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If people are blind, it's not my fault" - Mahesh Bhatt

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Courtesy: IndiaFM
Thursday, April 20, 2006

Mahesh Bhatt is among the few who never shies away from speaking his mind. Whatever be the issue, the man always has an opinion. And one that is valued. He has always lived life on his on terms and has never been apologetic about it.

IndiaFM caught him in a candid mood, where he speaks his heart out and says it as it is.

First of all, tell us, which is the song that is playing on your mind?
Bheegi Bheegi Si Ye Raatein. I think the defining voice of Gangster is James' anguished voice which comes from his heart.

We all know that Gangster has been in the news because of its similarity to Abu Salem's life. Why don't you set the record straight?
Never was a more wrong statement made. It has nothing to do with his life. Whenever I have made film on my life or someone else's life, I have always claimed it. We could not even make a film on his life because it will violate his fundamental right of getting a fair trial. Everyone has the right of being looked upon as innocent until proven guilty. The answer is simple. Our film has nothing to do with Abu Salem.

What is the message that you are trying to give through Gangster?
Since centuries women have been pining for a home and someone to belong to. In the film, Kangana is torn between two men. One is a simple man played by Emraan Hashmi whereas the other is a gangster played by Shiney Ahuja. She is torn to fulfill these elemental needs.

Your favorite Emraan is in this film. What made you cast him in the role of a simple man?
I won't reveal all the cards right now! He plays a warm, lovable, simple and civilized character. You'll find out why, when you see the film. That's a surprise for the cinema hall!

What is it about Emraan that you think will make him a lambi race ka ghoda?
I think he has the body language of today. Every age has its nuances. He is the youth of today with all the physical attributes. He has emerged as a very good learner. There is a world of a difference between his first and last film. His understanding of acting is deeper than what he does. He still has a corrective mechanism. We all make sure that he keeps his feet on the ground when people put him on a pedestal.

Emraan says that you are his best critic. He didn't name the films, but he told us that you were really disappointed by his certain performances. Where do you think he can go wrong?
When people lose connection with their inner self, a false air comes into them. Whenever Emraan has done that, I have given it to him on his head. Now he doesn't do that.

Vishesh Films has been associated with boldness and exposure in their films. How do you react to such allegations?
The truth is that our box office figures speak for themselves. Those who make such allegations do not know our box office collections. We had recently made a film Kalyug, dealing with the subject of pornography. Still, there was no exposure in it. Exposure was there is Neal N Nikki which was promoted as a family film. If people are blind, it's not my fault. I have directed more than 50 films. Gangster is 46th film from Vishesh Films banner. Apart from Murder, Zeher and Jism, which of my other films had exposure? This is injustice to someone like me who has made more than 50 films. You are only judging me based on these few films. You will forget that we also made films like Aashiqui,Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin, Saaransh,Arth, Naam,Daddy,Tamanna etc, etc! That is conveniently forgotten. It shows how brainwashed people are. A couple of journalists decide to give a different angle of exposure to their story and it becomes such an issue. All these films were released only after the approval of the Censor Board. The people of this nation have spent their money and only then have these films done well. Today's India is different from the India of 1980 and 1990. After globalization, our cinema had to change because the consumer had changed. Their visual preferences have changed. After watching all the Madonnas and the Brad Pitts, we too had to bring a change in our products. Those who accuse us, do the same. Take a look at the channels and newspapers who point their fingers at us. So this is just a bogus concern.

What do you think sets the films of your banner, apart?
If people had not connected with us, we would not have been here. If we would not connect with the people and if our music didn't do well, we would not even get a single penny from the market. The market rule is simple. The money given to us has to be returned along with profits. Or else no one will give us money. We've been working on this principle. Whenever we've been unsuccessful, we've had to return the money back to the market. And while returning this money, we have learnt the hard way that such films don't work. We had made Zakhm, which won a national award. It was about the Babri Masjid demolition, a significant chapter in India's history. It didn't do well. Then I learnt that such films don't work. The writing was on the wall that such kind of cinema is dead. Cinema which talks about the serious issues of India, will not work. Then we made a decision that we would make relevant films which also gave an edge of the seat experience with an absorbing narrative.

Tell us how the audience will 'connect' with your forthcoming films.
All women will connect with Gangster. Woh Lamhe is derived from some portions of my life. This is not the story of Parveen Babi. I have taken some moments from my relationship with her. Only certain portions have been sourced. Then there is Show Business which talks about how the media has become exploitative today. Then Anurag Basu is directing 'Suicide Bomber' for us. We are all familiar with suicide bombers. We had lost Rajeev Gandhi to a suicide bomber. There is also Awaarapan, which deals with the arms trade.

Your personality itself is a brand. You have an opinion on every issue. What do you think makes your opinion so valued?
I'm a human being. I have an opinion on everything from disease to divinity. If my opinion was not significant, the media would not keep knocking at my door, again and again. My opinions matter to people. Otherwise it's not possible that one person keeps barking for 30 years and people keep listening to him. Some people feel that I talk a lot. When I'm quiet, the same people say that I am maintaining a diplomatic silence. No matter what you do, people will have something to say. But I'm not really bothered. I have always lived life on my own terms and will continue to do so. It's difficult for a leopard to change its spots.

