Mrunal Manmay Dash

Eminent filmmaker and director, Hansal Mehta who participated in Tarang Cine Production’s conclave, Tarang Cine Flix at Bhubaneswar said that there is no place called Bollywood.

The session with Hansal Mehta was moderated by the Managing Director of Olive Ridley Media, Samar Pratap Nayak.

Speaking about the comparison between Bollywood and other regional movies, Mehta said, “Bollywood does not exist. It only exists in the mind of those people who trivialise a particular kind of cinema and so does regional cinema. It is a derivative term. In fact it is derogatory, because we make a wide variety of films that tell stories about the entire country, not only about Mumbai or a particular region.”

“Hindi is not our National language. It is just spoken by a number of people. And so does Gujarati, Marathi or Odia for that matter. These languages are as mainstream as Hindi. So there is no regional cinema for me at all,” he added.

Storytelling through cinema is so much beyond what we see today. That is why I find the terms Bollywood and regional cinema very reductive. In order to justify mediocrity, we reduce the cinema into these terms like mainstream Bollywood or regional cinema.

Some films recover a lot of money, some films recover less and there are some which do not make money. But that is not the yardstick. That is not why films are made. I made the movie Shahid with Rajkumar Rao with just Rs 35 lakhs. It was a success the day it was released. I do not know how much it made at the box office, but it fed the eco-system with an actor called Rajkumar Rao.

When Nayak brought the Hansal Mehta master class, Aligarh to the discussion and said that a particular scene when the protagonist, played by Manoj Bajpai broke down while singing a song in the movie, shaped his (Nayak’s) artistic inclination, Mehta said that the particular scene has told him that yes, he (Mehta) can make films too.

“In fact, the scene was not in the script. It just happened. This is all about doing good films. You don’t anticipate anything. It just happens."

It is pertinent to mention here that Mehta had earlier in an interview said that he is a product of failure and disappointment.

Clarifying on that point, Mehta further said, “I had said it in a very positive way. My first film was ‘Jayate’. As it happened, I lost my way while finding it. I am not afraid to say that I failed as a story teller, I failed as a filmmaker, but I never gave up. I think I am still searching for my voice through the characters that I place in my movies.”

Asked if there is a particular theme he is inclined to do films on, Mehta said, “A story is born out of empathy. So I chose characters with whom I can empathise even if they are negative in nature. I think my upbringing, and perhaps my political leanings have drawn me to do stories like these. The stories come out of concern, empathy and anger too. So my films, while they look empathetic and soft are born out of anger. There is a deep rooted anger inside me and it has kept me alive."

Speaking about Mehta’s movie Omerta, where a terrorist hacked a man to death and Rajkumar Rao had said that he could sympathise with the terrorist, Mehta said, “It is ok to be faithful to your story. There are no black and white in the movie. The line between them is blurred. I wanted to explore why the man did that. People just justify these things to themselves. I wanted to explore that.”

“As far as my storytelling is concerned, I try to tell my stories through the character and not through the plot. That is where the OTT has helped filmmakers like me immensely. Not every film can be made in two hours. Some films are longer and the storyteller wants to tell the story a little while longer,” he said.

“I grew up in Bombay and it was such a homogenised society back in my younger days. I could identify myself with everyone. But at some point of time something shifted and things changed. My films have come out of that pain,” Mehta said.