The Beauty Of The Subject Lies In The Reality Of The Film
Madhur Bhandarkar hardly needs an introduction having consistently worked on films that focus on the darker aspects of various industries. In his newest film Calendar Girls, he not only launches a whopping five debut actresses, but also asks uncomfortable questions — as is perhaps his habit — about the otherwise prim-looking glamour world that he nurses such a fascination for.
How was the initial idea of the film conceived; was there a particular incident that sparked the concept?
One day in 2014, I was just sitting in the office and brainstorming for concepts when all the clutter started getting to me, and I asked the office boy to clean it up. He came back to me a couple of days after he’d cleaned the room, with five Kingfisher calendars that Vijay Mallya had sent me. Big, gorgeous, glamorous calendars that we receive every year, and he asked me what to do with them. Since I was busy, I just told him to just keep it aside.
A few days later, I saw the calendars. I hadn’t looked at them properly in a while, and that is where the idea struck. I just saw all these beautiful girls posing for the different months and I realized that 99% of these girls are nowhere to be seen today – not at parties, on ramps or in the industry at all. It is a microscopic minority that is successful — this was the trigger that inspired me to make a film on these girls who have disappeared, and to find out where they go from here. They only seem to have a tenure of 365 days – and then the next year arrives and the girls are always different.
Tell us a little bit about the premise of the film and what really sets it apart?
The beauty of the subject lies in the reality of the film. While we’ve tweaked some parts to protect identities and fictionalized it, the story has its own dramatic twist. There is an audience, for this kind of cinema, who is interested in asking these questions. We’ve added songs and other elements keeping in mind the fact that you’re catering to the bigger audience as well. It is a 2 hour 8 minute film in all, revolving around the stories of five girls and we go back and forth amongst the characters as the film continues.
What was the kind of research that you did? And who were the people that you and the writers of the film interacted with to prepare for it?
This topic really brought out the journalistic streak in me. I met and interacted with a lot of people, some were reluctant, and some forthcoming. I spoke to models, make up artists, costume designers, photographers’ assistants (as the main photographer wasn’t talking); everyone who makes up different parts of the industry.
There’s the glamour quotient, of course, that makes it interesting and then there’s all these gorgeous girls, who have such a short presence in the industry; you can’t help but wonder what happens to them in the future.
You’re launching the film careers of five debut actors in one film – how did you go about casting the girls, and what was the experience of working with them like?
I think these are great, well-educated girls from very good families who want to do good work, so why not give them a chance? They are from the middle class like me, when I started out, and I want to give them a platform to showcase their talents. It was not tough to work with them at all. I meet people, and I’m very confident about my capabilities as a filmmaker, so I cast people for characters that I know they’ll do well in. I’ve often been called an ‘actress’ director’, I love to interact with them on several issues, ranging from poverty to relationships to politics. I’m sure I’ve confused many of them with these discussions, but at my end, what I’m trying to do is gauge the person’s character and cast them accordingly.
This film completely hinges on performances, though, and all of them have stepped up and performed so well. Everyone’s talking about the clothes and the bikinis, but — let me tell you a fact — the bikini is hardly 35-40 seconds of the movie. There is so much more to it. I have worked with the best female leads in the industry — Priyanka Chopra, Kangana Ranaut, Tabu — but these girls, especially considering it’s their debut – have really surpassed themselves.
You definitely have an intense fascination with stories from the glamour world . Could you tell us a little bit about which aspect of it it is that interests you so deeply?
Like I said, I have a journalistic streak in me that encourages me to investigate less-explored topics like these. The way people write articles, or books, I make films to delve into these topics and present them on the screen. Even the media has often referred to me in this way. The glamour world, trust me, is like an ocean, everyday we see faces that appear and disappear. What I’ve shown is just the tip of the iceberg – there’s so much more! It’s so vast, and there are so many different aspects involved in it. But the reality is so stark, it’s hard to portray all of it packaged as a film. That is what one has to keep in mind.
In your opinion, why do people react so differently to these realities you portray in life, as opposed to on celluloid?
I show the truth, which is sometimes a bitter pill to swallow. The film industry got upset with me because being a part of the film fraternity, I portrayed the naked truth with Heroine. I just showed the reality that exists. With Traffic Signal, people had a problem because I showed the entire expose on how the mafia carried out the 160 crore turnaround at the traffic signal. Bars got shut because of Chandni Bar, and the corporate world took umbrage with Corporate. A lot of people get uncomfortable because of my films, but I don’t really have a problem with that because this is my train of thought, and I believe in it. It is important to show the dark, hard reality.
You’ve not been one to shy away from ruffling a few feathers in the industry. What is the reaction you’re expecting from various sections of society for Calendar Girls?
People that I meet on the street have told me to not get bogged down by this negativity, and continue making this kind of cinema. I have to be loyal towards the common man, who watches my films and takes away new perspectives from it. Even if I’m a part of an industry, I will not hesitate to show the realities of that world on screen.Calendar Girls is edgy, it’s dark and gritty, and it’s emotional but it’ll still make you laugh. It’ll shock you and it’ll make you cry, there are several elements that have gone into it. It’s not judgmental but it still provides perspective – the rest is up to the audience to decide. I’m used to ruffling feathers in the industry, it’s okay. The film has been made in 41 days, and considering the budget, I think we’re starting off on a good foot.
What would you say was your favorite part of shooting this film?
This film was a lot of fun. My sets are always full of jokes and laughter, so it was a really relaxed shoot.
What was the response of the Censor Board to the film initially, and are you satisfied with the cuts and edits they suggested?
There are no nude scenes in the movie, I don’t know why such rumors are being circulated! The Censor Board saw the film and loved it; they didn’t cut a single frame. They were very encouraging about how gritty it was; they only requested me to remove some swear words because it would cause a problem. It was negligible, and they were being gracious; I didn’t really have a problem with that.
What is the kind of conversation you hope this film will create?
People are already talking about the film, even before it’s release. With so many different elements involved, it’s hard for me to interpret their reactions directly, but the songs are really well done and really add to the emotional quotient of the film. I think it might be shocking visually, but it’s something I want the audience to really absorb.
What’s in the pipeline for you next?
I have a couple of ideas in mind, but nothing has been finalized. I’m doing promotions full-time right now, and working around the clock. I will probably take a break after the 25th and then decide what to do. There is a murder mystery, a romantic film with a slice of life feel and a few other things, let’s see what works out!