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‘There’s mediocrity in all spheres’

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If actor, director and producer Pooja Bhatt is aggressive, her husband actor-writer-adman Manish Makhija, popularly known as Udham Singh appears cool. But it’s not just “the opposites attract” thing that glues them together but a harmony of thought, though their reactions to the thought are spectacularly different. If Pooja does most of the talking, Manish chips in with a refreshing addition. Rana Siddiqui listens to their conversation.Pooja: I think the thing that cements us together is the honesty of thoughts and lack of lies. But we both agree that ‘lies’ have crept into the film and TV business. Lies that help sell. For instance, when I wanted to say that 80 people were killed in a human bomb blast in my film (Dhokha), I thought it was a big figure, so I made it 20; a lie which concealed the crudity of the blast.

But when I heard about the recent Hyderabad blasts where scores of people were reported killed, I thought to myself why did we need to lie in films? But I would certainly say that the film industry has undergone a change of mindset over the last few years. In 1999 I waited long to get Zakhm cleared by the Censor Board but with Dhokha, we came out with flying colours within a few minutes. That is a great signal.

Manish: Thankfully, there are certain sensible people who don’t watch films with their minds closed, whether in the Censor Board or among the audience. But people have absolutely no sense of humour.

I read in newspapers about girls saying that “my ‘would-be’ should have a good sense of humour” but ask them what their definition of humour is. It is watching senseless, mindless, double-meaning comedy in films and TV. So much of mediocrity has crept into people’s lives that their minds have become numb. That’s why I have stopped taking roles in TV soaps.

Pooja: Yes! Something that is ‘successful’ is branded as ‘good’. Why don’t we differentiate between the two? See Fanaa or Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, with all their good cast, songs, costumes and presentation, they had an average script! You compare this with the script of Paap or Holiday, which one would you admire for the script? In comparison, Chak De stands out. It’s all about marketing.

Manish: Exactly. Technically we have grown, but script-wise we are only going down. We try to market products senselessly. Marketing music is so easy now. They ‘create’ a ‘flavour of the month’ in those remixes.It is complete corporatisation of music. There is no research involved. It is just mediocrity on sale! Twenty more channels are coming, what would they ‘sell’? So much of consumerism has set in that people in India are completely swayed by it.The West throws say a Skoda or a Nokia with excellent marketing strategy and we Indians lap it up without analysing, we don’t have the sense or etiquette for that.

Pooja: Both in the media and glamour world, people talk nonsense. And if I try to say something sensible, through my films or otherwise, they say, ‘uff, she is trying to boss over’!

I have stopped meeting such ‘senseless’ people. Instead, I have eight dogs in my house. They are my friends.They are better than ‘fake’ people.

Manish: And believe me, they are very intelligent. They talk to us through their body language and often surprise us with their wisdom.

Pooja: The world also differentiates between a ‘man’ speaking and a ‘woman’ speaking. If a woman speaks a lot, she is ‘mad’ and if a man speaks a lot, he is ‘firm’.

Manish: The life we lead and the life we preach are so different…

Pooja: I believe our children must have military training in their schools.In colleges they must have a compulsory military service. It will drill etiquette into them.

Manish: Very right. It will bring discipline in their lives. For instance, if you see someone spitting on the road, just go there, slap him and ask him why he spat there. If he asks, ‘Who are you to do that’? You should say, ‘Whoever I am. I won’t let you do that’.

Pooja: I get so upset with these things around me that I scream, discuss, and you know, eat a lot (laughs). These act as my stress busters. But he doesn’t even react, he doesn’t eat either…

Manish: I shut off my mind beyond a point. I think there is no use shouting about things. It is always better to either make a little effort to change your surroundings to make at least your own life better, and forget about the rest of the world!

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