One of the most celebrated personalities in Indian cinema Prakash Jha has always engaged with stories that reflect reality. His hard-hitting films like Raajneeti and Gangaajal, amongst others, have won him critical acclaim. His next, Jai Gangaajal that will soon hit theaters, has already become the talk of the town. Besides having a powerful story line and an amazing cast, this film will also see the man behind the camera step in front of it for the very first time. The master filmmaker speaks to Pandolin about the woman protagonist in his next, his acting debut, future plans and more.

Prakash Jha

Prakash Jha

How did the concept and idea of the film around a woman protagonist develop?

It happened quite coincidentally almost 13 years after Gangaajal, which was a story around the Bhagalpur blindings. The story was about the state of police at that point of time. It also dealt with the society-police relationship and the frustration that the society undergoes. But that was also a time when, if a police officer was determined like Ajay Devgn was in the movie, he could do it. But when I was making a film in 2013, I happened to meet a police officer from Maharashtra. He was an honest officer whom I knew but when we met, he told me that he was shifting from the police force to the public sector. I asked him why the shift to which he that there is no policing in India anymore. He said that the police in this country acts when somebody wants them to act and stops if somebody wants them to stop; there is no independent power.


Is Jai Gangaajal a sequel to Gangaajal?

No it is not a sequel. This is a completely fresh film because I am not taking that story forward. I am not showing Ajay Devgn working in some other place; his character is not there in this film. Plus, I am not taking the Bhagalpur blindings issue forward. Jai Gangaajal has a different place, different protagonist and different setting. The only similarity is that both the stories deal with the police and society. You can say that the soul of the story is the same.

Was Priyanka Chopra your first choice for the role of the protagonist?

There was a dramatic requirement for a female character. The moment I thought that there will be a female protagonist, I thought of Priyanka (Chopra) because she and I had been talking about working together for some time now. I contacted her but realized that her dates were packed. But she insisted that we meet and in 15 minutes I told her the plot. After hearing the plot she told me, “I am your Abha Mathur and I will do this film no matter how”. She was the first choice and fortunately, the only one.

Is the movie based on real life incidents and is Priyanka’s character based on someone?

Yes, there were several real life incidents, which have been woven into a story. Reality is the crux of the story, but the rest of it and the character are woven around that. Priyanka’s character is not based on any one particular person; I have drawn her character from several police officers.

Tell us about the research undertaken to make the film more realistic.

The research part is my job. I visited almost 50 police stations and over 100 police personnel over Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, UP etc. While researching various kinds of police officers, I would take their permission and sit in the corner in their office and see how they function through the day, the body language etc. since everything has to be absorbed by the characters. I gathered references for every character and then started forming them. Each actor came around 2-3 months before the shoot and I fed them with all the information. I had shot a lot of references for Priyanka. As a director I had to give Priyanka the information and she was smart enough to catch it quickly and that is why she looks so convincing in the film.


Will we see Priyanka Chopra performing hardcore action in the movie?

There is action in the movie, but it is realistic action. She is not jumping or shooting 13 people and there are no cars flying.

Poster of Jai Gangaajal

Poster of Jai Gangaajal

Why did you pick Jai Gangaajal for your acting debut? Also was it tough to film yourself?

I was looking for something new, something more exciting to do. The idea of acting has been there for a while, but you need a proper role that fits your persona. Here the DSP is a 50 to 60-year-old and takes care of everything from the media to the politicians. I found this very interesting in the character and plus, a DSP is a pivotal kind of police. Even in the film, the DSP is a crucial character.

I acted in this film because I wanted a creative challenge for myself. The most exciting thing is writing a script and that I have done. So I wanted a new excitement and performing was it. I have trained actors for many years, so I am aware of the process, but to apply the same process on myself was challenging.

As for shooting, there is nothing called as tough for a director. As a director, you become used to handling so many things at the same time. It is like driving a car, where you have to pay attention to so many things. But once you learn to drive, it becomes a part of your life. Direction is just like that.


As a filmmaker, how do you achieve the balance between a good story while making it commercial at the same time? 

That is the challenge and that is why it takes me two and a half years to write a script. You need to see if the drama will work with the audience or no. For instance, in today’s society, we hear that law breakers have more respect. So when I am writing, I need to bring in that drama. And the drama would be that I respect someone who breaks the law breakers. Reality juxtaposed with drama, within the realm of believability, that is my challenge.

Are there any plans of making a sequel for any of your films?

There are talks for Raajneeti, but I don’t know whether I  would want to continue it or if it would be a new movie altogether. Today’s Raajneeti will be completely different from the earlier Raajneeti. There is a possibility that the characters will be continued or I could just make a different movie. But there are intentions of re-visiting Rajneeti.

-Dhruvanka Medhekar. Transcribed by Aarti Sukhija.

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Prakash Jha
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