She may appear to be out of glare of publicity, but Bollywood actress Neetu Chandra, who made a mark with films like GARAM MASALA, TRAFFIC SIGNAL, OYE! LUCKY! LUCKY OYE!, ONE TWO THREE and others, is certainly not out of action. Recently, her production venture MITHILA MAKHAAN (Maithili language) was applauded at the 63rd National Awards as it was honoured with the Best Maithili film award. What's interesting is the fact that the film, directed by Nitin Chandra (Neetu's brother) is the first ever film in the history of Bihar and Jharkhand to get a National award.
As we caught up with the much talented dusky actress Neetu Chandra, who is currently basking in the glory of National Award, she revealed what made her pick up an altogether different language film to produce, what National Award means to her, how people reacted when she chose to support a Maithili language film, of not being in action and much more. Here are the excerpts:
Congratulations, for winning the most coveted National Award. What was the idea of backing a lesser known language film?
I am trying to restore the language of our country. And it's not just for Maithili; I would have done it for any language that is disappearing. There are so many languages in our country which are dying right now. But Maithili, which is recognized as one of the sweetest language with a rich history & heritage, music, culture, food, is almost gone. There are five languages from Bihar - Bhojpuri, Maithili, Magi, Ambica, Badhika out of which Ambica and Badhika are totally lost. So, before these languages vanish we might as well get some history out of it. With language music comes, culture comes, food comes and these things make the society. This way we are trying to restore our language. Film is the only medium through which we can get into everybody's integral part of their life. And then that forms the image of the society. Current Bhojpuri films have broken the image of Bihar because whatever we see in Bhojpuri films now doesn't really exist in Bihar actually. I am born and brought up in Bihar and I know how that state is. Bhojpuri was the language of people like Rajendra Prasad, Bismillah Khan and Maurya Dynasty. Jainism, Buddhism, Arybhatt they are all history of Bhojpuri. So, people who haven't seen Bihar ever, they will always think it in a bad light, courtesy Bhojpuri films.
Before this, I did a Bhojpuri film called DESWA which went on to win at 16 International film festivals and now we have done this film, we will do another film as well.
Is it also your way to contribute for the country?
I might sound a little pompous but this is the truth. I represented India when I was in 9th grade in taekwondo. I was honoured by Jackie Chan that time in Hong Kong, China. Patriotism is in my blood. I don't know how to follow patriotism but I can lead in it. If you ask me to follow something, probably I will mess up everything. I can only do what I am convinced about and I am completely patriotic. My brother Nitin Chandra, who is highly educated, started from documentary and now he made this film. It's completely his vision. And it's completely my condition to stand by his film.
'Film awards are predictable but not National Awards.'
What challenges you went through while producing a film like this? Wasn't it a risky proposition? What was the reaction of people around you when chose to produce MITHILA MAKHAN?
People used to call me bewakoof (foolish). They said this is very stupid. Whatever you are earning and spared what will happen to it? But there are good people also around us. Sameer Kumar, IICM and IIM graduate from Ahmedabad, who stays in Singapore with his wife Tulika, looked at my brother's vision and thought we were doing honest thing. Out of nowhere, they stood by us and said we want to be part of it. When your intentions are right people do come to you. They came forward and helped us. Today, I am very honoured and the kind of responses we are getting. There are lot of actresses who have produced films but I am the first one to get a National Award.
Times have changed people lap up regional cinema more than commercial Hindi flick.
They lap up good cinema. Regional toh bhul jaao. I am so proud that films are coming from different languages. Forget about any region or language, a film will never be regional. Language will be regional. When you go international, nobody would address that 'a Malyalam Film bagged Award'. They would only call it as Indian film fetched the award. Today, either it's a good film or a bad film. The difference between an art and commercial film has totally blurred. Whether it is a good or bad film, whether the film is done by a superstar or a newcomer, things have changed for good and surely the audience will change.
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