How have you managed to stay away from the norms of society?
We all have only one life and I intend to live it on my own terms. I don't impose my ways on anyone. But yes, I follow the rules, however stupid they may be. Now I wait for a red light at the signal, because society has made this law. I will not break any law. But that does not mean there is anything great about your laws! If I break it, I will pay for it. However absurd the rules are, I still follow the system.

Why did you quit direction?
I got fed up after 33 years of it. I got fed up of the mechanics of film making. Every film maker gets dated. Every film maker gets repetitive after he peaks. If I thought I was relevant I would have never handed over the megaphone to Anurag or Mohit. When I was a child and when my mother was in no mood of telling a story, we would not get sleep. It was important that she was involved in the story. Similarly, if a story teller is not interested in telling a story, the audience will never enjoy it. So I lost interest in story telling.

You have started writing. Do you think a story teller gets his due respect?
I write in conjunction with my writers. I think a writer has respect in society. Everything originates in the mind. Then it is shaped by the director. There is an original score and a conductor. A director is a conductor. There are great conductors who being something of their own to a film.

Your films are known for their music. How dependent is a film on its music?
My cinema thrives on music. I understood this from Raj Khosla. After four of my films flopped, he told me to put music in my films. I put three songs in Arth. Those songs are still popular. I realized the importance of songs. Then onwards, we made a conscious effort to create great music. We do not work with stars. We make films on our own steam so it is important for us to have good music. Good music gives something to the audience to come to the theatre. This is our survival and our weakness. By choosing not to lean on stars, we lean on music. We have to work ten times harder.

How do you decide which music directors you want to work with?
Sometime the director chooses. Like Anurag wanted to work with Pritam. They are childhood friends and have done great work in Gangster. We don't plan our moves. We have worked with Nadeem, Anu Malik and M.M.Kreem. It differs from project to project.

But you have made a conscious effort to get singers from Pakistan.
That is our need to be connected with South Asian nations. We have always wanted to salute their talent. Like this time, we got James. Even my brother Mukesh spends a lot of time in the field of music. We know that if our music is good, we can guarantee a good opening.

What do you think will be the most defining aspect in the films to come?
Story will be the most important aspect. A film can't just depend on technology.

Name two films apart from your banner which really impressed you.
36 Chowrangee Lane and Mother India.

And in the recent past...
Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi.

Tell us about Shaad who makes his debut in Woh Lamhe.
He is our new discovery. He is the son of Mumtaz. He kept on coming to us, looking for work. When he gave up, he got a break. He's playing an important role in Woh Lamhe. I think he has a bright future ahead of him.

Tell us more about Showbusiness.
It has two people coming into the front. One is Raju Khan, my favorite choreographer who I have shaped, created and spoilt. The other person we are launching is Tushar, who was my assistant. There is another new boy Muntasir who will write for us.

From the films that you have directed, which is your favorite?
The last shot of Zakhm gave me the most uplifting and fulfilling feeling. After making many bad films, I had finally made a film from my heart. It gave me a dignified exit as a director. People say I peaked with films like Naam, Arth, a television film Janam and Saaransh. Your best work becomes your worst enemy. It becomes difficult to match your best work.

You have looked the same for as long as people can remember? You never carry an excess baggage... They say that people who travel high, travel light. I can't carry the burden of my non existence greatness. I don't work for leaving my footprints on the sands of posterity. At the end of it all, there is just a picture on the wall. No person is so great that you make an albatross for him. Life has no destination. It goes on and on. Great film makers will keep coming .We are all a part of the stream.

What is your source of inspiration?
My own emptiness! There is an inexhaustible energy coming from it. No matter what I do, I do not find a sense of rest. I think that is the defining feature of life. Restlessness is one of the dimensions of life. Why do you want the oceans and rivers to stop being restless? Look at how many lives they feed. My restlessness produces work, gives employment and feeds people. I would rather burn out than decay. Burn out is inevitable. I intend to burn the candles on both ends.

Name one human being who has inspired you.
The person who has made me what I am is U.G. Krishnamoorthy. I would not have been what I am if it wasn't for my encounter with this extra ordinary man. My relationship with him is like that with my breath. It gives me freedom. I am not in bondage with him. I am free for him. He is a man who came into my life and freed me from everything including my dependence on him.

Share some of his thoughts with us.
The one that comes to me now is 'You'll be a fire in your own right. You will burn fiercely because of what is in you." People who make you depend on them are your enemies.

Which was the last movie you saw?
I don't see movies, not connected with my work. I see biographies and read a lot. Cinema is not my source of entertainment or inspiration. I am not a movie buff. I make movies for my survival. I do watch movies because I have to keep myself updated. I don't love movies.

According to you, who are the promising youngsters in the industry today?
I think Anurag Basu will be a major director to emerge from the back and take over. He has an emotional understanding of the world that no one has. Emraan Hashmi too has a bright future ahead of him.

And among actresses...
I think Kangana will be a major star.

Who is your favorite actor?
I am a devotee of Dilip Kumar. In a country of phoney icons, here is a reluctant icon. He is a true icon.

What is your message for your fans?
If I can live life on my terms so can you. But don't impose your life on anyone else. Be fearless and truthful. Burn your candle on both ends and shine like a bon fire on a dark night!

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