I've begun afresh: Punkaj Parashar | india | Hindustan Times
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I've begun afresh: Punkaj Parashar

Director Punkaj Parashar reveals that his next cinematic foray into spirituality will be far more complex and uncompromising. Saibal Chatterjee tells more.

india Updated: May 04, 2006 19:32 IST

There comes a point in the career of a filmmaker lost in the commercial maze of mainstream Bollywood when he must pause and take stock. Punkaj Parashar, the whizkid craftsman behind the path-breaking late 1980s television series, Karamchand, decided to do just that a year or so ago. Banaras – A Mystic LoveStory happened as a result.

“This is only the beginning,” says Parashar. “I will make more such films. Banaras  marks a fresh start for me.”

He reveals that his next cinematic foray into spirituality will be far more complex and uncompromising. “The film will blend fact and fiction to narrate a tale about real-life truth seekers who have had the Buddha experience and have become one with the universe,” he says.

This ‘personal’ film will be woven around documentary footage that Parashar has been shooting down south on a commission from the Oneness University. “I have with my own eyes seen people going into a trance-like state in which the sense of self vanishes,” he says.

A still from Banaras - A Mystic LoveStory. Director Punkaj Parashar reveals that his next cinematic foray into spirituality will be far more complex and uncompromising.

Parashar is more than happy with the response that

Banaras – A Mystic Love

Story

has received. “It wasn’t meant to be a blockbuster. It’s actually more than a film,” he says, “It is a life-changing experience.”

He is, therefore, a tad irritated when people ask him about the film’s box office performance. “We did not make Banaras  for money in the first place,” he asserts. “Many reviewers, some of them my friends, ran down the film because they could not relate to its intention. That’s their loss.”

Parashar isn’t the least bit defensive about the pacing of Banaras. It has just the right pace for the theme that it tackles, he insists. Backed by leading infotech executive-turned-entrepreneur LC Singh, Parashar obviously had the luxury of ignoring the need to please the crowds. “When I set out to make Banaras, people were understandably surprised, he says, “but this film was always brewing within me.”

He adds: “The stories in out films do deal with death, but they never go beyond that. Banaras explores the concepts of afterlife, faith, forgiveness and God-realisation in a way that has never been attempted before in a Hindi feature film.”    

Even as Parashar seeks to reinvent himself after lending the weight of his FTII-imparted technical finesse to a slew of below-average entertainers like Himalayputra, Rajkumar and Tumko Na Bhool Payenge, he isn’t exactly abandoning commercial Hindi cinema. “My next film will probably be a comedy,” he says.

Parashar, who was only 20 when his FTII diploma film, Malfunction, bagged the Filmfare Award for the best documentary in a field that had names like Shyam Bengal and Sukhdev, has seen many ups and downs in Bollywood. But while his scripts may have let him down occasionally, his hold on the medium and sense of visual style never deserted him.

Although Parashar’s reputation hinges primarily on the stylised thriller Jalwa  and the updated version of Seeta Aur Geeta, Chaalbaaz, he also has to his credit one of the most enjoyable comedies ever made in Mumbai, Peecha Karo, as well as the no less funny Ab Aayega Mazaa, his debut film made in 1984. He even directed a film for the Children’s Film Society of India, Aasmaan Se Gira, in the early 1990s.           

Besides making ad films – “they are my bread and butter,” he says – he is currently gearing up for a big-time return to the turf that won him a huge following well over 15 years ago – television. Yet, Punkaj Parashar has his sights set on things that are currently well beyond the visible horizon. “I am preparing myself for a film version of the Ramayan,” he says.

That might be well worth the wait.