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Arun Kuckreja reveals the metaphors of “Benazir”

“Benazir’ is not a political film. I’d like people to see it as a personal film that was based on a couplet and got elongated into an under 19-minute movie,” says film director and playwright Arun Kuckreja.

Kuckreja wrote a brief verse when Benazir Bhutto was elected Prime Minister. The verse soon became part of his bathroom singing. After her assassination he heard Mahesh Bhatt saying that he’d make a movie on Benazir only with the family’s approval. This set Kuckreja thinking that a film can’t be determined by such considerations.

He decided to make his own movie growing out from the original verse. The theme of this movie “Benazir”, he says is, “Generals make the war. It’s the poets who lament.”

With a background score by Ustad Bismillah Khan and Amjad Ali Khan, the movie works at a lyrical level. The director says that he uses lighting to explore different times in Benazir Bhutto’s life. Recurrent imagery like decorative swords, guns and derailed toy trains also help to create the times and raise relevant issues. Kuckreja defends his style, “I make avant-garde films. People say I should explain my cinema more. But it’s not for me to re-interpret it.” He claims that he makes thinking cinema and not popcorn cinema.

His son Raghav Kuckreja, a student of Fashion and Television Institute of India, plays the role loosely modelled on Benazir’s son Bilawal. Raghav also played the role of a fresher in Kuckreja’s movie based on St. Stephen’s College. He explains the casting, “Amongst all the towering figures in the movie (like Benazir Bhutto and George Bush), Raghav plays second fiddle. No, he plays last fiddle, actually. I am a director who is completely sure of what I want. In this scenario, the actor only fits into the frame.”

Benazir Bhutto continues to be a contentious figure. But Kuckreja believes that a film must rise above these biases. “The movie is dedicated to all those political leaders who have been assassinated. It goes beyond whether Benazir was a good or a bad person. The final message is that guns must be stopped.”

Kuckreja has previously written plays on Mother Teresa, Buddha and even wrote “Bhutto” (1980), in which Anu Aggarwal played Benazir. He right now has “big ambitions”. These include a Bhagavad Gita with Al Pacino and a one-man soliloquy based on Ravana. He hopes to shoot the Gita either at the Pyramids of Egypt or on a set in Los Angeles.

On the theatre front, he is working on a play on tennis and one on hockey. The heroine of the former will be based on Sania Mirza.

NANDINI NAIR

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