At one look, the room where Amol Gupte was going to interact with the media looked like a madhouse. The room had just a side entry and once inside it, there was a sea of people.
In that sea, it was difficult to spot Gupte: there were four interviews happening at the same time in that one room. He was, after all, an unassuming guy sitting in a corner with just a handful of reporters around him.
There was nothing of the Bhope Bhau (his character in Kaminey) in the man who was sitting in a plain black t-shirt and jeans, except perhaps the same energy and the same ailment of diabetes. Someone said, "So you do have something in common with Bhau."
Pat came the reply: "No. I don't need insulin shots like him." In between the friendly chat came a forceful claim, "I am an outsider."
And in that one sentence we found the man who made Taare Zameer Par possible.
The child-like Bhau
"I've done 110 films from 1982-1993 and chose not to make a career out of it," he said. But again, he asserted that he hasn't entered the film industry. Why? "Because I don't want to conform to the rules," he clarified.
"After Kaminey, I have had not less than a dozen offers which gave me a similar profile. But I don't see acting like that where it is the same thing over and over again. There is always this pristine quality to first experiences. I would like to use the swimming pool whenever I want, but I wouldn't want to live in it, now would I?" Gupte said, explaining his 'outsider' comment.
Then why do a Bhope Bhau? "I was allowed to be the Bhope Bhau I wanted to be. If you look at my Bhope, he is his very own self, very child-like. With Vishal (Bharadwaj) there is the freedom of 'never-been-there-done-that', which is why I did the film with him."
The gift box
So, if not film industry then what's it that is keeping him occupied nowadays? "I have, not less than 20 projects to work on. Two of them are on the floor tentatively called Stanley Ka Dabba and Sapnon Ke Ginte Ginte. I am also acting in Stanley Ka Dabba."
He said he cannot predict when the two films would be out, but he'd prefer releasing them when children are free: during their summer break.
So what's it that got Gupte so empathetic towards children and their issues?
"Unfortunately I was the pet in the school. I was good at everything and my teachers showered love on me. And because children are in nobody's interest group - they do not form any vote bank -they are the victims. Rarely does a victim voice his/her problems. So being at the position where I am, I can voice their issues."
Gupte doesn't believe in the education system of today. He calls it "rubbish". "It's a shame that art is no longer a subject in schools," he said. If left to him, he would want to bring the gurukul system of education back into existence. "That was the only place where actually knowledge was imparted. Why should we keep following that stupid (lord) Macaulay and his ideas where thok peeto and tutor things are the way to go?"
His Taare Zameen Par was based on the same idea. He said, "It is not about Nikumbh or Ishaan. The film is about a child who has an ability to do something. It's only the adult understanding of that child that has seen it as a 'disability." And he said he is tired of shouting at the top of his lungs that there is nothing related to disability in his film. "I genuinely believe I was celebrating an ability and not disability."
Now, ironically enough, the movie has set several shops where in "medical experts" talk about diseases and scare the parents. "There is a medical scam going on," he said.
Gupte feels the onus is now on the teachers. He said they should get their act together and realise that they are second-rate. "Even my eight-and-a-half-year-old child now knows how oafish and terrible the teachers really are," Gupte said.
Which means he would take up the slack? "Ab koi karta nahi hai toh kisi ko toh karna padega na (Now if nobody does anything, someone should stand up and do it no?"
So is that how he got Anurag Kashyap into film writing? "Anurag makes too big a deal out of it when there isn't any. He was very young and wanted to work. I just pointed him to Syed Mirza who was making Tejas at that time and told Syed saab that I have a writer in mind for him," Gupte clarifies.