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The Bong connection

You’ve already made a film on the subject of Ami Subhash Bolchhi in Marathi Me Shivajiraje Bhosale Boltoy. Why make another in Bengali?

Mahesh: I felt it can be done in Bengali. The Marathi and Bengali cultures are very similar. Of course, the motivational force was Mithunda, who urged me to make a Bengali version of Me Shivajiraje Bhosale Boltoy. He heard the script years back and he said this film had to be made in Bengali. The producers (Shree Venkatesh Films) too believed that the film could be made in Bengali and things fell into place.

Mithun, why did you feel a film with Marathi sensibilities would work in Bengal?

Because our lives, our culture... everything is common. Besides, the issue in the film is very common. Marathi-rao Maharashtra theke chole jachhe, Bengalis too are moving out of Bengal. It’s a common man’s story, a common man’s struggle. But it’s not a communal film. We have to wake up. Nobody has asked us to leave our state and go elsewhere for greener pastures. Even I went to Bombay and settled there. Let’s not blame others; we have to get back our pride. Ami Subhash Bolchhi is a very bold film and my boldest role ever. Eta amar moner swapner galpo.

Mahesh, was it difficult to make a film in Bengali since you didn’t know the language?

Mahesh: That you have to manage. Today or tomorrow, I would like to do a film in all languages. Bengali was the closest and I was a little partial. I have a few Bengali friends, and both Marathis and Bengalis appreciate literature, theatre and you know, our love for sea food.... I know someone... Sabyasachi Dev Barman... he used to be my assistant many years ago. He knows both Bengali and Marathi, and he was there with me on the sets. We had a lot of script-reading sessions and Sabyasachi would often point out the meanings. Besides, emotions don’t have a language, you know. So it was not too difficult.

Why do you want to make a film in every language?

Mahesh: That’s because the culture of all the languages impresses me. I want to know different cultures. Every culture has its interesting aspects. And I believe that cinema should not have a language. I mean it should have a language which everybody can understand, that is the power of cinema.

Mithun: Language has never really been a barrier in films, at least. There are so many directors from the south who come to Bombay and make Hindi films.... I had heard the script (of Me Shivajiraje Bhosale Boltoy) a long time back and I told Mahesh do a Bengali version for me. He kept his promise. Being a non-Bengali, he made a film on the pride of Bengalis, which is a great thing.

Did Mithun help you with the language on the sets?

Mahesh: Definitely, definitely. Sometimes he would tell me the meaning. See, what I had done is I had written the entire script in Devanagri, so I could read it properly. Plus, Laboni (Sarkar as Mithun’s wife) was there who would also help with the language.

Mithun: No, I didn’t help him with the language. He would explain to us in Hindi and we would translate it in Bengali.

Mahesh, you are an actor, director, writer and producer. How do you manage to do so many things?

Mahesh: One life you get, try as many things as you can. I did a lot of things. I even danced in Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa! At least I have the satisfaction to say that I tried. I am not scared of anything in life. I try and try till I get the opportunity.

Which do you enjoy most?

Mahesh: Direction, because it requires you to do and know everything. When you are a director, you need to be a writer, actor and editor, so you know how to cut a film and also have a sense of music. Direction satisfies all your creative needs.

Mithun, do you like Mahesh more as a director than an actor?

Mithun: I think Mahesh is a genius director, though I love him both as an actor and a director.

Mahesh, you have acted in extremely commercial films like Kaante, Dabangg and Ready. But the films you make are of a different sensibility...

Mahesh: What happens is that I am not a very keen actor. Kaante (2002) happened by mistake! Sanjay Gupta (director) is a friend and I did it for him. In between, I rejected a lot of offers. I didn’t want to act in films. Then Salman (Khan) requested me to do Dabangg and Ready, and Salman is a friend and nowadays I just do Salman’s films! Otherwise I don’t act. (Laughs.) I don’t enjoy acting because nobody is going to give me a good author-backed role, so why? And if I want to act, I can easily make a Marathi film and cast myself. I won’t act in my Hindi films because I won’t be able to sell it, na!

Mithun: I think his films always have a message. But there’s no harm if he acts in commercial films. Ami Subhash Bolchhi is very, very commercial. It has got ceeti-taali dialogues.

Will you make more Bengali films?

Mahesh: Of course.

Any plans to cast Mithun in your next Bengali film?

Mahesh: Well, that depends on the subject, you know. I would love to work with Jisshu Sengupta. He is such a talented boy, one day I would like to do a film with him. Even Shaheb (Bhattacherjee) is so talented, nowhere less than the new heroes of Hindi cinema. He is so smart, he is a brilliant actor. So I would really like to cast him in one of my Hindi films. Jisshu, I have known him for six-seven years and I would definitely want to do a film with him. I am serious about making more Bengali films, given an opportunity.

Mithun: And I would like to do 10 more Bengali films with him! (Laughs.) We are planning a Hindi film soon.

Do you watch Bengali films?

Mahesh: I watched Do Prithibi (Dui Prithibi) and parts of Cholo Paltai, which was inspired by my Marathi film Shikshanachya Aaicha Gho.

Which is your favourite Mithun film?

Mahesh: Oh, there are so many. Suraksha, where he played a gunmaster. Then there was this film na with him and Ranjeeta (thinks hard), there were beautiful songs. Yes, Taraana. I adored him in Hum Paanch. There were stalwarts like Sanjeev Kumar, Raj Babbar, Amrish Puri, all fresh out of NSD. Everyone said ki what is Mithun doing in it? They will make mincemeat of him. But after the film everybody praised Mithun. He was superb.

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