Indu Sarkar is not a propaganda film: Madhur Bhandarkar
When Madhur Bhandarkar got Lata Mangeshkar to sing Kitne ajeeb rishte hai yahan… in his film Page 3, little did he realize the irony of it would strike him 12 years later. His new movie Indu Sarkaralmost didn’t release last week when a petition was filed against it, putting a stay on its release. The filmmaker went through a harrowing time till the Supreme Court allowed the film’s release on Thursday. Very few members of the film fraternity, barring Ashoke Pandit and Anupam Kher, stood up for Bhandarkar.
In an explosive interview, a hurt Bhandarkar, opens up on how he would have gone into depression, why he feels lets down by the film industry, and the real reason he made Indu Sarkar:
When some people tried to stop your film from releasing, did you feel let down by Bollywood who did not stand up for you?
Yes of course I felt let down and deeply disappointed by my colleagues. I was the one who stood up for Udta Punjab and Ae Dil hai Mushkil and said that they should be released and condemned the attack on Sanjay Leela Bhansali on the sets of Padmavati and said it should never have happened because this is not a way to humiliate a filmmaker. I am not a friend of Bhansali but as a colleague and member of the film fraternity, I will stand up for and with them and support the film, be it a small or big film, because it is for the fraternity and a film is not about the career of one individual or actor but collective work of people of all who are part of the film and the money riding on it.
Yet when I faced resistance to Indu Sarkar, nobody except people like Ashok Panditji or Anupam Kherji stood up for me. I always say one thing and even my movies reflect it my film Page 3 had the song… Kitne ajaab rishte hai yahan pe… which Lata didi sang. Let me put it like this Bollywood is a completely superficial place, devoid of emotions! This industry navigates their equations from Friday to Friday and the success of the movies releasing then. Your friends and enemies turn according to your box office success. Like they say, no permanent friendship or enmity. I am a filmmaker who has been making films and it’s been my solitary, lonely journey as I make films completely according to my vision. I am not in any coterie. You have seen me in the last 20 years and know I am not part of any camps. Nobody can claim I made Madhur Bhandarkar’s life! I made my own destiny and feel I am blessed by God. My National Awards, my success and Box Office fortunes everything is mine! Of course my team is always there for me but I have achieved success through my hard work and vision. But as an individual I felt deeply hurt especially because of these last three incidents when Karan Johar, Ekta Kapoor, Anurag Kashyap or Sanjay Leela Bhansali didn’t offer their support, when I faced a similar situation.
Did you really expect Bollywood to support you?
I thought there would be somebody at least would stand up for me when I was fighting a lone battle. I am not asking you to come and join me in a morcha but at least there’s something called a lip service or token protest like tweeting etc. My team was gheraoed in Pune by a mob of 200 and we had to change three cars before reaching Nagpur airport because they said some hooligans wanted to throw ink in my face. For a filmmaker like me it was unbelievable. Had Indu Sarkar not been my film, this movie would not have got released. People have tried to put a spanner in my work from all sides in terms of legal issues and political pressure I have gone through! I have that power to fight people because I am a strong person and have got great willpower. I have gone through many ups and downs in my life. Otherwise, any other filmmaker would have been into depression or had a nervous breakdown by now.
People feel Indu Sarkar is a propaganda film.
Good you asked me this question. Madhur Bhandarkar is not some newbie director who has popped up looking for a break in some political party and who is making film. I am a reputed filmmaker who has been making films for the last 17 years and I have a flair for making real and hard-hitting movies. Earlier also I have rubbed people the wrong way with my kind of movies. Even Bollywood got upset when I made Heroine so Madhur Bhandarkar makes topical, issue-based cinema. If I wanted to make a film to propagate a political agenda I would have released the film in 2019 when the elections are going to happen in India. See the larger picture. I could have still made the film today and taken it for 6-8 months to all the possible festivals of the world and before the elections I could have released it. My movie does not need a big P&A or big star cast as it has a very moderate budget. I could have released Indu Sarkar four months ago when the five-state elections happened in India if I wanted to show any atrocities committed by a political party so as to influence voters. I strategically released the film because I knew that these issues/concerns would have been raised. I had pre-censored and edited my script much before we shot it. I released it when there are no elections happening in India for the next six months.
