Prakash Jha: the crusader for political cinema in Bollywood
Prakash Jha has introduced socio-political films into mainstream Bollywood with his films like Mrityudand, Gangaajal and Apaharan. The director tells Sweta Kaushal what inspired the film Satyagraha, talks about his favourite political film and more.
Very few Bollywood filmmakers have attempted to make socio-political films with a commercial angle. We have had films like Do Aankhen Barah Haath (1957), Satta (2003) and Gulaal (2009) in the past but the movies were more on the lines of parallel cinema and not exactly mainstream.
Filmmaker Prakash Jha has introduced political films into the mainstream Bollywood. From Mrityudand to Satyagraha, he has made movies that voice the angst of common people.
With his latest offering Satyagraha covering the making costs of approx Rs 50 crore within the first week, Prakash Jha is all smiles as he visits the capital. Amitabh Bachchan, Ajay Devgn, Kareena Kapoor, Manoj Bajpai, Arjun Rampal and Amrita Rao-starrer Satyagraha has grossed around Rs 55 crore in its first week.
Speaking to Hindustantimes.com in an exclusive interview, Jha says, “It feels great to see that a film like Satyagraha, which is a political film, has crossed Rs 50 crore at the ticket windows in the first week itself.”
Several reports claimed that Satyagraha was more of a documentation of Anna Hazare’s movement. Some even claimed that it looked like an explanation from Arvind Kejriwal for his decisions and moves during and after the movement.
The director reveals how these claims are far from the truth. Jha was working on the script of the film while he was shooting for Aarakshan.
When asked what inspired the story, the director says he was working on drafts of the movie before Anna’s movement against corruption. “The youth of our country has been facing the brunt of corruption for a long time. We saw worldwide movements like the one at Tahrir Square (Egypt),” he adds.
Prakash Jha says, “My script for Satyagraha was already on the way to being finalised before the movement. See, the angst of youth is not something that emerged with Anna Hazare. The angst was simmering within our country and it found a rightful outlet in Anna Hazare’s movement. Youth of today is aware of their rights and duties.”
Some of your fans feel that the intensity of a Prakash Jha film was missing in Raajneeti and now Satyagraha. Several critics and viewers felt there were too many issues being raised in Satyagraha without a proper closure to those in the end. Did you, at any point feel that you were trying to weave too many issues in the film?
No, I do not think the film was scattered everywhere. The massive non-violent movement is the backdrop of the film, but while telling a story, several small incidents can be used to raise other issues as well; people who felt the closure wasn’t fair to every issue, have a right to feel so. It is their perception of the movie.
Unlike other filmmakers, you almost sound like a journalist in your films: raising the problems within our society, without providing a possible solution.
See, I do not claim to solve the problems in our society. I see corruption, crime and other issues troubling the people and try to present those on the canvas of cinema. My films are actually my dialogue with the people.
Which political film has had an impact on Prakash Jha?
Very few political films are made in Bollywood, I do not remember many. I think Shyam Benegal’s Manthan (1976) was one wonderfully made film.
Have you watched Madras Café?
No. I have not had the time but I have heard it is a good film. I will definitely watch it as soon as I get the time.