Landing up behind bars

New Release

 Mugdha GodsePercept Picture Company’s co-production with him, Jail, is all set to release on November 6. Like his earlier applauded films like Page 3, Corporate, Traffic Signal and Fashion, it promises to be arresting fare for the audience.

In an exclusive rapid-fire chat Madhur said, “I am a blessed experimental filmmaker. I get national awards, critical acclaim and box-office success!” He denies that Jail is his first male-oriented film since he became a brand. “There was Aan, which did not do well, and in Traffic Signal there was no female orientation either.” But he chose Neil Nitin Mukesh because “he is an upcoming actor without a set image.” His own protégé, Mugdha Godse, is cast in a diametrically opposite role from Fashion, in a de-glam role as Neil’s girlfriend and anchor.

Research, says Madhur, is the keynote of all of his films. “I visited jails in Pune, Nashik and even Dehra Dun and talked with the inmates, some of whom were languishing because their cases had yet not come up in court, while others were clinging to the hope that somehow their sentences would get a miraculous reprieve. It was an eye-opener even for me.” Why did he go all the way to Dehra Dun? “Because there are two jails there, and I was given permission to shoot in one of them,” he replies succinctly.
Adds Manoj Tyagi, co-writer, “Madhur had this concept with him for many years. I accompanied him to the jails and even convinced him to take a co-writer — Anuradha Tiwari, who had worked with him earlier — so that there could be more inputs. I was involved with the casting too.”

The film shares a rare USP with Madhur’s last film Fashion — it is shot in chronological order, that is, the shooting was in one start-to-finish schedule but also in the exact sequence in which the events unfold on screen. Explains Madhur, “This method is creatively satisfying for me as well as my actors. My film is about an ordinary guy with a job and a girlfriend who lands up in jail and the trauma he undergoes. In such a case, it is important for the character graph to go smoothly and an actor can get disoriented if we shoot the 78th scene before the first and the 42nd scene last! We are thus not moving in jerks.”

Neil Nitin Mukesh agrees with Madhur. “The chronological way of shooting helped me a lot, but I decided on method acting as well this time. My character, Parag Dixit, lands in jail, and the character and his situation were both not relatable to me. Eighty per cent of us think that jail cannot happen to us, but it could happen to anybody.”

And how did he do that? “For 45 days, I stayed away from my family as Parag Dixit in Karjat, a place two hours away from Mumbai. I instructed everyone, including my personal assistant to call me Parag and not Neil. I behaved and lived like him, spoke to others only about the film, and even on the sets I called three of my friends and raked up a fight so that they beat me, and only later explained why I had done so!”

Admitting that such extreme measures could be psychologically harmful and also cause difficulties in unwinding (“Parag has still not left me completely!”), Neil says that his choice of character, and plot-driven films will soon make him exorcise this man in jail. But what about the controversial side — his nude shot and masturbation sequence? And what does his family think of them?

“We are all huge fans of Madhur, and when I became an actor, my father’s dream was that I work with him, and I am lucky that it has happened so soon!” says Neil. “The experience was overwhelmingly bigger than even my expectations. The sequences were necessary and not gimmicky and my father, despite his singing career, began as assistant to directors like Hrishikesh Mukherjee, so he understands the needs of the script.”

But the film did face censorship issues, and Madhur puts the record straight. “I never fought with the censors and their decisions, or threatened to go to the revising committee. They were willing to give me an ‘Adults Only’ certificate if I wanted no cuts. But that was unacceptable because I want this film to be seen by the 14-18 age groups. They are the ones who go to pubs or get into fights or other offences and may go to jail. So a ‘Universal’ certificate with ‘Accompanying Adults’ is perfectly fine even if it meant some cuts.”

Starring Manoj Bajpayee, the film has music by Shamir Tandon and Sharib-Toshi with dialogues by Raghuvir Shekhawat and cinematography by Madhur’s debut-making cousin, Kalpesh Bhandarkar.

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