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Last week, somebody claiming to be Sanjay Gandhi’s daughter sent you a legal notice. What do you make of the latest drama surrounding the release of Indu Sarkar?
This person has sent the notice to three other people — Pahlaj Nihalani, Venkaiah Naidu and Bharat Shah. I got the notice on Wednesday, and we have no clue what exactly her claim is. She wants to see the film but she is yet to prove that she is Sanjay Gandhi’s daughter. I’ve given the letter to my lawyer and my producer and I will respond to it this week.
In a recent interview, you said that 70 per cent of the film is fiction and the rest is real. How did you hit upon that ratio?
The characters are partly inspired by a lot of real people, along with the underground activities that took place during the Emergency. There is a lot of material available on the subject — documentaries, the Shah Commission report, books — and I met several journalists who worked during the Emergency as well. But our main character is fictitious — Indu Sarkar, played by Kirti Kulhari, is an orphan and a poetess, and is married to a bureaucrat who works with the authorities; an ideological shift between the two occurs, and she joins the fight against the system. The film is not a biopic.
So, when and how did you decide to make a film set during the Emergency?
A year ago, my writer and I were thinking of setting a film in the 1970s. I’m a child of that era and I’ve been influenced by its music and cinema. I don’t have the patience to make ‘period-period’ films, which are largely costume dramas. We wanted to make a content-driven budget film on a strong subject. We came upon the subject of the Emergency and started researching it. We wanted to integrate the reality of the Emergency with a fictional story — which is what I have done in all my films. We met a lot of writers and journalists, people who were in the underground movements. Just the research took four months, then we wrote it, and later shot it in 41 days. I bought props from all over, like currency, furniture and so on, to authentically recreate that period.
The Congress is alleging that the film is “sponsored” by the BJP, and Jagdish Tytler has said that he’s been falsely depicted in the film. You also support Narendra Modi and his government, so how much of your personal politics will surface in Indu Sarkar?
I laughed a lot when I heard Jyotiraditya Scindia had said that. If that were the case, I would have made this film in 2019, before the elections. People have reacted strongly to the trailer, but people who feel offended should watch the film; I did my research and I can’t keep offering justifications to everyone. I don’t understand one thing — books have been written on the Emergency, which name people, documentaries too. They didn’t protest then, so why now? Will they remove everything from everywhere?
I’m vocal in my support for an individual, not a party. I support Scindia too, he’s a fantastic orator. Neither makes me a party person. My films are for everybody and they are watched by everybody. I have received awards when the Congress was in power; I have attended numerous events organised by them. We can disagree but we don’t have to be enemies. I’m not a fly-by-night filmmaker who is looking to create sensationalist stuff; I am somebody whose work has always rubbed some people the wrong way. I’ve made a film for those young people who don’t know about the Emergency at all.
You’ve spoken about your concerns regarding the CBFC (Central Board of Film Certification). You’ve made a case for your film because it is about freedom of speech and women empowerment, just like all your previous films. What did you make of the CBFC’s initial refusal to certify Lipstick Under My Burkha, which in a way, is also a film about freedom of speech and women empowerment?
My concern with regard to the CBFC is that this is a political film and talks about that era, so there should be freedom of expression. In a week I’ll be going to the censor board, and I feel it’s really sad for any filmmaker to have to change names and to tweak things because of external pressure.I haven’t seen Alankrita’s film. But the CBFC’s job is to give the certificate, unless there is a law and order situation with that film. Give the suitable rating, but give the film its certification.Regardless of the regime, I have always had a problem with the Censor Board — because they are contradictory.
In Page 3 and Traffic Signal, I show people taking drugs, and was given a U/A certificate for both. Both movies got National Awards. Later, I went to them with Fashion, and the leads are shown taking drugs. The Censor Board said, ‘Chop it and take your U/A certificate.’ Why should there be a different yardstick each time, when I am not showing anything that I haven’t shown before? I’m going to have the same problem with Indu Sarkar, with smoking scenes, and the language, I know it. I’ll have to make some cuts because of the pressure. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.