Lights, camera, discussion with Mahesh Bhatt4 min read
“Forget about my movies, they are very boring,” he dares a reporter. Taking a vacation from directing movies, citing lack of interest, with no plans of returning irrespective of how much his fans want him to, Mahesh Bhatt charms the students of Manipal Institute of Communication (MIC) in his talk at the college. He was in Manipal on September 28 as part of Tehelka’s Power of Inspiration talks.
Criticized for matters of all kind, Mahesh Bhatt yet seems unperturbed. ‘Condemned’ for having an opinion on everything under the sun and for making ‘sleazy’ cinema, he marches in his own path with a smile.
Whatever this writer, producer and National Award winning Director has up his sleeves, TMJ tries to get a look at it in a short interview after his talk. Here are a few excerpts from the interview:
You are an avid Twitter user and on the social website you describe yourself in the words; I ‘steal’ ideas. Why so?
Of course, I steal ideas. I am a thief.
See, if there is one phrase that appeals to me, it will sit in my head and I will use it. Everything I speak or write has a source from somewhere. Nothing I say is my own, and you don’t seem to like it. You want me to claim for originality first, and then you want to catch me and play a game of catching goons. The human brain is a recycling bin; it is not a creator bin. Whatever you put inside comes out recycled. It is like a kaleidoscope; whatever you put inside comes out in different patterns.
Speaking on the issue of Aseem Trivedi’s imprisonment in a press conference you made a comment which goes, “I believe a society where you don’t give anyone a chance to express their anger via art, very dangerous people are born there. They then tell the same thing with the help of guns and bullets”. Could you elaborate on it?
See, I once went to Khonoma, where the Naga National movement began to shoot a UNICEF documentary. I went to a primary school and asked the young kids to talk to me about their dreams. One kid looking impertinently into my eyes raised his hands and he walked upto the dais, took a chalk and wrote, ‘I want a free Nagaland, free from India’. And I took that shot and said, “Very good, thank you very much.” The boy was amazed that I did not reprimand him for speaking his dreams. I went out and played football with him and we then sang Hindi songs.
I wanted to keep that footage in the documentary but UNICEF had problems, thinking the Government of India may come heavily down on them. I refused to cut those shots and was asked to get clearance from the Home Ministry. The Home Minister was L.K. Advani and the time was after 9/11. I said to him, “Sir, in a society where elders do not have the courage to listen to their kid’s dream however subversive they may sound, there is a great risk that next these kids will not say it through words but express them through bombs and bullets.” He then took a break and pause the film and said, “You have my clearance, you can use the shot the way you want it.”
Nobody could believe that L. K. Advani had allowed that shot. My Salaam to him that he took such a bold step. Look at what happened in United States of America, the Twin Towers have been brought down. In a world where people do not ventilate their emotions through art or express them through media, the rage becomes dangerous; hence the bomb blasts and fires.
You have recently tweeted, “The movie business destroys any sense of artistic freedom and replaces it with a deep desire to turn a film into a profitable commodity”. Are you a victim of this phenomenon as well?
That is what it is and of course, I am victim of it and I perpetuate that.
Would you agree that you succumbed to it easily?
No, it took me 40 years to understand that. In eighties, I made movies like Arth and Saaransh which you swear by, you wanted me to start as an artist and beg at your doorsteps with handouts. I choose not to do that and sell my soul till I had enough money.
Is that why, you declared on national television that you don’t want to be a “sacrificial lamb for art”? (Love 2 Hate U, Star World)
Yes, I do not. Who has given me that mandate to take care of the artistic space? India deserves a lot more.
You have also maintained that you feel freer when it comes to writing than making movies? Are you planning to write more books?
I had just written a book in 2009, A Taste of Life. I am suppose to write on hundred years of Indian Cinema, my memories of the entertainment space; the inner view. I am writing it already but I am not committed to an end. I do not know if I will do it now, it could be a 400 pages book or a 600 pages book.
Sub-edited by Bhavani Seetharaman