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After making films for nearly a decade, Madhur Bhandarkar shows no sign of losing any of the raw intelligence, energy and vitality that have made him a continuing force in the Indian cinema. He has achieved notable success in all his films because he knew what he wanted and showed an adventurous spirit in going out and getting it. For the majority of his films, he lets the simple, resonant situations play out, eliciting excellent performances from his actors, right from Chandni Bar to Satta to Page 3 and Corporate. Picking a favourite Madhur Bhandarkar film can be a tough challenge. They are all so uniformly excellent, moving, hard hitting and honest. As a director he has the confidence, generosity, and intelligence to allow his actor and the characters they play, the freedom to truly reveal themselves on screen. With his new film Fashion, he reveals the entire Fashion Industry in front of you, right from what the models go through, their turmoil, their morals, their aspirations and their sacrifices. And of course, with Madhur behind the camera, you can expect much more. In this exclusive, the director gets Fashion-conscious.
First things first! Will Fashion be your fourth National Award winning film?
What a way to start this interview (laughs). I am really keeping my fingers crossed because some of the people who've seen the movie have told me that Fashion is my best work till now. I believe in making the film and leaving it to the audiences and the critics to decide whether it'll work or not. I have done a good job and am waiting for 29th October, the Diwali day which is an auspicious day to release any film. Hope it works.
It means that it'll be a very fashionable Diwali, isn't it?
(laughs) Absolutely fashionable. I am really happy that the movie is releasing on this day because every time I've made a film, I wanted to release it during Diwali and that day has come. I am so happy and excited to see the kind of buzz and enthusiasm the movie is generating in India and abroad among the audiences, exhibitors, etc. The songs have also really picked up quite well too, especially, 'Jalwa' and 'Mar Jawa'.
Mr. Ram Gopal Varma said that the only film he is looking forward to after string of flops is Fashion. He also went on to say that the content of Fashion will be pretty interesting. Any comments?
It's really great, in fact, I just spoke to him this afternoon and he was really looking forward to Fashion. He can't wait to see the film. He sent me an sms saying that the promos are also looking stunning. For me personally, it's really nice because I've worked with Mr Varma for couple of years and I've learnt a lot from him as far as filmmaking is concerned. He has this gut feeling about movies and when he says that the film will work, it does work.
Your films are based on reality, events and stories happening in the real life. Will Fashion follow the same path too or is it only going to be fictional?
My movies are always slice of life. They've always been a mixed blend of realism and fiction together. So there will be some element of fiction in Fashion. Before I make any film, I do a lot of research, meet and interact with people. The audiences will relate to Fashion in a way.
Did you meet any of the fashion worlds top models and designers for their advice?
Absolutely yes. I've interacted with almost everybody from the fashion world. From the top of the designers to the top super models, the sponsors, the choreographers, etc. It was six to seven months of research which took me to make such kind of a movie and a lot of people from the fashion industry are connected to the film also. Like there are real models and designers you'll see in Fashion.
There are other fashion icons like Aishwarya Bachchan, Dia Mirza, Sushmita Sen, etc. What made you cast Priyanka Chopra?
Priyanka Chopra and I always wanted to work together. I remember that she was a great fan of my movies and once we met at one of the film festivals. At that time she had loved my film Corporate. That's when she was really interested in working with me. So I told her that if something comes along, I'll definitely let her know. Once I told her that I'm making this film on the fashion world, she said to come and narrate the film to her. She liked the narration and the character of Meghna Mathur who comes from Chandigarh to Mumbai to make it as a super model.
And why Mugdha Godse?
That's interesting too. When I was researching for Fashion and went to the Delhi Fashion Week, where I saw this girl walking on the ramp. I was introduced to her previously by a friend of mine. When I saw the confidence in her walk and her eyes, I knew she was my Janet of Fashion. I met her and straight away told her if she was interested to do a movie with me. The rest is history now. In fact, she has surprised everybody by her performance in Fashion. From Priyanka to Kangana, everybody appreciated her work. People say that models can't act. I can say that Mugdha, the newest model turned actress will prove them wrong.
You're working with a fresh and a new team of actors this time around. How was the experience?
I always make it a point to work with a new team and a new set of actors all the time. It's challenging and something different. This is my style of working.
You've said that Fashion is your best work ever, better than all your past films. Is it really?
I don't know or remember where I said this or who has said this (laughs). For me, my best work will always remain Satta which didn't do very well at the box office.
