Acclaimed director Ketan Mehta, who has only a handful of films to his credit in a career spanning 38 years, feels that India’s roots need to be highlighted in cinema. It is his fascination with real-life stories that has led him to make biopics on Vallabhbhai Patel (Sardar; 1993), Mangal Pandey (Mangal Pandey: The Rising; 2005) and Raja Ravi Verma (Rang Rasiya; unreleased). And now, he is bringing to the silver screen yet another real-life story, which he hopes will prove to be inspirational.
Your last two films have been setbacks — Mangal Pandey’s box-office collections were dismal and Rang Rasiya has still not released. How do you handle such situations?
These things happen. Mangal Pandey is still one of the biggest films made in India. And my last movie, Rang Rasiya, got stuck due to certain issues and now will release with my next, Majhi — The Mountain Man. You have to take these things in your stride. Ups and downs are part of filmmaking.
Yet your love for real-life stories remains intact.
Sometimes reality is more amazing than fiction. Fortunately, I have found a few real stories that are so inspiring. And I have many such tales to tell for five lifetimes. I will announce my next project soon too.
Your next is also based on a real-life story.
Majhi is a real-life hero. In these modern, cynical times he’s a symbol of hope, and his is a great love story. This man (Majhi) spent 22 years of his life carving a path through a mountain all by himself, that too for love — I think this is one of the greatest stories I have ever come across. When I read about it in 2007, which is when he died, I realised how the poorest of the poor can also achieve the impossible. Unfortunately, a major part of India has been marginalised in our cinema. Films like Mirch Masala (1987) and Manthan (1976) aren’t being made anymore. We need to reinvent the idea of India.