Everyone around has a question or two for him, after all he is known for his eloquence and his candid replies.
In his trademark black shirt Mahesh Bhatt stands surrounded by a sea of people. He obliges a bevy of girls with photographs... the men follow too. Everyone around has a question or two for him, after all he is known for his candid replies. He has an opinion about most things, and was probably an apt choice to deliver the opening speech at the Madras Management Association’s (MMA) inaugural session of its Women Manager’s Convention 2013 in the city recently. “My mother’s mother would say ‘women are grass under your feet to be trampled upon’ but my mother, Shirin Mohammad Ali said ‘I dare to fight against that construct’. She was the architect of her own life, captain of her own fate,” recalls Mahesh Bhatt.
In his speech, he mentions his National award-winning film Tamanna, which was based on the life of a transgender who finds a girl child abandoned in garbage and adopts her. “We ran from pillar to post meeting ministers and asking them for tax exemption for the film. They said female infanticide didn’t exist in India. It was the India of 1997. India was living in denial and perhaps still is; even now its hands are drenched in the blood of its girl child. You pretend to worship a female form in temples, but privately in your homes you kill women. So is the woman safe in the womb? On the street? Where? These are question that still weigh us down...” Excerpts from an interview with the director-producer-screenwriter.
You are an eloquent speaker
I just speak. I don’t walk onto the dais with the burden of making profound sense. I just go to touch people’s hearts and win their admiration.
How much of what you portrayed in your films were inspired by your own life?
Zakhm, Janam, and Aashiqui are some of the movies inspired by my life. They are not entirely based on my life, but have certain elements drawn from it.
You launched Pooja Bhatt in Daddy. One would have expected you to have launched Alia Bhatt too
We don’t make movies to give an opening to our children. If someone fits the role, they get it. Karan (Johar) wanted to cast someone who fitted the role in Student Of The Year. Alia had to audition for her role. It wasn’t easy for her. But I’m glad she got it.
Considering Bollywood has often been termed a big bad place, have you ever worried about your daughters being part of the industry?
Never. The industry has given me everything. The industry has its stress, but we tell our children not to expect a rose garden. It’s a turbulent ocean and you have to swim in it.
What did you learn from your mentor U.G. Krishnamurti?
He is the single most important person in my life. My mother is an important person too… she gave birth to me, and UG created what Mahesh Bhatt is. I am shaped by him. Take him away from my life, and I am empty.
Often people feel that movies made by your production house Vishesh Films are rather explicit
In new liberal India, people demand movies with high components of erotica. Ask these purists who question these films, what’s so different from what they are watching on the World Wide Web in their bedrooms. I have made movies such as Hum Hai Rahi Pyar Ke, Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahi, Sir… As for those who choose to shut out those films and talk about the other films, it shows their mindset.
You have been very open about your personal life
I don’t find what I reveal as an act of marvel or great courage. How can I conceal the texture of my skin? How can I talk without using this particular tone? There are no private areas of my life.
What developments do you see in the films these days?
Movies are technically sound but narratives are withering.