I’ve been trying to analyse how different sort of people like Hazaaron. Some people fall in love with it and develop a sort of relationship with it. A lot of young people, students like it. The generation that lived through that period is grateful that someone made a film of that time and caught them as they were. The IAS wives association likes it!
I really get quite astounded. I have corporate heads say they love it. Sometimes, I imagine why would corporate heads like a film like this. Some people see it as a dark political film, some see it as a relationship film. I think it has doors through which you can walk in.
I showed it in Patna, Bihar. There was a young minister sitting there, someone in the chief minister’s cabinet and 6-7 of his security guards; cops. I was sitting there and towards the end of the film, when Vikram gets battered by the cops, I thought the real cops would turn around and get after me but later on they came to me and said, “yeh bahut real tha”. Aise hi hota hai. Humko karna parta hai aisa.” (It was quite real. It’s always like this. We have to react like this at times.)
Sometimes things do happen during the making of a film. The right story comes to you. The right actors come. In a sense it has revived my career in a very big way. Today who is Sudhir Mishra! They say it’s the Hazaaron director. It’s a little unfair on the other films. I start feeling sorry for Dharavi. I was quite fond of it. But, this is how it is. I thought of Hazaaron post Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin. It took about 5-6 years and quite a lot of rewrites. I first wrote it with Shiv Subramanium and then with Ruchi Narain.
In the beginning when I wrote it there was a 4th part as well. There was another transition. It was supposed to be in some future time in 2010 or 2020 but that was becoming a bit too much. .… Hazaaron is also a lot rewritten in the shooting. There’s no one method in film making. I tend to follow an impulse at the time of the shoot. That’s when the whole atmosphere and the whole unit come together. There’s an energy that happens. I follow that impulse and it takes you somewhere. If I made Hazaaron now it would be different and if I made it in 1996 it would have been different. It’s who you are at that time. It’s your entire thought process.
Also, some people have this strange relationship with Hazaaron. They come to me and say “Oh, I loved it but I don’t know if someone else will understand it.” There’s an assumption within audiences, which is very dangerous. In most of the reviews for Hazaaron, mostly all of them like it a lot and then they say, but it is strictly for so and so, strictly for the discerning. I find that a little presumptuous.
It’s a film about these people but it’s not really me. My politics is different from Naxal politics, for example. My politics is different from Vikram as well. But there is a time, a place and a country when people veer towards an existing ideology. And the attraction of a lot of people towards the left in those days and even now till 1990s was and is that they thought this was not the best of all possible worlds. And therefore they had that idea of change. But, I don’t think they grasped the implications of that totally.
I think the idea was that the few groups that were talking, were talking of dismantling what existed. I don’t think they thought too much about what would come after. And the problem with these ideologies has been that they have not envisioned the world that they want to bring. They merely want to dismantle what exists. Therefore revolutions fail. And all ideologies attempt to show you this pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Therefore, sometimes, an advertisement of a communist state and a fairness cream become similar. Every thing is offering you a heaven in the end, including religion.
In Hazaaron, Geeta is the person who understands that the world doesn’t change merely because you want it to and the change happens as a result of an interaction between a lot of things. Maybe women understand defeat easier and take loss better. Maybe. Vikram is the guy who is trying to be who he is not. Somewhere when his father rises up in him, he faces the kind of end he does. He is troubled. He’s always trying to be what he’s not. That’s the contradiction of Vikram. Through Geeta he keeps getting drawn back to something. Otherwise, he’s quite successful in what he’s done.
Lot of people see Vikram and Siddharth as different types of people. Actually they are three people of around the same kind. They are all aspects of our selves. Vikram is not really a son of a bitch. Though this is a non judgmental film, being non judgmental with these characters is not something that you consciously do, it’s who you are. It comes from a viewpoint.
In Dharavi, Rajkaran Yadav is a taxi driver, who in one moment, in his ambition betrays his friends. He gets carried away with power. His wife walks out on him. Is his wife right or is he right. We are not judging him.
