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I wish to make films till the day I drop dead: Benegal

Filmmaker Shyam Benegal sets the record straight as he speaks about his forthcoming films, cinema and more to V Ananth.

entertainment Updated: Jan 21, 2008 19:17 IST
V Ananth

It’s one of the most ambitious projects being planned right now—a film on a grand scale on the life of Buddha. Many estimable names have toyed with the idea including Mira Nair whose international film on the subject of Buddhism was eventually shelved. Bernardo Bertolucci made Little Buddha which was critically and commercially lambasted.

Recently, reports claimed that Hrithik Roshan had rejected the offer to portray Buddha. But was the actor made the offer in the first place? Shyam Benegal sets the record straight in a frankspeak with VAnanth

Excerpts:

Reportedly Hrithik Roshan has declined to play the title role in your project on Buddha?
I concede that a star is a magnet. His popularity can be used to lure the audience. Still, if a film doesn’t have content, it will fall flat despite the presence of a star. I am surprised that you can even ask me such a question.

In the last three decades, I have never approached any star, big or small, unless and until the script is ready.

The script of Buddha will be ready only after six months. So the very idea that I have approached a star to play a certain role is baseless. I don’t know why a section of the media has been spreading this irresponsible news without even picking up a phone to verify the ‘news’ with me.

<b1>

Have you completed the filming of

Mahadev

with Shreyas Talpade and Amrita Rao?

Yes, I have. It is a comic satire which I hope to release in the first quarter of this year. Besides Shreyas and Amrita, there’s Ravi Kissen too. The film is about about how the urban population has lost interest in our villages.



Incidentally, after the multiplex revolution, rural life seems to have become extinct in our cinema except perhaps in Tamil, Telugu and Bhojpuri cinema.



Is there any other project in the offing besides

Buddha

?

I feel superstitious talking about films which are being planned. All that I can say is that I also hope to make a film on Sufism on an international scale, not only in English but also in French and German. Lord Meghnad Desai has written on the subject. I won’t be making it in Hindi.



How tough or easy is for you to make films today?


After 35 years of filmmaking, I’d say that it’s easier today. Because of the change in the nature of film business, I can get the backing from within the industry itself. Not because I have become famous but because one doesn’t have to look at the film going audience as one big grey undistinguishable mass which only has to be entertained.



<b2>You can make films for the majority as well as the minority audience.. unlike the past when Girish Karnad made

Godhuli

. It was released at the Novelty cinema in south Bombay.. the cinema had a capacity of nearly 1000 seats. To break even, the film needed to get at least an 80 per cent audience. Even though there were as many as 500 people at each show, the film collapsed.



Today, a multiplex auditorim has an average capacity of 300 seats. If

Godhuli

were to be made today, it would have net excellent collections at the box office.



You mean to say that this is an opportune moment for unconventional filmmakers?


Yes. I wish I was 25 years old today. I am 73. For decades, today’s situation has been a dream for like-minded filmmakers.



How would you summarise the state of parallel cinema today?

I wish you wouldn’t use the word ‘parallel’. It was coined for the sake of convenience and it has negative connotations. It suggests that the film will be like a boring documentary. I would not have been able to survive if my films had not paid back their investments and more.

How do you view the relationship between filmmakers and the media?

Today, the media is coming out of everyone’s ears. To get some elbow room, you have to market your film through the print and electronic media. Earlier, word-of- mouth publicity was of the essence. Today, like it or not, you have to promote your film aggressively if you don’t want it to fall by the way side. This is true not only of filmmakers but of musicians and painters as well.



What do you wish most of all for today?
(

Laughs) To make films till the day I drop dead.

His best
Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose: The Forgotten Hero (2005), Zubeidaa (2001), Hari-Bhari (2000), Sardari Begum (1996), Mammo (1994), Suraj ka Satvan Ghoda (1993), Antarnad (1991), Mandi (1983), Kalyug (1981), Junoon (1978), Bhumika (1977), Manthan (1976), Nishant (1975), Ankur (1974)

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