How do you feel about the TV premiere of "Black"?
TV is such an important medium. There are so many people who couldn't see it in the theatres. The film will now be accessible to those who couldn't experience it earlier. That makes me very happy. The fact that "Black" has been given ample dignity by audiences, critics and those who controlled its destiny in the market is very reassuring. "Black" was an important film for all of us - Bachchan, Rani, me and all my technicians...I feel it has changed our lives and the way audiences perceive cinematic entertainment.
After the dazzling flamboyance of "Devdas", I went into something as real and stark as "Black". People thought I had gone mad. But I knew my audience was in the mood to see something that was sincere. I feel everyone excelled in work. Two days after "Black" opened in theatres, audiences had begun to recommend it to their friends...Our film worked although there was no titillation or glamour.
But "Black" is a very glamorous film in spite of the serious theme.
Yes, no matter what the theme is, my films will always be very meticulously mounted. That is my style, my cinema. Whether it's a kotha in "Devdas" or Shimla in "Black", the locations will always remain inviting. People saw the narrative flow in "Black". They felt they had never seen anything like it before. I was warned it wouldn't run for one week.
Why did you situate it in the Anglo-Indian community?
If we can have films about Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs why can't we go into the Christian community? Aparna Sen's "36 Chowringhee Lane" addressed itself to the same community. Anglo-Indians have always been integral to my life. In school, all my teachers were Anglo-Indians. Somewhere this lovely community got left behind. But they are not foreigners. They left a deep impression on me.
I visit the church every week, just as I visit a temple. Churches crop up in my films regularly. Every two or three films I would like my characters to be Anglo-Indians. I also feel "Black" is a tribute to one of the most important people in our lives - the teacher.
"Black" has been called over-the-top?
I don't think this is right. If you have to come to terms with physically or mentally impaired people you would know how tough it is to do so. A mother with a child who cannot hear or see is bound to react like Shernaz Patel in "Black". Also, the protagonist, Debraj Sahay, is a flamboyant man. He is rude and arrogant and then his character comes to a stage where he does a seven-minute climax without speaking. That was the graph Bachchan worked out for his character.
The reactions were amazing!
Look at how a teacher from the Helen Keller institute reacted. She told me in my film I had fulfilled her dream as a dedicated teacher for the deaf and blind. Rani's temper tantrums and Amitji's passion are very natural to the world to which they belong. Why should such passion be called over-the-top? "Black" has reached even non-Indian audiences. The main language of the film is sign language. Everyone related to it.
I reinterpreted Helen Keller's life in my own way. Helen's exceptional childhood set the foundation for "Black". But then we moved ahead. We addressed ourselves to the struggle that deaf and blind people go through. Everything from learning the alphabet to attaining sexual fulfilment is a struggle for such people. All these areas of their lives came into "Black".
A 90-year-old tantrik who saw the film had commented, "You don't need eyes to see 'Black'."
What a beautiful thought. The impact of "Black" is not something we can discuss lightly. How do you explain the visually and aurally impaired people trooping in to experience "Black" in theatres? How do you explain a 90-year-old tantrik who had never seen a film suddenly telling his disciples he wants to see a film called "Black"?
Why are the deaf and blind not part of more films and serials? In my four-film career, "Black" is the most important event. It was not made to make money. Even though it chucked away the formula and even though the publicity campaign was low-key, "Black" hit home. I never got a standing ovation for my earlier films. The fact that Amitabh Bachchan loves this film makes me extra proud.