Konkana Sen Sharma and Atul Kulkarni, your two lucky mascots. You can't leave them behind can you?
(laughs) Yes, I can't. They are the best I've worked with. I did approach Atul Kulkarni to play a cameo in Fashion but he couldn't make it for some reason. The good thing is that Konkana is there. She plays herself, Konkana Sen Sharma - the actress. Her boyfriend Ranvir Shorey is also there and both of them play a couple in the film.
This is your first film which will appeal to the overseas audiences as well, seeing the subject you've approached this time - Fashion. Any comments?
You're right. For me it's a big leap in terms of the film, the concept and the budget because I've never made a movie of 18 to 20 crores. I've always made it between 3 to 4 crores. I always say that I am an experimental filmmaker but my films do get a commercial acceptance. So for me, I'm excited by the kind of feedback, messages and calls I'm getting from the U.K and the U.S. I hope that it gets appreciated there.
As you must be aware that the U.K market is star driven. What have you got for them besides Priyanka Chopra?
Priyanka Chopra is the first thing which will make it big in the U.K. But more than her, it's the concept and the look of the film which people are going to love. I bet, the overseas audiences haven't seen such style in Hindi movies before. Fashion will change that. Priyanka Chopra has changed at least 150 dresses in the film. Fashion is a personal story of these three models and what they go through. I am not making a statement on the Fashion Industry here.
What about the homosexuality element in the fashion world which prevails? Have you shown that aspect too?
Definitely yes. The gay angle in Fashion is very evident.
Is it wise to go on a fashion show to promote your film rather than go to any reality shows?
Reality show or fashion week or any kind of publicity for any film is a must. If we have to do both, we have to do it. There is no way out and there is nothing wrong in it. I think every filmmaker and the films cast want their film to reach the widest of its audiences. Even the kind of investment put into promotion now-a-days is huge. So it definitely is a platform to promote your film.
Have you met any model who has given up more than just their morals in the fashion world?
(laughs) I know what your question is targeting to. Fashion is much beyond the casting couch story. There are many things that a model has to sacrifice or eradicate like his or hers position, principals, ethics, etc. to reach the top. This film is exactly that. And yes, I have met models who've given up many things than just their morals to reach the standing in their career where they are right now.
You love women, don't you? All your films are more or less having a female protagonist.
Yes, I love my women. Except Traffic Signal, all my films have showcased women as the main lead. You see, even in Traffic Signal, Neetu Chandra and Konkana Sen Sharma's characters were very strong. I really feel that there are certain issues in certain films where the female protagonist can say the narration in a much better way than the male hero. I've been lucky in that way and my women too who've seen their film worked wonders for them. It's a proud moment.
We've even seen UTV's Ronnie Screwvala experiment with different genres. Has he been a great support besides just being a producer?
Ronnie has always been a great admirer of my work and I respect him because he is a man who always encourages new cinema. So after Chandni Bar, Page 3, Corporate, etc we used to meet so many times in parties and events and he questioned me as to when will I be doing a film with him. That's when one day we met and I narrated him the idea of Fashion. He said that it was a superb idea and we should go ahead with it. This is the first time when I'm co-producing the film with Ronnie. It's called UTV and Bhandarkar Entertainment presents Fashion. It's my first production.
So, your money is at stake then huh?
(laughs) Yes, of course, and not only that, my name and my reputation too.
It's strange to see that in an economic meltdown like this, every actor and director are turning producers to keep themselves secure.
It's not about escapism. Today, people want to invest money only because they know that they'll get something back from it. If you see five years ago, no one used to get such big pay packs as an actor and a director. Now things have changed. It's become a big business now. The kind of multiplexes hitting India and the kind of revenue being generated is larger than life.
Another feather in the cap for you Madhur. You and Aamir Khan are being felicitated at the 7th Third Eye Asian Film Festival. I wish I had a collection of such caps too.
(laughs) It's a great feeling for me and when I got the news a few weeks ago, I was over the moon. I know Aamir Khan, and we do interact with each other, not too frequently though. But socially whenever we meet, we talk. I loved his film Taare Zameen Par. It's an unbelievable film and I am also proud of the fact that it's the official entry at the Oscars from India.
When do we then see a Madhur Bhandarkar film going to the Oscars?
I just keep making movies. But fingers crossed, hopefully very soon. I've already got my three Oscars from India which are the National Awards.