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Updated: September 21, 2012 18:25 IST

Hero behind Heroine

Anuj Kumar
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An insider's view: Madhur Bhandarkar and Kareena Kapoor in New Delhi to promote their latest film “Heroine”. Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar
The Hindu An insider's view: Madhur Bhandarkar and Kareena Kapoor in New Delhi to promote their latest film “Heroine”. Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

As “Heroine” arrives in theatres, Madhur Bhandarkar says he has made a courageous and compact film

After peeping into other’s homes, Madhur Bhandarkar is now probing his own house. His latest enterprise Heroine talks about the contemporary film industry. “It is the story of an actress who is at the peak of her stardom. The story captures her love life, her insecurities, her colleagues and the politics of it,” says Madhur as he gets ready for yet another press conference. In between shouting at support staff to get his shirt ironed and managing a phone that refuses to listen to his commands, Madhur handles a volley of questions. “Many people had told me that you have made films on other’s lives, why don’t you make one on your own fraternity? I wanted to make a film on today’s film industry. I didn’t want to delve into the past. I didn’t want people to say that when it came to his own industry, Madhur got scared. I have made a courageous and compact film. I have taken little nuances from different actors and then added some fictional element.”

He had originally cast Aishwarya Rai for the role of Mahi Arora but when she opted out because of pregnancy, Kareena Kapoor stepped in. Madhur says he is an “impromptu filmmaker.” “I have the basic structure in my mind and then I improvise as the project progresses. I mean Heroine won’t change into Gangster but when Kareena came into the film I made little changes to suit her personality and body language.”

Suppose he was making a film called Hero with a particular star, wouldn’t he have waited for the star if he faced some personal issue which would have rendered him immobile for a few months? “It depends. I might have made another movie. I am a very instinctive filmmaker.” The point is he has made a film which talks about the new found position of a Hindi film heroine but he himself didn’t wait for the heroine he had cast to return from maternity leave. “I just felt that I should go ahead with it and I did it.” Madhur doesn’t seem interested in the details of the issue.

For now he is more eager to underline that Kareena has got everything that a director wants. “She is extremely beautiful and amazingly talented. You will see a new Kareena here for as Mahi is not only spunky and vulnerable but also manipulative.” But she was apparently insecure about this role as she preferred the films with Khans over a heroine-oriented film? “We wanted to work since the time of Page 3. She has been a great admirer of my films and vice-versa. It is just destiny that it took a long time.”

Talking about the changes that he has seen in the industry over the years, Madhur says despite directors like him it is still a male-centric industry but time and again we have female actors who get strong roles. They are much better paid now but the insecurity has increased. “Earlier there was a mystery about the actor. What does she eat, what is her zodiac sign, is she like us… Now that has diminished. Earlier there used to be one secretary, now a whole lot of support staff has cropped up to handle the media and create an image. At times they manufacture news and gossip. I have incorporated all this into the script.” Insecurity, says Madhur, also comes from the fact that actors are public figures. “If you are a businessman and your business is not doing well it won’t become national news. You can cut down on your expenses on branded goods and food bills but when you are an actor you can’t afford to do all this because everything you do becomes public. Anybody can make out that you are not getting work.”

After Chandni Bar and Page 3, the discerning audience have figured out his formula and it seems his commercial intent is eager to leap out. “Every filmmaker feels that he should improve upon his craft and his audience should grow. There is nothing wrong in it. Had I been aspiring to go commercially very big, I would not have made a depressing and dark film like Jail after Fashion, when I could have easily turned commercial. Jail was made in half the budget of Fashion. I don’t go by trends either. Like in Fashion I had two heroines and a glamorous subject. I could have easily introduced an item song but I didn’t. Here ‘Halkat Jawani’ becomes necessary because Kareena is playing an actress and there is a situation where she has to perform at an awards night.” Madhur says his USP is that he knows how to control the budget. “I know how to mould my expenses according to the subject of the film. That’s why films like Traffic Signal and Jail were not complete washouts in commercial terms.”

Having grown up watching films in single screen theatres, Madhur still prefer a singleplex over multiplex. “I have learnt cinema by watching all kinds of movies. My films are neither very arty nor too commercial. I make middle of the road cinema. To me Shyam Benegal is as strong an influence as Manmohan Desai. I like the way Benegal and Mani Ratnam make use of silence and like Desai my protagonists come from middle class and make a mark. Only this time Mahi Arora is slightly upper middle class.”

Does his lack of formal education come in the way he is perceived in the industry or in his own growth? “I dropped out after sixth standard but I have become a case study at IIM Ahmedabad. I think it is a big achievement. If you have to engage mass audience you need to strike a balance. I know some people say that I paint everybody with the same brush. Criticism is part of creative field but 70 per cent of the people find my films authentic. And I admit that I add 30 per cent fiction. Also it is not that I digressed after Chandni Bar. Even at that time some bar owners had said that bars are not run like I had shown.”

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