And this is one of the problems that audiences and even cinematic literate audiences have with my films. Even in the art film formula of the 70s there was the innocent posited against the evil oppressor. So, there was the Zamindar as oppressor. But it’s more complicated than that in our world now. The simple Chaplinesque, innocent is not possible any more either. We all carry the world in our heads and we are all corrupted ourselves.
Some audiences are also like children wanting to root for somebody, like the Lagaan cricket team, for example. A lot of films hence, are variations attempted to be Lagaan. Lagaan does that most successfully. But, mostly in life, you don’t find that at all, so you try and find that in films. And that’s even how scriptwriting is taught. You find a character. You have to root for this guy.
Can anybody make a film about someone who is not so right, not so perfect, yet who is killed in a riot? But it was wrong, that he was killed in a riot. For example, there might be someone who is somewhat of a bastard. But you can’t kill him because someone you idolized died. Make a film like that and who do you root for? Then you’ll say, who is the hero! The adult thing in life is that as much as you disagree with somebody you can’t kill him. That’s a mature world.
Faiths may disagree with each other and all religions disagree with one another that’s why they are different. All this con that people say there is one God. If it was that easy, then why do you fight! Many religions are against each other. There is some element in them which is in opposition with the other. The maturity of the world has to be that you live with those differences.
I am quite glad that Hazaaron worked at a level that it did even then. I don’t know if you can root for Vikram. Maybe you can, because he is in love. But Geeta is not in love with him and is in love with Siddharth who is a bit caught up with himself and the notion of what he wants to do. Geeta leaves her husband for no particular reason except for that she married wrong. There’s a lot of grey there. In all of them. But still at least a certain section of the audiences are becoming adult.
Actually nobody has ever written on Hazaaron in terms of Geeta. Maybe it’s a success of the writing or the way the actress played it or the combination of all these things that you don’t judge her. Here she is a girl who is in love with one person in the beginning of the film, making another guy hang around her and sort of using him a bit. And then walking out on all of them into a marriage and then coming back realizing it’s a wrong marriage. All this, while she keeps using this hanger-on, Vikram. And in the end when this guy really needs her, and he’s actually a vegetable, helpless, she’s giving him a shoulder and he doesn’t even know it.
Geeta is a complicated woman. There are very few women characters like that in Indian cinema. Critics are used to characters who shout from the rooftops and women who quote the entire mythology of the country in order to justify sleeping with someone.
In Hazaaron it passes fluidly. There’s a scene in the film where Vikram comes with a bottle of champagne when Geeta is back in Delhi. He says, “your husband Arun came to see me.” She asks, “So what did he say”. Vikram answers, “he asked if I was in love with his wife and I said yes I was in love with her”. And she laughs. She says, “Thanks Vikram, I was just going to get horribly sentimental.” Now that could be a bitch! She laughs! Then she comes out and says, “I am not going to live here”. She made him buy that flat!
The scene in the end with Vikram is Geeta’s redemption where she has to look after him. Actually she made this guy do what he did and at this point she has to reconcile with the fact that she has to look after him. She never actually did anything for him in the whole film and she used him totally. And he’s still muttering, I love you.
While making Hazaaron, I thought very few people make films about ‘us’. Usually films are about ‘them’. About that cab driver, that prostitute. This is a film about us and there is the failure of all those who were priviledged and were conscious of that fact and were a bit guilt ridden about it and wanted to somewhat change. They still carry vestiges of some of the ideas within them.
But, then in Khoya Khoya Chand, my next film I step out of that territory totally. It’s the same film maker, though. Even if you go into other territories, it’s you. Here I try to make a film about ‘me’ more than anything. Of course you put a story in a time to deliberately distance yourself. You put it in the 50s and 60s which is a period of cinema I like. It’s a film about people who are in this medium and the difficulty of it all.