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Madhur Bhadarkar on Traffic Signal

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By: Joginder Tuteja, IndiaFM
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
He is not a man who is overtly worried about what people have to say about his films. For him, films have to tell a new and original story every time and this is what prompts him to dwell into the life of a bar girl [Chandni Bar] or a woman politician [Satta] or a socialite [Page 3] or the corporate world [Corporate]. Now all set to tell a tale of those living in the streets and spending their time on a signal, he is ready with his third in the trilogy of life in Mumbai - Traffic Signal.

Over to Madhur Bhandarkar.

How is Traffic Signal shaping up?
Touchwood, it has been shaping up quite well. It's a slice of life film with a lot of realism attached to it. It tells you about the day to day activities that happen at a Traffic Signal and how lives of people around it are affected. It is about innumerous vendors, beggars, eunuchs, etc. who live their life at a signal. And yes, let me put it on record that this is not a kind of film which is overtly intense or dramatic. I would put it as a 'dark comedy' since there is a lot of humor to it.

Dark comedy? Now that's a news since one was led to believe that Traffic Signal would be a lot dramatic
I won't say that there is no dramatic moment at all but 60%-70% of the film has humor to it. Also, there is no story in the film. It is in fact about these 60 characters who have their world centered on the Traffic Signal. Everyone has their own life and how each of them make it happen on the road is what Traffic Signal is all about. What you would see is an element of beggar mafia and how people from the grassroots level to the top are involved.

So who are these characters in the film?
Kunal Khemu plays an interesting character here whose job is to collect money from people on the signal. We have shown an entire process of how this money moves from one channel to second, from second to third, from third to fourth and so on. Since there are people even at the top who get their share of moolah collected from the beggars, it makes for an interesting premise. Then about Neetu Chandra, everyone is aware that she plays a Gujarati origin girl who sells embroidery stuff on the pavements. Upendra Limaye [who played the main villain 'Bapu' in 'Shiva'] is someone who does 'rangoli' on the road. Now this is a spot where people are expected to put in money. Konkana Sen is another interesting character in the film as she is a night walker who is always surrounded by 2-3 men when she is on her job. There is this gay character who again sells himself on the streets and hence turns out to be Konkana's competitor. Apart from all these people there is Ranvir Shourey who is a drug addict. Then there are beggars, eunuchs and so many other characters who find their bearings on the signal!

 Sudhir Mishra sounds like an unusual addition to the film too.
Yes, he plays the main villain of the film and to think of it, he was very reluctant to be facing the camera. He continuously asked me if it was really necessary of him to be a part of the film as an actor. But I was very adamant and wanted to him to be there. It was sheer gut factor that was driving me to get him on board. Meanwhile, you would be surprised to know that so many senior people from the industry called me and asked me about my choice. They said, "Why don't you cast me instead?" But on my end, I was sure that Sudhir was the man for the role.

One heard Konkana was reluctant too.
Oh yes, she was not really comfortable with an idea of catching the nuances of a prostitute who eats pan, chews tobacco, uses foul language and the works. But once she was on, she was all there for the character. One has to look at the kind of job she has done in the film.

But how about the box office returns?
Well, if a film recovers 4 times or more than the budget of the film, it is considered a hit. In that sense my Page 3 was a hit along with Corporate that made a table profit and did good business on box office too. This is why it surprises me when people come up and say ki 'Corporate' cities mein to chali lekin interiors mein nahi? But my question is ki bhai, what is so shocking about it? I never set out to make a film that would be lapped up in the interiors or would be easily identified by them. It was a film for the cities and it did quite well there. Agar mujhe chote shehron mein bhi picture chalani hoti to main iska naam 'Business ka baazigar' ya 'Dhandhe ka Baazaigar' rakhta, Corporate nahi! On the other hands, for some films one hears that it ran in the interiors but not in the metros. It is such a two edged sword. People don't understand that a film finds its audience based on its subject. Well, I did have hits in the form of 'Page 3' and 'Corporate' and I can already see as Traffic Signal being third in line.

'Satta' is probably your one film bearing your stamp, be it Chandni Bar, Page 3 or Corporate, which didn't make money.
Yes, and incidentally it is my favorite film. People come and tell me that Chandni Bar is their favorite or Page 3 is what they liked most or Corporate had a maximum impact on them. But if you ask me, I find 'Satta' to be my best work. In fact even Late Pramod Mahajan, whom I met in a flight, told me that he really liked watching Satta.

Well, the film did have Atul Kukarni's character bearing resemblance to Mr. Mahajan.
[Laughs] Yes, people tell me that, in fact a lot of them feel so.

So how did Aan - Men at Work come into picture?
After Chandni Bar and Satta, lot of people came and told me that after such women centric subjects, I should make a man centric film. Aan - Men At Work was a result of that. But what happens is that sometimes when you are set out to make a film, there is a lot of passion involved but you loose the vision later on. Moreover in those days, there were a lot of cop films being made and hence Aan - Men At Work didn't really stand out. But hey, one should appreciate the kind of cinema that I am making. At least I don't watch a DVD in the night, copy it and then come ready with a script in the morning.

No one is accusing you of doing so.
But then there are so many film makers who actually do that. I at least strive to come up with something new, something original. At least no one can accuse me of not trying out things; some give me credit for that. How many film makers are there who do so much of research for their films? I did so much of that for Chandni Bar or Satta. For Page 3, I actually attended so many Page 3 events, for Corporate, I attended board meetings and met with so many top notch corporate folks. For Traffic Signal, I went to one of the densest slums around i.e. Dharavi in Mumbai. How many film makers would actually do that? In the kind of time I have put up for 'Traffic Signal, I could have got 4 films on floor but at least I am not into rehashing or remaking.

There has been speculation around that Chandni Bar 2 is in the making. Can you please set the matters to rest once for an all?
No, Chandni Bar 2 is not getting made. Not at least for 2-3 more years. Yes, I agree it is a good idea and it would be interesting to take the story of bar girls forward from the stage when bars have been closed and they are back on streets. But things haven't even reached conceptualization stage. When an idea clicks and there are signs of any progress, it is only then when I would think of continuing the story of Chandni Bar. But till then there is absolutely nothing happening on that front.

Coming to a tangentially different topic, are you by any chance thinking of doing a film with your mentor Ram Gopal Verma?
No, not in near future. I am right now quite busy and concentrating on setting my production house 'Madhur Bhandarkar productions'. There are 2-3 films in the pipeline that need all my attention and hence there is no question of getting involved elsewhere.

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