My films are my dialogues with the society – Prakash Jha
[dropcap]H[/dropcap]e calls his films ‘Cinema with Power’, and a way to have dialogues with the society. Eminent independent filmmaker, who loves to explore socio-political subjects based on real-life events, recreating them onto the celluloid, Prakash Jha emphasises on strong narratives, original plots across different genres, and most importantly on commercial viability. So far, he has won eight national awards for four documentaries Faces After the Storm, Kudiattam, Looking Back and Sonal and four films Damul, Parinati, Gangajal, and Apaharan.
While Prakash Jha’s 2010 release Rajneeti garnered much appreciation from the Indian audience, his latest Satyagraha is making news every day with its vivid subject and tremendous box-office collection. In a recent conversation, Prakash Jha got candid with Pandolin delving on his filmmaking style, approach and making of Satyagraha.
You made documentaries for eight years on socio-political issues before you ventured out to make feature films on the same genre. Was making documentaries a part of experimentation with medium before coming into mainstream cinema?
To me, films happened much later after Damul and Parinati. Yes, making documentaries was a learning process after which I moved into making a film called Damul, which falls into pure parallel cinema. Parinati also was a very different kind of film. Change, I would say, began to come with Mrityudand. It was this film where I started building bridge to the mainstream cinema. I always try to tell my stories in a popular language. It worked then. And since it worked, I continued making mainstream films.
What do you enjoy most – making feature films or documentaries?
I think both have their own kind of enjoyments and challenges such as to tell the story, taking up the issues, and narrate them to the popular common audience, who follow cinema for their entertainment, which becomes more challenging. Because when you don’t bother about the commerce of cinema then tasks get easier. In both the cases, you have to have the responsibility and aesthetic considerations. At times, when you do commercial cinema, you do get accused of compromising on quality of cinema but I say, my cinema is not simply a cinema, it’s also my dialogue with the society and that’s why I am able to make my dialogues interesting, palatable, and commercially enjoyable for common audience. That’s the challenge, which constantly remains.
In an interview, Sachin Krishn said that the film was shot in a documentary style. Could you please elaborate the same?
I shot many of my films in a documentary style including Gangajal, Apaharan, Chakravyuh except Rajneeti because the look of it was grand and glossy. Choosing to shoot in a documentary style is because of the kind of subjects I deal with. I think that the subject should not go beyond or not look like it’s made up or well-lit, because then it gets out of the realm of belief.
In shooting a documentary, one can see that the light is not falling evenly on everybody and maintaining the sanctity of these real events, you can create a drama adding to the dialogues or theme, making the film look more interesting and commercially viable. We create characters which are close to reality and that is the style we followed in Satyagraha as we did not want to choreograph or orchestrate or light up everything or otherwise it would have become other kind of commercial cinema which you already keep on watching.[pullquote_left]I always work on several sessions with all the actors, prepare them and make them understand about the social milieu and the politics[/pullquote_left]
Can you talk about the research and preparation involved into making Satyagraha?
Writing of the script was the main preparation and that took my major time because we had to encompass a lot of things like creating characters, internalizing issues and conflicts within the characters etc., which was a time consuming part of preparations and once that happens, execution was basically planning and doing it.
What was the process of writing the film?
For writing, we had to keep on studying, getting the facts out, then keep on writing and re writing, so that ways we brought in interesting elements. They don’t look like they have been slapped on to the scene but should come from the story. You constantly keep on learning, and at times you fail or don’t succeed in what you wanted to do but at the end, everything seems fine.
How did you go about the casting of this film and what was your essential brief to the actors?
When I had the story ready, then I narrated it to the people I felt were fit for the characters like Manoj Bajpai’s character of a politician. It looks like that the character was made for him only. It’s a natural process to prepare your cast.
I always work on several sessions with all the actors, prepare them and make them understand about the social milieu and the politics.
What was the budget set for the film? It also has a huge incorporation from a lot of brands – products placements. Do you think it is a trend in films now? Does it play with creativity of the film?
Satyagraha’s budget was close to Rs 56 cr. Product placements do not affect the creativity as we are a part of the market and making films for it. If branded products can be easily integrated without affecting the drama of the film, then why not!
What were the major challenges experienced during making this film and how did you cope with them?
The logistics and the scale of the film was the major challenge. If you have seen the film, you would realize the number of people involved in it. We wanted to make it feel all real. If you go to any Indian district, you would always find this number of crowd hitting you and hence, the same should reflect on the screen. To prepare them all, getting them ready and to be able to complete the work in time was challenging for me.
[pullquote_right]You don’t see the film every day but if there is a book available, you would like to probably read it on how the film was made as you might get interested in understanding the mechanics of how the film happened.[/pullquote_right]
What role does music play in this film and how do you go about choosing the kind of music?
I think in all Indian commercial films, music has to be there as it plays a great role in promoting the film. I try select the music, which would suit my film and take my story forward.
Now a days, producers work in collaboration for a film. It’s no more a competition between two productions. How does it help?
We have always produced our own films under Prakash Jha productions. We never had multiple producers in our films. UTV Motion Pictures only helps us present the film, fund, market and distribute it. So, it almost becomes a co-production but physical production is always handled by Prakash Jha productions.
But yes, in some films, there are multiple producers coming together. It is a good trend and it happens all over the world.
You also launched the book on Satyagraha called ‘Satyagraha- the Story behind Revolution’. Similar was the case with Rajneeti. What’s the need you felt to document the film?
I always feel that my films have dialogue with the society. The assessment of the dialogue should be there in print format too and be always available. You don’t see the film every day but if there is a book available, you would like to probably read it on how the film was made as you might get interested in understanding the mechanics of how the film happened.
You have announced the sequel of Gangajal and Rajneeti. What new would the audience see in these sequels?
A sequel should take the theme of the film forward. In Gangajal 2, people would see the present relation of police with the society, after so many years from where the film ended. Rajneeti 2 would deal with what happens after the main character comes into power. These films are social films and the society changes with time, so there will definitely be a new story.