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Film-maker & ‘Chanakya’

Call him the Indian Machiavelli. The master strategist who tutored a young Chandragupta Maurya the politics of power and the power of politics, Chanakya was a complex character.

Chandra Prakash Dwivedi, in Ranchi on Wednesday as a guest of the state film festival to mark 100 years of Indian cinema, did not just essay Chanakya in 1991-92 for the eponymous Doordarshan series, he also scripted and directed it.

In 1996, he had made another TV serial Mrityunjay, on the life of Karna. He received the Screen Videocon best director award for it.

In 2003, he again directed Pinjar, a cinematic adaptation of Amrita Pritam’s controversial 1950 novel that explores the mental journey of a Hindu girl Puro kidnapped during Partition. The film, with searing portrayals by Urmila Matondkar and Manoj Bajpai, won the National Award too.

Perhaps the fact that he is a doctor helped him feel the pulse of the 4th century BC strategist, the ancient illegitimate prince and the mid-20th century Partition victim.

Speaking to The Telegraph on the sidelines of the inauguration of the film festival, where Pinjar was one of the day’s attractions, Dwivedi said he had left practising medicine to join theatre.

“I turned to acting, scripting and making films. I got acclaim, but still I feel we have failed to reflect our heritage and culture well,” said the Mumbai-based actor-director.

Since Pinjar, Dwivedi has made Mohalla Assi and The Legend of Kunal that are awaiting release. “While Mohalla Assi, is set around Varanasi’s Assi Ghat, The Legend of Kunal is the story of Emperor Asoka’s son,” he said.

He was fascinated by Kunal’s character — “such an interesting life” — and added that Indian history attracted him the most. Small wonder that he bagged Cultural Catalyst Award 2009 from the South Asian Cinema Foundation for his commitment to explore India’s culture and history in TV and cinema.