When I started my career as a filmmaker in1996, everybody around me suggested that I should start with a potboiler... a Bollywood masala film. With no god-father or sugar daddy, I ventured on to make a typical Bollywood potboiler called Trishakti — and it bombed.
That was the era of movies loaded with item songs and action, and to make a mark with cinema that was considered risky for the mainstream was not a safe thing to do. But I decided I had to take the risk and make my kind of cinema... the cinema that I believed in, where I saw the reflections and images of real people and real lives.
Nothing excites me or inspires me more than life. I don’t try to look at the larger schemes of things. In the things that seem inconsequential on the surface — the beggar standing at the traffic signal; or the driver in the parking lot of a five-star hotel — are the inspirations for my National Award-winning films.
I realised that I could not lie to the medium. My honesty was my calling. I was never embarrassed by my personal realities, so I never shied away from showing the same in society. I was just holding a mirror to a reality that many would find convenient to sweep under the carpet. My detractors often point out that my films are exposés in nature. but I beg to differ.
It is often believed that the audience likes to forget the grind of everyday life in the darkness of the theatre, but when they come to see my films, the opposite is true. In the darkness of the cinema, the gloom comes to light.
Though my stories are of the world that a man on the street may have only heard of or seen on television, all my stories are from the perspective of the common man.
My connection with the man on the street is my strength. I have come to realise that they often see me as an envoy of their problems.
Recently, when I visited a school for the admission of my daughter, some parents came up to me suggesting that I should make a film on the education system, exposing the rackets and scams of ‘donation’. Once, when I went to a hospital to visit an ailing relative, a few of the patients and their relatives came to me with the hope that I would make a film on hospitals so that the demons that a common man faces in the health care system could be exposed. The conviction of the common man and the expectations from my cinema at times scares me.
I always research my subjects thoroughly before scripting them. It would be easy for me to sit down with my team of writers and pen a sensational story rather than taking the pains of researching a subject for a year. My films strike a chord with the audience not because of the technical authenticity but the emotional authenticity — somewhere along, they see themselves in the characters.
My cinema is a medium to present the already present realities of our day-to-day existence. The muse of my creative genesis has always been life in all its forms. My cinema will always be for the common man and its maker will also be the common man — Madhur Bhandarkar, who started his journey selling video cassettes door to door.