Cinema

‘I’m not a guardian of Indian aesthetics’

Mahesh Bhatt  

His credentials as a director far outweigh those as a producer. With parallel films such as Arth and Saaransh and commercial films that include Aashiqui and Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin, Mahesh Bhatt’s films have always stood apart for their presentation.

But the quality of the films he has produced has always been debatable and after making the offbeat CityLights, his production house (Vishesh Films) seems to have gone back to its staple genre — erotic thrillers. We speak to him about his latest film. Excerpts:

You have pioneered the erotic thriller genre with films such as Raaz , Jism , Murder Why revisit it again ?

Directors such as Biren Nag and Raj Khosla made popular supernatural films such as Bees Saal Baad and Woh Kaun Thi decades ago . But they weren’t really erotic thrillers, which were always regarded as being B-grade. Raaz’s success revived and brought respectability to this genre in the 21st century. With subsequent films and sequels, we were able to milk this genre to great succesas.

While Raaz was a triangular love story between two women and a man, Khamoshiyan is about two men and a woman. This film has been made to throw new light on this genre and its narrative is vastly different from our earlier films. In fact, the film is more about drama than horror.

We are revisiting the genre as we feel we have found our niche and our audience. Even a writer like Stephen King has stuck to a particular ‘idiom of writing’. At the same time, you must remember that we have also produced offbeat films such as CityLights and Aashiqui 2, as we believe in diversity. That’s exactly why we are now also making Mr. X and Hamari Adhuri Kahaani.

Music has always been a highlight in your films.

When it comes to music, we realised that collective opinion is more effective than an individual’s. This is why all of us — the director, my brothers and I — listen to a tune to see how we respond to it separately.

Once we like it, the writing begins. We want songs that will sell independently in the stores and also work with the visuals. The lyrics have to articulate the subtext of the film and have their own progression while maintaining a harmony with the tune.

The importance of music is something I have understood very early on. Arth had phenomenal music by Jagjit Singh... Aashiqui remains an all-time bestseller. In fact, the use of good music is more important for smaller films. Khamoshiyan’s title track is already a big hit around the country.

Why are the films you produce so different from those you direct?

The role of a producer is more challenging. It’s as though you’re gazing at a larger space like from atop a helicopter or a balcony. Direction is much closer to the ground and hence, more personal.

When I produce, it’s about facilitating a space for the director to function at his own level. Our role there is limited to leading them to a path which is essentially theirs. These films are just as important to me as the ones I direct. They could be trash to others but to me, they are treasure.

Your Jism 2 introduced Sunny Leone to Hindi cinema . Are you surprised with the love she has received from family audiences?

There is a big difference between what people say and what they want. I produced CityLights — a film I love — that went onto win several awards. But its lifetime collection still fell short of what Jism 2 collected in its opening day.

We made CityLights for Rs. 4 crore and it went on to earn Rs. 8 crore. Jism 2, which was made for Rs. 6 crore, however, went on to earn Rs. 42 crore! I have never claimed to be the guardian of Indian cinema’s aesthetics.

I’m simply a filmmaker who tries to make a profit for his investors. It is what has made me a wealthy man. (Laughs)

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Printable version | Apr 13, 2021 9:00:13 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/im-not-a-guardian-of-indian-aesthetics/article6796880.ece

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