Mahesh Bhatt, being the verbose, articulate personality, a man overflowing with diverse thoughts, is still at his busiest best at 67, continuing to be the force behind the Vishesh Films banner, dipping his hands in several other arenas. With boundless energy, he talks of films, theatre, being an actor and on how it feels to be a father to Alia Bhatt in an elaborate conversation with MetroPlus .
How much influence have you had with the rapid strides that Alia has made as an actress?
Having always been proud of her, everything that she has achieved to date is because of the charge she’s taken of her destiny. The success is all her own. I now feel more like a parent with affection. Even in the choices she has taken and in her transformation from one role to another, it has helped audience get a deeper insight of her capabilities. Now, see Udta Punjab , Kapoor and Sons and her next with Shah Rukh, directed by Gauri, the roles are so different.
Is the brand of Vishesh, heading the same way you’d envisioned a few years ago? How has the banner adapted with the times?
There always comes a phase, where you take a conscious choice towards deconstruction of your ideologies. From the hard-hitting brand that the banner once used to endorse - mostly the phase prior to Zakhm - it was Raaz that was our game changer for the generation. There have been people who’ve called our products a mix of crime, erotica and wonderful music since then.
However, they need to understand that for every Jism, Jannat or Murder we’ve made, there have been examples like Gangster, Aashiqui 2 and City Lights to prove we’re out of such pigeonholed ideas. Now, with Raaz 4 (to be set in Romania, a lavish reboot of Raaz ), Aashiqui 3, Tum Hi Ho and Love Games (to be directed by Vikram Bhatt), our hands are pretty full.
How do you explain the recent failures of your production house with ‘Hamari Adhuri Kahaani’ and ‘Mr X’?
Mr X , I truly agree jolted our very foundation and helped us smell reality. In the case of Hamari Adhuri.. , unlike what many have claimed, it delivered plusses on the investment front. The entire Rs. 100 crore mark being a barometer to success is a flawed way of looking at the game. Say, City Lights , a critically acclaimed film, earned lesser revenues, but as a film we’re proud of it.
What’s your take on ‘Hamari Adhuri Kahaani’s outcomes in different media, be it book form, cinema or the play that was staged recently in the city?
The play directed by Happy Ranajit, adapted from the book is quite independent of the cinematic blueprint.
It’s fiercely distinct and the reason behind me trusting its reach is the commitment of the lead character that is caught between traditions and the emancipation of the west.
Can you throw some light on ‘Censor Qtiyapa’, the online spoof on the CBFC, you were a part of?
I felt it was a very valid and humorous take on the pre-censorship scene in the country. The situation, as it turns more intolerant in the artistic space, you see many try to fit into a majority. That’s a dangerous kind of censoring I felt, the lakshman rekhas they draw to passion, on which a voice needs to be raised. Filmmakers are increasingly making roadblocks to their products and felt my presence would raise a point.
And you’re co-writing the Hindi version of Srijit Mukherjee’s Bengali film ‘Rajkahini’?
Like I do for most films under my banner, I’d only be mentoring the Hindi version of it and re-fashion it as a pan-Indian product. The film, when I watched in Bengali, came across as a very unique one and impressed me with the exclusivity in the landscape and in the voice of the maker.
You feel the trend of artistes returning their awards and titles would bring about a difference to artistic freedom in the country?
Whenever someone expresses dissent and takes a stance, it’s easy to say, they’re politically motivated.
But see, there’s nothing violent about this and we need to understand with a free mind, not everyone need to fall in line and prostrate in front of the authorities. You never know about the good that may happen; the Government may do something good, listening to such critique.