“I DON’T GIVE A DAMN ABOUT HITS AND FLOPS!”
This man needs no introduction. The love for our motherland and the respect for the faujis is beautifully translated into a four hour long journey by this uber talented filmmaker. Known for acing the genre of war and patriotic films, National Award Winner, JP DUTTA, who has given Indian cinema, films like Border and LoC is back after a hiatus with the third installment of the trilogy Paltan. In a freewheeling chat with the man himself, Sharbani Mukherjee tries to understand the gifted filmmaker’s filmi journey, his passion for films, music and more. Read on…
Although you hail from a filmi family, you’ve created a niche for yourself. How has your journey in Bollywood been?
I have been really fortunate that I have got away with murder. I have walked my walk, I have talked my talk – all thanks to my technical team and all the people who I have worked with over the years. They have had so much faith in me and trusted me so much that even without a bound script they’ve worked and that in itself is such a blessing from the Almighty and that in itself is a big high.
Are you satisfied with the kind of journey you’ve had as an individual and a filmmaker?
Obviously there have been both good and frustrating times. But overall, if you ask me as an individual, a person who is spiritual, I’d say everything is fine. As a filmmaker it goes into another zone altogether and there are more negatives than positives. That is also because there is a perception in the film industry that for no reason or fault of mine they feel, I’ll put it in one line – This has been the refrain that I have heard in my entire career. That’s your film Yeh apne aap ko samajhta kya hai? industry for you. But as a person, I feel blessed, in fact blessed more than expected.
What are your views about the Hindi film industry?
When I’d walked into RK Studio as an assistant, I’d come in with so many lofty ideas of making motion picture, this and that and it all came crumbling down. It was such a shift. Everyone is talking about scripts and films and everything else but motion picture. And maybe because I saw all that, I became isolated to the film industry, I just kind of cut off from the whole social circuit. There are very mixed sort of feelings I have towards my fraternity, do they hate my guts or what it is I don’t know. And it was my dad’s misfortune that for almost 18-19 years he didn’t have work. That’s why I was very alien to the film industry. So, when he didn’t have work, everybody disappeared. If you’re not successful, you’re over. So I really didn’t interact with the film industry as such. It was just those initial years but after that nothing. But till my brother and I could stand on our feet, we were always financially down. But anyway, that’s a part of life. Today, regional cinema is far ahead of us. Shekhar Kapur is making this statement now but I’d said the same thing back in 2012.
What changes have you observed in Bollywood as a filmmaker?
I think that there is definite growth in our film industry. Actors are much more dedicated, more hardworking, very focused, technicians are good and all that has grown and been very positive. The only negative side is the music. It has degenerated. Like I always tell Nidhi and Siddhi,
There is a perception in the film industry that yeh apne ap ko samajhta kya hai.”
my daughters, and the present generation, that if you need to understand the culture and the wisdom of India, listen to the songs from the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s and you will get exactly what India stands for. Because then, films were films, directors were directors, music was music, and actors were actors, it was a golden period. There was a height of talent that you could see, like there was SD Burman and Ravi and Naushad and Shankar Jaikishan and Kalyanji- Anandji and Laxmikant Pyarelal, they were all there together. And they also had some of the greatest lyricists like Sahir Ludhianvi and some others, they wrote such lyrics that you could understand the psyche of the country. The other day I was playing a song by Sahir, sung by Lata Mangeshkar, and it struck me that there hasn’t been a single subject which this man hasn’t written about.
Have you had a chance of interacting with these men professionally?
I had worked with him (Sahir) on a film that didn’t release. I had recorded five songs with him and Laxmikant Pyarelal in 1976. I was 26 at that time, I was making a film on Pakistani prisoners of war in India but the film never got to see the light of the day. I am lucky to have worked with them. I also worked with Gulzar and although the song never got recorded, the lyrics were written by Kaifi Azmi. And as a child I had visited the sets of Mughal-e-Azam with my father and met K.Asif. The director was very friendly to my father. So he asked me to listen to all the songs during the lunch break. Amongst it, was also a popular song, ‘Jo vada kiya woh nibhaana padega’. So yes, it has been a blessing, more than I expected.
Do you plan to rework and get the unreleased film on the silver screen anytime soon?
(laughs) I don’t know. It is more like an anti-war film, which makes a big statement against war.
Isn’t it difficult juggling between the roles of an actor, director and a producer?
Not at all. I feel very blessed. Saraswati maa has blessed me on that, it is the easiest part of the job.
Your films tell the true story and you have to manage this huge ensemble cast for your latest film Paltan. So doesn’t it get on your nerves?
Not at all, it gives me a high. My happiness lies in making films! If I am not making films, I am sad. Whatever it is, be it a hit or a flop, I hand it over to my Almighty.”
Stills from Border