Your point being…
What is the life of a film maximum a month? After that it fizzles out. I have some Congress friends who are keeping distance from me today and I had told them that the Emergency is a backdrop to the film. It’s not a biopic. Why would I make a film 70 per cent fiction and 30 per cent reality if it was a propaganda film? The same people who find it a propaganda film should know that my film got 14 cuts with two disclaimers so why were they silent at that time? Why did they keep quiet then when they feel that the Censor Board Chairperson (Pahlaj Nihalani) is a BJP person? I couldn’t release my films overseas because so much was going on. I was running around and fighting for my film’s release just a few hours before my evening show. Can you understand my trauma? I am inviting people to my trial and standing outside the Supreme Court and talking to my lawyer. Do they ask people who have made films and written books on Gujarat – are those are sponsored or how much have you been paid to make/write that? Have the guts to ask them that also! It is very demeaning for a filmmaker to be questioned like that especially someone of my credibility. I am not some pop-up filmmaker who you don’t know about. I have a trail of cinema behind me. The kind of double standard, duplicity and hypocrisy is absolutely appalling! I almost went into depression because of all that I was suffering…
Why did you choose a story like Indu Sarkar which has politics as the backdrop (except Satta) when you have always done films on social issues?
I wanted to make a film for today’s generation who want to know about the Emergency. For me as a filmmaker I have always loved the 70s era RD Burman, Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar, Sharmilaj, Mumtaz, Dharmendra, Jeetendra, Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan, bell bottoms… I thought why not make a film based in the 70s with the Emergency as the backdrop. Mani Ratnam made a beautiful film called Bombay against the backdrop of the riots. It was not a movie on the riots but about a husband and wife and their kids. Roja was against the backdrop of terrorism but revolved around the story of a wife fighting for her husband’s release. Indu Sarkar is not about the Emergency but the relationship of a husband and wife and how the Emergency takes toll on that.
Is Indu Sarkar an expensive film?
No. Absolutely not! It’s made in a moderate budget at a cost of Rs. 6.5 to 7 crore with a P&A of Rs.3 crore making the total cost of the film Rs.10 crore (approx). With digital and satellite rights we will recover the cost of production because of the decent budget. I have made the film in an amount which is the cost of a costume budget in a big film. The film has picked up over the weekend through word of mouth as people have seen the movie. Social media has really been a strong support system for me. The kind of energy and love I have got from it is amazing. I would have gone into depression if it wasn’t for social media… I have certain friends who are there for me. Those people are always there and I don’t call them Bollywood. They are friends. If tomorrow I am working in some factory also they will be my friends.
The film opened on a weak note. Certain critics also gave poor reviews. Did that dishearten you?
My films have always had mixed reactions from Chandni Bar. There were some critics who had given the film 1 or 2 stars or even none. The same happened with Page 3, Traffic Signal, Corporate and Fashion also. One critic even said it’s better to watch a fashion show than watch Madhur Bhandarkar’s Fashion or better to attend a Page 3 party to watch his Page 3 films. So my films have always had mixed reviews. If there’s 75 per cent who will love it, the remaining 25 per cent will have an opinion about it. Recently what has happened, post Narendra Modi becoming our Prime Minister and I have been very vocal in my support, some critics have become personal in their attacks on me especially this movie Indu Sarkar. More than the film’s review, they have reviewed me and my affiliation towards a certain party.
Isn’t that true?
But I have political friends in every party. My films have been liked by everybody from the BJP to the Shiv Sena and Congress. The Congress regime has given me awards and recommended me for the Padma Shri though a lot of people said that the BJP government had given it to me. Let me put it like this, the Padma Shri was recommended by the UPA government in 2013 which I got in 2016. I have cordial relationships with everybody from actors to politicians, singers and filmmakers. I am liked by everybody. You may not prescribe to the ideology of that party but you may like the individual in that party. When there was a group of about 35 people (comprising of my colleagues and friends) in the film industry in 2014 who openly carried a tirade against Nadrendra Modiji that he should not become our PM and wrote a letter to the citizens about it that time me, Lata didi (Lata Mangeshkar), Anupan Kher saab and others openly supported Modiji and said we should give him a chance to be the PM of the country. I said since 2002 you are hounding him and if 2014 people have given him a chance him, so let it be. I am very vocal about these things.
You also spoke against the Award Wapsi also…
Yes I opposed that also. I countered it also by saying Don’t do selective activism.’ Why didn’t you object when the Kolkata Book Fair cancelled Taslima Naseen’s book launch or Shirin Dalvi and her children were hounded in Mumbai or Salman Rushdie dropped out of the Jaipur Lit Fest and wasn’t allowed to video conference? When it suits you, you talk but when it doesn’t suit you, you remain silent. I don’t like this duplicity so I asked them why didn’t they return those awards when certain things happened earlier? I don’t like the selective activism positioning they adopt and oppose it openly.
Have you shown the film to politicians in Delhi?
Yesterday some friends of mine, including Mr Amar Singh, Minister for Human Resource Development, Prakash Javdekar saab, Mr Vijay Chauthaiwale, Professor Rakesh Sinha, Madhu Kishwerji, who saw the film in Delhi as another friend of had kept a trial and called certain people. They all loved the film.
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