'The story had to be told'

'The story had to  be told'

BIG COMEBACK Mahesh Manjrekar DH  photo by Dinesh S K

Mumbai has always been a major part of Mahesh Manjrekar’s films, be it Vaastav, Astitva, Viruddh or the Marathi movie Me Shivajiraje Bhosale Boltoy. After a hiatus of four years, Mahesh is back holding a mirror to the society of Mumbai, that has conveniently swept one of its primary edifices, the cotton mill workers, under the carpet.

Shaken up by the intensity of the Mumbai Mill Strike of 1982, Mahesh made up his mind that this was the film with which he would make a comeback. He knew it wasn’t an easy task. “In fact, I had to first convince my assistant director. When I gave him the script, he said it can’t be done. Then it took me four-and-a-half-years to find a producer for it. People told me that no one would be able to relate to it. Whether the audience bought it or not, the story had to be told. That’s because after 28 years, the workers have merely become the forgotten masses of a city, where swanky malls stand today in place of mills,” says Mahesh.

Ironically, Mahesh was in the City recently promoting this movie titled City Of Gold, in a mall! However, he is quick to comment that the movie doesn’t talk against the coming of malls. “Progress in any way cannot be stopped but the movie questions the basic rights that were denied to those people,” adds Mahesh. Ask him how relevant is the issue among today’s youth and he quickly responds, “How relevant was Jodha Akbar to today’s generation? Sensitivity is not dead amongst people. I believe there is an intelligent audience that will accept a movie like City Of Gold.

People are no longer satisfied with potboilers but are on a look out for quality cinema.”      The story did take a toll on Mahesh. While making the film, he experienced the atmosphere in which the mill workers live. “Violence and noise is a part of their lives. To be heard, one automatically ends up screaming loudly. Even when we shot, we too ended up screaming out loud and at times, I even took work back home,” he explains.
But now that the film has released, Mahesh feels a huge burden is off his chest. “Having lived with the movie for so long, I have put in a lot for it. I remember the pressure I felt many a time during the making. But now, I have left it for the world to see and hopefully, they will take it forward from there,” he signs off.

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