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'If we don't listen to titillating songs, they'll cease to exist'
With 'Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola', a political satire on land grab, Vishal Bhardwaj brings another story from 'real' India alive on screen. He speaks to TOI-Crest about pandering to stars, the 100-crore club and morality in cinema.
You're known for mining the Hindi heartland for stories. What makes this region so attractive?
It's not a fixation but the comfort of a world you know. If you don't know about that world, then you go out and find out. I think India is unexplored in mainstream Hindi cinema. It's only recently that people have started looking around. Otherwise there was a typical 'Hindi film language' whether the character could be from Punjab, Haryana or London. Even now, a London-bred heroine speaks Hindi like a girl from Delhi. But Londoners speak with a certain twang. Reality should be maintained in cinema. And in India, every 100 km the dialect, the food, the culture, everything changes. If we don't tell stories of our people and culture then who will?
We recently saw a backlash against item songs - some believe they corrupt the young. What is your take on this?
I feel like laughing at such statements. How can item songs or film songs make one immoral? For that matter songs like "Jag Jaye Naujawan" did not bring inspire a revolution in this country. When one has nothing more to say it becomes convenient to blame films. If one is smoking it's because of films. If one is drinking it's because of films. Movies are a clear reflection of our society. What you have in society is what you get in cinema. If an item song is played incessantly at parties and remains popular for years in both cities and villages then it's because we want like it. If we don't patronise titillating songs, they will automatically cease to exist.
Is it necessary to pander to stars to sell films?
There's no choice. You give me money and that will give me choice. Given the money, I'll never look at stars. We look at them because they bring in money. So we could make small budget films without stars but not one like Matru...where the madness is happening in an aircraft, on burning fields and with 5, 000 people taking out a procession.
But you've surely figured out how to work around stars now?
Yes, that's one reason I keep playing with the image of stars like with Saif Ali Khan, Shahid Kapoor and now Imran Khan. I deconstruct them, break them into pieces and create my own person out of that star. I'm not repulsed by stars or have any problems with them. I simply don't treat them like stars. I treat them like normal human beings and I demand that humanness back from them.
Would you want an 'Omkara' making it to the Rs 100 crore club?
Personally, I find the word '100 crore club' very disgusting. Also, I don't care. Woody Allen said recently that 'when my films don't do well, I feel that I am doing something right'. So I do feel that the things that are really nice, are liked by fewer people. As for how certain films make Rs 100 crores, I can't comment because I don't see those films. But one has to accept that those films have a larger audience than intelligent cinema.
So you wouldn't you want your films to make that kind of money?
Oh yes, in fact I want to make films that make Rs 1, 000 crore. But for that I have to devise a formula like Raju Hirani who makes films that are not offensive. He has the ability to make films both for the masses and classes.
You are a director, composer, writer, singer - which role are you closest to?
Music is my first and last love. I became a director so that I could have the power to control my music. So direction is secondary to my music. But yes, managing all these roles does drive me crazy.
How do you think Indian cinema has evolved over the past 10-15 years?
I think this is the best phase of Hindi cinema ever since it began 100 years ago. Today we can make all kinds of films and ensure a a good producer/release. For example, Aamir Khan brought greater visibility to a film like Peepli Live and that, in turn, brought it greater recognition. He made possible a film like Delhi Belly with its real characters and content. Also, the censor board has never been as good as it is today.
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