Beginning with a question that you may have been asked a few times before. Why relative newcomers like Kunal Khemu and Neetu Chandra when you could have got any top actor or an established star for your film?
Yes, everyone does ask me this question. See, I have always given importance to script more than anything else. First my characters need to be in place and only after that do actors come into picture. For a role that Kunal Khemu plays, a star may have looked out of place since he would have come with an excess baggage. Now in 'Traffic Signal, Kunal is someone who sits on a pavement and has tea with others there. It would have been difficult to imagine a star doing the same. Also the character played by Kunal had to look a lot fragile and in these sense I see him fitting the bill. He is just one film old and hence doesn't come with an issue of a set image. Also let me add that he has done a very good job in the film.
And how about Neetu Chandra? She only had a 'Garam Masala' behind her and her role in the film was hardly the kind that would have made you take her in 'Traffic Signal'.
In fact to be honest, I have seen her only in a few scenes when I caught a chance to watch glimpses of the film on TV. See, as I said for me it doesn't matter what an actor has done in the past. For me it the question is whether this person would be able to suit the character as per the script. She walked in with the kind of getup that we wanted her character to have in the film and this was followed by a test shoot. She was quite good there and was on the board! It doesn't really matter if she had a glamorous portrayal in 'Garam Masala'. For 'Traffic Signal', she has come across as a perfect choice.
One remembers you faced a lot of tough time to catch hold of a few eunuchs who ran away.
Ya, those were tough days. We had chosen 5 eunuchs for the film but after a few days shooting, 2 of them were nowhere to be seen after the monsoon rains. We tried to search for them but in vain. Later we continued the film with the remaining 3 eunuchs and then edited the scenes that featured all 5 of them.
And how about the 'lavani' song? One heard it was to be picturised a few days back.
It's happening in a few days from now. In fact it is the only number which involves singing and dancing on the screen. There are 3 songs and remaining are as a part of the background score.
With a subject revolving around a signal, what kind of target audience do you have in mind for the film?
[Sounds a little irritated] I don't know why this talk even happens. I mean this entire funda of target audience etc. is strange. Well, if I have to describe the kind of film 'Traffic Signal' is, it is a classy/massy kind. Unlike 'Corporate' that primarily targeted at the cities and was more classy in its outlook, 'Traffic Signal' has a subject that would be identifiable in cities as well as well as small towns. The film is coming in January and the promos would begin in November end.
Though 'Corporate' is a success, why are some sections of media painting it as a flop?
That beats me too. It has made money for people, it was critically appreciated and moreover its DVD is one of the Top-3 selling DVDs today. I have no clue why some people are making some uncharitable remarks. See, I don't have a sugar coated daddy not a godfather in the industry to defend my films; I have to that all on my own. But as long as I know I am making good films, I am fine.
Well, that's the reason you are acclaimed by media, critics as well as the 'aam junta'.
So why try giving me a tag that iski films achchi hoti hain lekin commercially nahin chalti? Arrey baba, when have I said I am commercial film maker?
I have always been an experimental film maker and I even tell my producers the same that you may make some money or loose some. But what I can promise you is that the film would be original and would be acclaimed. I tell film makers that these films may be small but they would be remembered. Now 'Chandni Bar' was a small film but you are speaking to me only because of that film. Without it, I may not be Madhur Bhandarkar as I am today. Mera kaam hai dil se film banana aur kuch naya dikhana, aage chale naa chale I can't say anything.
Mostly your films have are in the low-medium budget range. Any particular reason?
See, the kind of name I have built over the years, I could have easily asked for 20-30 crores and got it for the budget of my next film. But as I have been always saying, everything depends upon my script, including the budget. If you see today, there is no film that is made for less than 7-8 crores and still my 'Corporate' got completed in 4 crores followed by 'Traffic Signal' which is again 4 crores.
People who work with you start respecting you a lot and have only good things to say about you. Case in point being Neetu Chandra who is simly awestruck. What could be the reason?
Well, though my films have a serious element to them, on the sets we have a lot of humor and jokes floating around. I make it a point that every actor and unit member is attended to and they feel comfortable with the setting. Also, my skill lies in the fact that I take people and make them act. I believe I can extract good performance from anyone, though personally I may be a miserable actor myself.