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I was persona non grata in Bollywood

Survival in the film industry is an art no institute can teach. It’s an art that gets taught by pain and humiliation. Director Madhur Bhandarkar speaks out in his exclusive column to HT City...

india Updated: Feb 18, 2009 13:23 IST
Madhur Bhandarkar speaks...

Survival in the film industry is an art no institute can teach. It’s an art that gets taught by pain and humiliation.
After my 4-5 years of being an assistant, I started thinking of venturing out on my own. I realized it was not going to be easy to make the films I wanted to make — “arty” films that were not very box office friendly. So I ended up making Trishakti, in those days a perfect Bollywood potboiler because it featured a girl in a bikini, Altaf Raja songs, an emotional dog and three heroes who were ruling the roost when I signed them for the film. I thought this would be a dream launch into the world of Bollywood. I did not realize that this was going to be the beginning of my worst nightmare…

I had cast talented upcoming actors of that era so my film was quite a talking point. But during the making; their other films started flopping left, right and center and the industry wallahs lost interested in them. The final nail in the coffin was a financial crunch which delayed the film by three years. My subject had become stale. All seemed bleak but hope had yet not died in me.

When the film was complete I tried to show the film to as many as people as possible, feeling that someone might get interested in me, at least as a technician and sign me for a second film. Somehow Trishakti released but it drowned without a trace.

Now the worst thing was to survive a failure and be resilient enough to stand on my own terms. Never will I forget the humiliation of those bleak years. I was persona non grata in Bollywood. For reasons of networking I used to tag along with star secretaries and actors to big parties. At these parties, news photographers would shoo me away from the frame if they wanted to snap a particular actor I may be talking to.

People would get into animated conversation to avoid talking to me to avoid this flop director. A one flop director is worse than a director who has not made a film yet. The film industry avoids this category like a plague. It is very difficult to start a second inning if your first was a dud.

My morale was down and it looked like there was no hope of a second film. People told me to play it safe but this time I knew if I were to make a film then it would be a film I believed in… thus came Chandni Bar.

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First Published: Feb 17, 2009 19:02 IST