It's an unheard - of screen phenomenon. For his intense political drama Rajneeti, Prakash Jha hired and trained 5000 theatre actors to play the participants in various political rallies.
Grins the gritty political filmmaker, "Bhopal has turned into a city of rallies. We'll be shooting rallies with Nana Patekar, Manoj Bajpai, Arjun Rampal, Naseer….all the actors who play politicians. The rally spectators, all 5000 of them were raised, selected and trained by us in a workshop over a gruelling period of seven years."
To ensure that the local Madhya Pradesh citizens do not protest about the hiring of the unit's work force from outside their state, Prakash cannily culled the entire 5000-strong assemblage of actors exclusively from Madhya Pradesh.
Says Prakash, "If we had hired ordinary crowds we wouldn't have got the energy of a real political rally. These actors playing participants in rallies were selected from Jabalpur, Satna, Indore, Ujjain, Gwalior and other cities of Madhya Pradesh. They are all from street theatre, local and folk theatre. We selected them and put them under rigorous worskshop. Now we've brought them down to Bhopal, made arrangements for their boarding and lodging and we're shooting with them. Our unit is quite used to working with crowds."
Prakash chose Bhopal in lieu of India's political capital where shooting a sensitive political film would have been an impossibility. Says Prakash, "Bhopal is a beautiful city. And needed a Hindi-speaking capital city. Earlier Ismail Merchant's In Custody and Vishal Bhardwaj's Maqbool were shot here." Adds Prakash, "This whole schedule we'll be shooting only rallies. My voice is already gone. To manage 5,000 people at once is not easy."