Director Mahesh Manjrekar was recently in Kolkata to promote his upcoming Hindi film CITY OF GOLD. The revered director speaks to our correspondent about what it takes to make successful cinema.
How did CITY OF GOLD happen?
The film is based on a Marathi play written by Jawant Pawar. It was called ADHANTAR. It was a very successful play and ran from 1997 to 2002 I think. He came to me with the story idea and I was so ashamed to find out that I didn't know anything about the incident. It looked like a project I wanted to do and we got down writing the script immediately. In 2004 we had the script ready. Then it took some time to get the producers and for filming to begin.
The movie is about the plight of Mumbai mill workers?
Correct. By 1980s various mills had sprouted up around Mumbai which employed lakhs of people. Then as the city progressed, the mills were bought over to make way for high rises and malls. Not much thought was spared for these people. I'm not saying progress shouldn't be made. Definitely as time goes by there has to be development; but not by trampling people.
Tell us about the cast...
We needed actors who could look like mill workers. Also I didn't think characters in this film would suit the stars, so I decided to primarily go with seasoned theatre actors. Of course people like Karan (Patel), Sachin
(Khedekar), Satish Kaushik and Seema Biswas are also there...I'm very happy about the cast.
"Stars are no guarantee for success..."
Why do you think stars wouldn't 'suit' your characters?
Because then it adds the extra baggage of their stardom. It becomes really difficult to peel of their charisma and see them as actors capable of playing such character roles. Also it was small budget film so...
Making an offbeat film, do you think our industry is better prepared now or is Hollywood still the destination for 'different' cinema?
'Different' as in non-mainstream?
Well then I'd have to say no. I'm not in awe of Hollywood. True, they make some great cinema but they dish out their share of trash as well. You see, I think it's the kind of cinema that you make that matters. You can do a mainstream movie like KURBAAN or CHANDNI CHOWK TO CHINA with big stars and yet it still flops. You do a good film like AAMIR or A WEDNESDAY and that becomes a hit. The thing is that the audience doesn't want to see trash.
So, what does it take to woo in the audience?
There's no formula to it, I think. We just need to do good cinema that surprises the audience. Look at the 3 IDIOTS, the reason that it was so successful was its amazing script. The audience is pretty intelligent now and finally we are seeing them rejecting the cinema that does not live up to their expectations. Stars are no guarantee for success. Take all the flops Yash Raj has had recently...
Speaking of Yash Raj, what do you have to say about the so called 'camps' that have come up?
CITY OF GOLD
Well I don't see them as 'camps'. When you work with people, you develop a professional relationship. That makes it comfortable to work with them. If it's an accusation, then am guilty too (laughs); look at me, I work with Sachin Khedekar.
Have you used songs in the movie?
Not as they normally are used. I think one proper 'song' which shows how these mill workers derive entertainment and then there's a promotional song we shot for the film.
We hear that you sung it?
(Laughs) Yes. It's a rap song that tells the story of a modern city bustling with progress. It's a rap song so not much training was required and the music director thought I'd fit the bill so...
You had started doing a bit of acting in films, what happened to that?
Well it was good for a while. And then I got being approached for similar kind of roles. So it was not much fun.
Aside from the film business, what's your favourite hobby?
Farming. I love to own a farmhouse, do the gardening, do some horse riding, hosting parties on weekends...the works.
Am doing a Bengali film with Mithun Chakraborty next. It's based on a Marathi movie. When he heard the script he said 'I'll kill you if you don't make that film in Bengali with me in the lead' (laughs). So I feared my life and got down to work.
A Bengali movie?
Yes. I mean why not? As long as there's interesting work to do, the language does not matter to me. I'm also doing a Telugu movie. Also I think culturally Marathi and Bengali people are similar. We have this laid back attitude (laughs) about us. We appreciate the creative arts. It goes on. And then I'm in total awe of PANTHER PANCHALI. Few movies have been made that come close to it.
- Divyanshu Dutta Roy, IBNS, Bollywood Trade News Network