussion panel point out, the key to delivering a good customer experience is to instil a culture of empathy and hospitality across the organisation. Whether it is small things like smiling at patients, educating them at every step about their illness or listening to them to understand their fears, every action needs to be geared towards making the customer feel that they made the correct decision by getting treated at that hospital. This is also why, Dr. Nandkumar Jairam, Chairman and Group Medical Director, Columbia Asia, talked about the need for hospitals to train and hire people with soft skills and qualities such as empathy and the ability to listen.

Striking the balance

Bridging the promise gap also involves a balance between technology and the human touch. Dr. Robert Pearl, Executive Director and CEO of The Permanente Medical Group, who also spoke at the event, wrote about the example of Dr. Devi Shetty’s Narayana Health Hospitals. He writes that their team of surgeons typically performs about 900 procedures a month which is equivalent to what most U.S. university hospitals do in a year. The hospitals employ cutting edge technology and other simple innovations to improve efficiency and patient care.

The insights gained from Narayana’s model show that while technology increases efficiency of processes, what really makes a difference to customers are the human touch-points. As Mr. Hochman says, “Human touch points matter more because there are less and less of them today and are therefore crucial to the whole customer experience.”

Play

By putting customers at the core of their thinking, many hospitals have been able to apply innovative solutions to solve age old problems. For example, Max Healthcare, introduced paramedics on motorcycles to circumvent heavy traffic and respond faster to critical emergencies. While ambulances reach 30 minutes after a call, the motorcycles reach in just 17 minutes. In the first three months, two lives were saved because of this customer-centric innovation.

Hospitals are also looking at data and consumer research to identify consumer pain points. Rajit Mehta, the MD and CEO of Max Healthcare Institute, who was a panelist at the summit, spoke of the importance of data to understand patient needs. His organisation used consumer research to identify three critical areas that needed work - discharge and admission processes for IPD patients and wait-time for OPD patients. To improve wait-time, they incentivised people to book appointments online. They also installed digital kiosks where customers could punch in their details to get an appointment quickly.

These were just some of the insights on healthcare management gleaned from the Hospital Leadership Summit hosted by Abbott. In over 150 countries, Abbott is working with hospitals and healthcare professionals to improve the quality of health services.

To read more content on best practices for hospital leaders, visit Abbott’s Bringing Health to Life portal here.

This article was produced on behalf of Abbott by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.