Vishal Bhardwaj, director, composer, writer, has worn many hats with equal aplomb. His films include the recently released Matru ki Bijlee ka Mandola, Omkara and Maqbool.
At the centennial celebration of Indian cinema, he took time out after attending a discussion on issues of censorship, screen violence and cuss words to talk of his journey as a student and maker of cinema.
Did any of your films get the censor’s cut?
In Maqbool, there was this beautiful dialogue by Abbaji played by Pankaj Kapoor who while talking of his bodyguard, said: “Jaise Ram ke Hanuman, ek Jahangir ke usman…” the censors asked me what kind of film is this?
How can a Muslim man equate himself with Ram? They missed the point that our epics are above religion and are referred by everybody. They cut it out.
Your songs have cuss words, the hero-heroines often romance each other with violence but there is no blood and gore.
I have a poetic point of view. But in Omkara you do have a husband killing his wife with a pillow on their wedding night.
Which films are your milestones of Indian cinema?
All of Ray’s films. Think of Charulata. The passing of time makes things tacky, dated, but such a film is timeless. Bandit Queen also changed the way realism was shown in our films.
Our films believe in blow-ups. We don’t or won’t deal with the ordinary…
But ‘ordinary’ is difficult to do especially in commercial cinema. Munnabhai was a common man’s story but it was over the top. There are so many films we have not made.
We do not have a single good film made on Kashmir. It is a story of abuse. We also have nothing on the Pandit exodus.
Ordinariness, failure teaches us things.
Raj Kapoor’s Mera Naam Joker was considered a flop but it was an auteur’s film. The concept of love it showed was unique. Had it succeeded Indian cinema would have taken a very different course. When I look back I feel very sad about this.
Do heroes in mainstream films draw out all our anger?
We all hate our politicians, so when they die in films we are satisfied. There was this scene in a film where Amitabh Bachchan goes into Parliament shooting…
Is it true that your wife gets the best songs in your films?
I make the best songs for her.