It was way back in 1982 when he kick started his career as a Bollywood filmmaker with a gritty realistic thriller Suraag. Starring top actors of that time - Sanjeev Kumar, Shabana Azmi, Rajesh Khanna, Tina Munim and Hema Malini - the film was way ahead of it's times. Though Jagmohan Mundhra a.k.a Jag started exploring a career in West while mostly making thrillers with an element of erotica to them, he also made a critically acclaimed Kamla in the interim. However, it is only in the current decade that Jag has become far more active in the Bollywood circuit with films like Bawandar, Provoked and Shoot On Sight. This correspondent catches up with the 62-year-old man who is one of the 5 odd filmmakers of this age group, who are still active when it comes to calling the shots behind the camera, for a Hindi feature film.
You roped in Tanushree Dutta and Neetu Chandra to play all important roles in Apartment. Happy with your final choice?
Absolutely. There are lot of actors who work for their entire lifetime but never get their due. However that should be secondary because first and foremost, it should be about the passion for your work. I can see that passion in both Tanu (shree) and Neetu. Since Tanu has been a Miss India, she was well suited to play an air hostess in the film. On the other hand Neetu has tremendous affinity for camera and comes with complete freedom of expressions. To me, real good actors are those who can make an ass of themselves in front of camera. Anupam (Kher) does that, Govinda does that; in fact all good actors do that and that too with conviction. Neetu comes with this quality and this is why I feel that she is a very strong actor and will go places.
How about Tanushree?
Tanu has done a wonderful job of getting the character right. The fact is that whenever you have two girls playing distinguished roles where one of them is rather showy (like the one enacted by Neetu), most of the females want to pick that role. Not many wanted to do Tanu's role kyunki sabko lagta tha ki saari taaliyaan toh neetu ke role ko milengi. I found that kind of insecurity in most actors but Tanu didn't have any. I liked that attitude. She said that she understood the relevance of her role and would do it with complete conviction. That's quite creditable.
You seem impressed.
That's true. In films there would always be one or two roles that would be critic friendly but how do you tell a story if you don't have another role? For that matter, even Rohit was quite apprehensive. His first reaction was that yeh to ladkiyon ki film hai, isme main kya karoonga. But after coming on board and seeing the final cut, he was impressed with what he saw. Dekho, problem yeh hai ki filmmakers in India face quite some difficulties when it comes to casting. Log sochte hain ki aggar aap mujhe behen ka role offer karoge toh baaki sab producers bhi aisa hi karenge (laughs).
Well, in Apartment, one definitely believes that Tanushree and Neetu are hardly being presented as the 'behenji' material.
(Laughs) Both Tanu and Neetu are quite attractive and sexy and hence it was imperative that they wear sexy clothes so that it is appropriate to their characters. Moreover, since Tanu has a live-in relationship with Rohit, toh phir dono ko bhajan gaate hue toh dikha nahi sakte. Obviously they would be making love when they are together. Of course when they are fighting then they do so tooth and nail but immediately after that when they make up then, they do so with a lot of passion.
The moment words like 'making love' and 'passion' comes from Jag's mouth, the first thought that comes is 'erotica'. Isn't it ironic that even after making various non-erotica films, people still refer to you as a man who made films like Monsoon in the West?
Of course it is ironical. They forget that I made Kamla years back. On the other hand in the recent past I have had films belonging to entirely different genres like Provoked, Bawandar and Shoot On Sight. If they still remember Monsoon then it shows that sex is always there on people's mind. If they can't get over a wet saree, it's their problem and not mine. As a filmmaker, you have to connect to your target audience. I am glad that I am able to make different variety of movies. If I am making a comedy, I should make people laugh. In a thriller, I should have them sit at the edge of their seats. And if I am making an erotica, I have to get them aroused. It's simple. I see my job as an audio-visual teller and if I don't use the medium effectively, I should consider myself failed as a director.