Prakash Jha is best known for his politically charged films like Apharan, Rajneeti, Arakshan and Satyagrah. He talks to Eclectic NorthEast on wanting to do something different and how the journey spanned out
Q: You left a Physics degree at DU to join JJ Valaya School of Arts, which also you eventually left. How did this restless wanderer come to Bollywood?
A: I wanted to do something different. I wanted to go somewhere different then what was being designed for me. I gave up my university studies because I wanted to pursue art. I had gone to Mumbai but before I could join the JJ School of Arts, I happened to see a film shooting and realized this is my calling, and I decided to become a filmmaker.
Q: How has been the journey so far? Any memorable moments you want to share?
A: The journey so far has been exciting, I have enjoyed every single day of my life, working and learning which continues even today and I think everyday is very exciting. I am always working, either conceiving, writing, shooting, post production, etc. Filmmaking is a lot of work, from the creative side to marketing of films. There have been no such defining moments. I can only say that whenever I do a film which works with people, telling a story which has recipients on the other side, I am happy. When it doesn’t happen, I think: let’s learn more, let’s try better and let’s work harder so that it succeeds. That’s the process which goes on and I am still eyeing to make some more good films.
Q: Prakash Jha Productions says it will take cinema with power forward, scope for fresh ideas and new scripts. Any scope for Northeast India?
A: See, I don’t plan like that because my stories or the stories that I tell are the stories of the Hindi heartland. Of course, I love the Northeast, beauty of Northeast but I am not so familiar with the culture. Everytime I come here, I am surprised with the art and culture, music, acting, people, language etc. So, I think if I have a story to tell about mountains, then I will definitely like to shoot in the Northeast. A story about the Northeast, I will be happy to assist, but it must be told I think from people here.
Q: You have said earlier that the system doesn’t want strong voices; your cinema on the contrary always has been a strong voice against social ills? Why have you continued to dwell on social issues outside the urban landscape?
A: I don’t make stories against this or that. I find stories, society is huge. Things keep happening at every level and every institution. There are times when some of these stories or happenings trap my attention consciously or unconsciously and I turn them into story. That’s what I do; I am not necessarily kind of raising a flag against any social evil. In the process of telling stories, there are some equations which I happen to understand. Then they get shared and if the audience apart from me is entertained and takes a thought back home, then that’s a bonus for me.
Q: Jai Gangajaal had a female lead; some of your earlier films too had female leads like Mrityudand. But your commercial successes have always had male leads. Is Bollywood ready for a film with a female lead?
A: Of late from what has been happening, there are films with female leads that have worked, but that apart, the fact remains that as in society so is in cinema. The patriarchal kind of attitude that society has is reflected in cinema. But, eventually, the audience takes to the story if the narration is good or if a story makes sense to them. I don’t think it really matters today whether a film has a female or male lead.
Q: Your views on FTII movement and censorship?
A: I don’t think I have any strong views on FTII because I was not involved in the movement. But the general understanding is that the institute should have a kind of head or inspirational guidance from someone who matters. As far as censorship is concerned, we don’t need it as society is matured enough, and it never needs to censor anything. Now, I think they are working towards making a classification of films, I think it is a better idea but as far as functioning of censor board is concerned, I think there is much desired to be done.
Q: Message to fans in Northeast India?
A: I don’t believe in the whole ‘fanship’ bit because people should not always like me, they should only like me when I do some good work and something which appeals to them. But to all the young people, I always keep saying that never stop dreaming because if you stop dreaming, then you will never achieve the things you want to. So, keep dreaming and keep working and make sure that your dreams come true.
Follow the writer on twitter @NasreenAssam