'I have used Emergency as a backdrop'
Madhur Bhandarkar, who was in town, expresses his angst about the backlash he is receiving from the Congress, why he felt the need to make a film revolving around the Emergency and how it’s becoming difficult to make films in India
For more than three-and-a-half hours Madhur Bhandarkar stay put in his room at a five-star hotel in the city on Saturday. The filmmaker was visiting Pune to promote his forthcoming film Indu Sarkar but the promotions were cancelled after city Congress workers staged a protest against him.
The Congress has accused the filmmaker of maligning Indira Gandhi’s image in the film which revolves around the Emergency. Several Congress leaders have demanded a prior screening before its release on July 28.
When we caught up with Madhur in the city, he appeared upset with the entire episode and said that he is appalled by the kind of agitation happening against him. Here, he speaks his mind:
Were you prepared for the backlash from the Congress?
Let me ask you something: There are so many people who have written books and made documentaries on the Emergency, why can’t I make a film? I am not making a film on a subject that’s banned in India and I am also not the first person to make a film revolving around the Emergency. People have made films on so many other issues like Mani Ratnam made Bombay based on riots and Roja on the Kashmir issue. Indu
Sarkar is not a documentary and I am not targeting a particular individual. It’s the story of a girl called Indu, based on the backdrop of the Emergency. If I intended to make a film on the subject, I would have titled it ‘Emergency’. Doordarshan has run a five-episode show on the Emergency and its effects from 1971 to 2014. They have named people, shown facts. Why can’t we delete that content on YouTube first? The Censor Board has asked me to give a disclaimer mentioning that it’s a work of fiction and I am ready for that. Despite all this, staging an agitation and creating a ruckus is not good.
There are several allegations being made against you like the BJP has funded your film or you are trying to malign Indira Gandhi’s image...
People can say whatever they want. If they think logically, they should realise that if the BJP has funded my film, I wouldn’t have got 17 cuts and two disclaimers from the Censor Board. Madhur Bhandarkar is a brand and I am known for making a certain kind of films. I am not a rookie filmmaker. If my film was funded, then I would have based the subject 100 per cent on the Emergency, why show only 30 per cent. And I would have released the film before or during 2019 general elections, why release it now? I don’t need anyone’s funding because I have a certain respect in the industry and my films have been successful at the box office. I have also received the National Award. Talking rubbish about a filmmaker of such calibre, is very insulting. Also, my film has been made on a moderate budget; in fact I was joking with someone the other day that my film’s budget is equivalent to the costume budget of a big film. I am tired of telling people that my film is not on the Emergency but only revolves around the subject.
Why did you feel the need to make a film revolving around the Emergency considering most Indians have forgotten the subject?
It’s like asking, ‘Why make a Jodhaa Akbar, Bajirao Mastani, Rustom after so many years?’ People from the industry are making period films like Bombay Velvet based on the 1960s. At the end of the day, it’s the maker’s point of view on what kind of film she or he wants to make. It’s me and not others who will decide on the subject. I have been making films on different issues. When I was making contemporary films, people said, ‘Madhur Bhandarkar only makes glamorous films’. Now, I am making a period film and people have issues with that.
What is the inspiration behind the story of Indu Sarkar?
I wanted to make a period film because I am born in the 1970s. I could have made a costume drama but I neither have the patience nor the budget. So, I researched on the events that happened in the ’70s and decided on a story keeping the Emergency and the political scenario in the backdrop. The story is about this couple and the clash of their ideologies. How the husband supports the Emergency and the wife opposes it.
It’s become a trend in India for political groups and parties to take objection to subjects of films every now and then. Is it becoming difficult to make films here?
Yes, it’s very difficult making films nowadays. Because of this, actors are also scared to do films. They think, ‘If I do this particular film, my image will be ruined or political groups will stage protests in front of my house’. I believe such things shouldn’t happen. A few days back, Swapan Dasgupta, MP (BJP) tweeted a very relevant topic. He said that like writers, filmmakers too should be allowed liberty. Writers can spell out names in their books or get creative, why can’t we? If they can use their weapon — the pen — to write something, why can’t we do the same? I have always said that Madhur Bhandarkar is a journalist of the big screen. I have a journalist in me. Abroad, several films are made on the Nazis and the American Civil Rights, but they don’t create a ruckus. Why here?
Why do you always choose controversial subjects?
I directed Heroine which is based on my own industry and people from the fraternity said, ‘Why do you want to make a film on the film industry?’ When gossip magazines, TV or digital shows highlight the same issues, they do not have a problem. I don’t understand such hypocrisy. I have a source and I am using it. When I made films like Chandni Bar, Corporate, Page 3 and Fashion, everyone loved them. But they had issues with me making a film on the film industry. People shouldn’t think that Madhur is exposing other industries while focussing on all the ‘good’ things about the film industry. That shouldn’t happen. I am not biased. I show the truth.
But how do you balance between reality and entertainment?
I always try to show as much reality as possible. But also make it entertaining and engaging. The media, over the years, has said that Madhur takes the middle road of cinema. It’s neither arty nor commercial. I am happy about that.