Why Vishal Bhardwaj hates award functions, why he loves ray, why he won’t make a Chennai Express...

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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 14.02.15
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Shahid Kapoor and Tabu in Haider

Vishal Bhardwaj was in town recently to talk ‘Craft of Indian Cinema’ with fellow filmmaker Bedabrata Pain at the Kolkata Literature Festival. t2 caught up with the Haider man for a chat on his craft, Calcutta and beyond. 

The intolerance is becoming a little unnerving and I wouldn’t really attribute it to any government. We, as a country, in general have become very intolerant. Anyone can file a PIL or drag you to court…  it’s so stupid. For a filmmaker, it’s annoying and irritating, more than anything else. A lot of energy goes into shutting these people up

Are you someone who likes talking about his craft?
I talk only when I am asked to. Otherwise my process is largely internal. If people want to know about my process, I don’t mind talking about it, but you wouldn’t find me volunteering to do so, unless it gives me a chance to come to Calcutta (smiles). This is the land of Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak and so I expect the audience here to know its cinema well. I am really looking forward to the session.
Iss baar kaafi time ke baad aaya hoon. Earlier, I would come here more often. Calcutta se people have stopped taking mishti doi because airline rules have become stringent. Otherwise someone or the other would get me mishti doi from here almost every week! (Laughs) I love the food here, just like anyone else, but now I have become vegetarian by choice. I miss my shorshe maachh (smiles).

You just mentioned Satyajit Ray and you have often spoken about his influence on you...
Oh, it’s a huge influence. His cinema was far ahead of its time… in fact, his cinema was timeless. I don’t remember which was the first Ray film I watched… but I remember almost all his films because they had such a profound effect on me — first as a viewer and then as a filmmaker. I loved Pather Panchali and the Apu trilogy and of, course, the Feluda films. Who isn’t fascinated by detective stories and Ray’s Feluda is a class apart. I have a lot of regard for Ray… there wasn’t a genre he didn’t excel in. And he was a man so full of life… so full of juice. Even technically, his films were flawless. His screen structure… casting… he was one-of- a-kind. My favourite film of his is Kapurush (1965, starring Soumitra Chatterjee-Madhabi Mukherjee). 

His (Satyajit Ray’s) cinema was far ahead of its time…  in fact, his cinema was timeless. I remember almost all his films because they had such a profound effect on me — first as a viewer and then as a filmmaker. There wasn’t a genre he didn’t excel in. Even technically, his films were flawless. My favourite film of his is Kapurush

Besides Ray, which filmmaker’s works do you keep going back to?
(Krzysztof) Kieslowski, without any hesitation. His Decalogue (1989) is something I watch over and over again… it’s a masterpiece. 

Haider has been getting a lot of awards this season. Are awards important for you?
Not the popular awards! (Laughs) I have no respect for them. I have stopped attending them. They are such boring events and are only made for the TV audience… to get TRPs. We are used in these awards as junior artistes… clapping and smiling and getting disappointed for not getting an award (smiles). The charm of these awards earlier would be that you would get to meet a lot of friends from the industry who you otherwise wouldn’t. But now these events go on for five-six hours and we get thoroughly bored. Earlier, after 10.30pm, you couldn’t hold public functions, which was a relief. But now, these award organisers have smartly started having them indoors. They start late and go on for hours and my sleep gets messed up! (Laughs)
Having said that, I am very happy for Shahid (Kapoor)… he’s worked very hard on Haider. Also, my production design guys… Subrata (Chakraborty) and Amit (Ray). Subrata was Samir Chanda’s assistant. Samir was a great friend who had done all my films… I have come to Calcutta many times with Samirda. After he passed away, I was very lost, but then Subrata and Amit came on board and I am very happy working with them. 

Do you make it a point to watch the films made by your contemporaries?
No, not really. If I watch, it’s from the point of view of a viewer. I like watching films of Anurag Kashyap, Anurag Basu, Dibakar (Banerjee), Vikram (Vikramaditya Motwane)… I look forward to their films. Besides that, it’s a blind chance. You don’t know what you are getting into. What is heartening is that, along with the star system, there is a parallel system that is slowly coming into focus. The system where the content and the director is the king (smiles). I often get asked whether I will ever make a film like Chennai Express or Happy New Year, but the truth is, the films that I make are an extension of the person that I am. I am a Haider person... I am not a Chennai Express person (smiles). 
 
So what’s the last good film that you watched?
Ship of Theseus. I thought it was a near masterpiece… so well crafted, merging the three stories into a seamless whole. Very well made. Also Queen and Highway… both Kangana (Ranaut) and Alia (Bhatt) were very good. I like the fact that women are no longer being used as props in our films. Women are far stronger than men in every way and it’s time our films recognised that.

Do you go back and watch your films off and on?
I haven’t in a long time and so I want to go back and watch some of my previous work. As a filmmaker, you tend to repeat yourself and I don’t want that to happen with me. But I don’t bother too much about the past, nor do I worry about my future. I am just too taken up with my present (smiles). 

You said in a recent interview that you are a ‘confused’ filmmaker. Could you elaborate?
I don’t remember in what context I said that, but yes, I do take a lot of time to make my decisions on a film. When I make a decision, then something else starts looking better. So that way, I am very confused (smiles).

We are very keen to work with each other and we keep meeting every two-three months. We are still looking for a subject to work on, but we will definitely make a film together. Who knows, it could be my next one 
— On working with Shah Rukh Khan

Do you think the toughest job in India now is to be a creative person, given the uproar over the AIB Knockout or the protests against some film or the other almost every Friday?
I think, honestly, for some films, it helps because it guarantees free publicity! (Laughs) On a serious note, yes, the intolerance is becoming a little unnerving and I wouldn’t really attribute it to any government. We, as a country, in general have become very intolerant. Anyone can file a PIL or drag you to court… it’s so stupid. For a filmmaker, it’s annoying and irritating, more than anything else. A lot of energy goes into shutting these people up (smiles). 

The controversies surrounding Haider don’t end. Now a Kashmiri maulvi has alleged that he lost his job because you ‘conned’ him into appearing in a scene in the film…
(Laughs) What do you think? Actually, I feel very bad for maulvi saab… he got ostracised by his fraternity for acting in a film and now to save himself, he’s putting the blame on me (smiles). He claims he thought it was an educational film, but aap mujhe batao he saw Shahid Kapoor and Tabu on set and how did he think it’s an educational film? He’s lying completely… why would I want to con him?

The director of the recent release Rahasya claims that you tried to sabotage his film because it is based on the same subject (the Aarushi Talwar murder case) as your latest production Nyodda…
I don’t even know the person (Manish Gupta)… I don’t even care and I don’t have the time or even the power to sabotage anyone’s film. Multiple films can be made on the same subject… Romeo and Juliet was first made in the 1930s and continues to be a favourite subject even now. He’s just trying to get some publicity out of this and I don’t want to encourage him by talking more about this. 

Every few years, we hear that Shah Rukh Khan and you are planning a film together, but nothing happens. He even told t2 in an interview two years ago that you two spend a lot of time together, but that doesn’t translate into a film!
(Laughs) It’s all destiny. But yes, we are very keen to work with each other and we keep meeting every two-three months. We are still looking for a subject to work on, but we will definitely make a film together. Who knows, it could be my next one (smiles). 

Priyanka Roy
Which is your favourite Vishal Bhardwaj film? Tell t2@abp.in