When actions speak louder than words

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to make a point Prakash Jha chooses to make films that create awareness about contemporary issues facing society.

How did he manage it so well? In a telephonic interview, the sensitive director laughs and says, “Necessity is the mother of invention. My earlier films belonged to a different mood and genre. I learnt to change with the times and understood that if I don’t connect with my audience, I won’t be accepted or be successful. In my cinematic journey so far, I have been fortunate enough to work with a plethora of actors whom I wanted to work with and my career is shaping up the way I want it to.”

After the much talked about Raajneeti, Prakash Jha is back with another film, Aarakshan, which will release in August. For the first time, viewers will see Prakash Jha directing legendary actor Amitabh Bachchan. Says the director, “I have always been sensitive and abreast of contemporary issues affecting our society. I have also kept an eager eye on the Mandal Commission and the developments following it. For a period of four years, I was toying with the idea of a film on reservation and I prepared a number of drafts of my script.  I work meticulously and it takes me a long time to complete a final script. Then I approached Amitabh Bachchan, who readily agreed to work in Aarakshan.”

How has it been working with Amitabh Bachhan whose charisma overshadows many directors? Prakash Jha replies, “Amitabh Bachchan can transcend barriers of any school of acting if the script demands it. In Aarakshan, he is a college principal who has certain ideals and values. His motto is to impart quality education to his students. I signed him because he suits the character according to his age, looks and class as an actor.”

Along with Amitabh Bachchan, Saif Ali Khan, Deepika Padukone and Tanvi Azmi too play pivotal characters in Aarakshan. How could Prakash Jha envision Saif Ali Khan, who has primarily played urbane characters, as a Dalit student who wants to enlighten his mind with education? Prakash Jha has a confident and simple answer. He says, “As I told you, Amitabh Bachchan, Naseeruddin Shah, Nana Patekar and Saif Ali Khan are all actors. I don’t differentiate whether they hail from mainstream or parallel cinema. As a director, I conduct acting workshops where all my performers participate with enthusiasm and interest. Saif Ali Khan was inspired by the character and he has given a memorable performance in the film. So have Deepika Padukone and Tanvi Azmi, who are ready to mould themselves according to each character.”

A conversation with the director of memorable films like Gangaajal, Apaharan and Raajneeti is incomplete without a mention of his discovery, Chetan Pundit. Prakash Jha says, “Thanks for remembering Chetan. He was good in Apaharan, excellent as Ranbir Kapoor’s father in Raajneeti, and in Aarakshan he will essay the role of a professor who belongs to a scheduled class.”

Prakash Jha idolises filmmakers like Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen and Tapan Sinha. From script writing to visualising to directing and editing, he has left an indelible mark on Indian cinema. After he faced problems with the censor board for his film Raajneeti last year, does he feel that censorship in cinema is not required? He denies and says, “No. I am never against censorship. As a director-producer, I did have some problems with the censor board earlier, but I was able to solve the issue.”

Jha has won a number of national awards for his films. What does he feel about the controversies of favouritism that have plagued these awards? He says, “Sending a film as an entry for the national awards is the producer’s choice. Once he has submitted the film, he has to respect the verdict of the jury.”

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