‘I'm Geeta in Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi’

Sudhir Mishra on Inkaar, the women in his films and why he doesn’t remember his earlier films

When Sudhir Mishra wrote ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro’ in the 80s, little did he know that it will become a cult film in the history of Indian cinema. Made at a shoestring budget of roughly Rs 8-9 lakh, ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron’ was no blockbuster, but its contribution is unquestionable. Even his 1996 crime-thriller ‘Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin’ was ahead of its time, while the 2005 drama ‘Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi’ is perhaps what he is most remembered for. But Mishra doesn’t believe in resting on his past accolades. “For me, it is over because if you keep on thinking about your past achievements, it is going to be dangerous. I agree with what Danny Boyle had once said that every film should be like your first film. That adventure is the excitement,” he says.

Mishra’s films are known for the way he writes for his female protagonists who are not mere props in the films and he is quick to reveal that he draws inspirations from his own life. When “People often ask him which character I am from ‘Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi’. I tell them that I am Geeta.” His answer is startling but then he goes on to say “Women are written in very boring ways and often by other women. I am personally influenced by the women in my life who were strong women and didn’t totally belong to you. They were feminine and strong.” His latest film Inkaar which deals with sexual harassment has Chitrangada Singh playing a woman who stands up for her rights. “I cast Chitrangada because she represents the women I write. She is not afraid of playing the grey and uncomfortable layers,” says the director. Here’s what he has to say.

On Inkaar…
It is subject that is staring at your face. When women will come and take their rightful place at the workplace, some collisions will happen. They have to understand that a woman has the right to say no. It is the changing nature of urban relationships which I wanted to make a film on. This film is not only about sexual harassment, there are different layers to it. Just as Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi was just not only about the naxal problem; there were different layers to it.

On the promo…
I made the film exactly like that. It is as if I entered the room and I see this situation of a sexual harassment case made by a woman. Then you unravel the whole story and how both of them seem right. That’s how I approached the film because that way, it is far more interesting. I did a lot of screenings to understand how women will react to the film.

Women in his films…
People often ask him who I am in Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi’. Whether I am Siddharath or Vikram but I tell them that I am Geeta. I am neither a fixer nor a Naxalite. I write women as I would write myself in a film. Women are written in very boring ways and often by other women. I am personally influenced by the women in my life who were strong entities and didn’t totally belong to me. They were feminine yet strong.

Challenges in writing female characters…
I cast Chitrangada because she represents the women I write. She is not afraid of playing the grey and uncomfortable areas. Like, in this film, when a person rises fast in the herirarchy, she has to be like alpha woman, she will be unpopular.

On his films mirroring society…
The fact that I am a mathematician’s son gives me the leeway to look things squarely in the face. I have a political background. Politics for me is to understand how you are controlled and how the world curbs you. If you are a scientist’s son, you are allowed to ask questions. There is no such thing as the wrong question. That is possibly the reason of who I am.

On taking risks…
I have always made films I wanted to make and at the same time, connect with the audience and that is the duality of my existence. When you are younger, you don’t give a damn but as you age, you are afraid of failure. I try not to be but I am quite comfortable with the contradictions in me. Sometimes, I want to make films which reach out to a wider audience and at times I want to make the most personal of films. For me, the style emanates from the subject. The story tells you how to tell it and you just have to listen to it. If you have the right set, it will tell you how to shoot it. I don’t know if it is more pretentious way of looking at it. You are not the creator; you are a discoverer of things. I am a medium of telling stories. I don’t like to think about my previous film when I make the next one. Ofcourse, there is some continuity since I am the same person. I don’t know the guy who made ‘Yeh Who Manzil Nahin’, my first film or the guy who wrote ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro’.

But it is a cult classic…
Yes but it has had its life. Just because I wrote the film when I was 23 doesn’t mean I will gloat about it now. For me, it is over because if you keep on thinking about your past achievements, it is going to be dangerous. I agree with what Danny Boyle had once said that every film should be like your first film. That adventure is the excitement.

On his earlier films…
I like ‘Dharavi’ a lot. I saw it a month back and thought that whoever made it did a decent job. I like ‘Hazaaron…’ also. ‘Khoya Khoya Chand’ is another film I like even though it didn’t do well. I watched ‘Inkaar’ and liked it. I watch my films alone before I give it to the world. I hate films which are didactic and preach so I have to check if mine has become one. There is no point in thinking because in the end, you have to abandon your film. After a while, you have to leave it.

Cinematic changes in recent years…
The changes are for good. I was very fond of the cinema of the era I was born that is the 50s and I think those times are coming back again. I enjoy the younger film makers like Anurag Kashyap, Imtiaz Ali, Vishal Bharadwaj, Farhan and Zoya, Dibakar Banerjee. Nikhil Advani who used to be my assistant will do a wonderful job with ‘D Day’. I think that will be his first film truly. This is the type of film he actually wanted to do all along. I liked Gangs of Wasseypur, Udaan, Timanshu Dhulia’s ‘Paan Singh Tomar’ ‘Ship of Theseus’ made by Anand Gandhi is the film to watch out for. These are interesting times.

Inkaar is a story of urban relationship: Sudhir MishraInkaar is one of the first releases of 2013 bollywood movies. The film is directed by Sudhir Mishra and stars Arjun Rampal and Chitrangada Singh in the lead roles. The film will hit the theaters on 18 Jan 2013. NewsX correspondent Abhishek Dutta caught up with Sudhir Mishra and lead actress Chitrangada Singh and spoke about the film.

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