Bhardwaj is the guest at the Express Adda in New Delhi. He is talking about his films, music and changes in the film industry with The Indian Express Deputy Editor Seema Chishti.
The Express Adda is a series of informal interactions organised by The Indian Express Group and features those at the centre of change. Recent guests at the Adda have included Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, musician T M Krishna, ecologist Romulus Whitaker, oncologist and author Dr Siddhartha Mukherjee, actors Swara Bhasker, Anushka Sharma and Varun Dhawan.
WATCH LIVE STREAMING – Vishal Bhardwaj at #ExpressAdda
He was among the first directors in Hindi cinema to bring the rough and tumble of the hinterland into our living rooms, and gave us powerful and complex women characters in his films. Vishal Bhardwaj is a filmmaker who wears many hats, and one who has created a special brand of cinema in his career spanning over two decades. He entered the film industry as a music composer in 1995 with the children’s movie Abhay and went on to write and direct films such as Maqbool (2003), Omkara (2006), Kaminey (2009), Haider (2014) and Rangoon (2017).
Bhardwaj’s breakthrough work in film music was for the movie Maachis (1996), directed by Gulzar, which he followed up with Satya (1998). Bhardwaj has remained one of the constant collaborators of the iconic poet-lyricist. In fact, he has, on many occasions, admitted that music remains his first love and that he makes movies only to make more music. His music combines rustic tunes and soulful melodies, spanning a wide range from a peppy Beedi Jalai Le to the hummable Jhin Min Jhini.
An acclaimed music composer, writer and director, Bhardwaj made his debut as a feature film director in 2002 with Makdee, featuring Shabana Azmi as a witch. However, it was with Maqbool, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, that he established himself as a director to watch out for. He has since made two more adaptations of Shakespeare — Omkara (2006), set in the badlands of western Uttar Pradesh, was based on Othello, and Haider, which had Kashmir as its backdrop, was a retelling of Hamlet. In Omkara, Bhardwaj gave us Langda Tyagi, a never-seen-before character based on Shakespeare’s Iago and cast the suave Saif Ali Khan to play him.
He has also directed the caper thriller Kaminey, 7 Khoon Maaf (2011) based on Ruskin Bond’s story Susanna’s Seven Husbands, and the satire Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola (2013). Bhardwaj is known for his intense dramas, powerful writing, and well-fleshed out characters that often come with shades of grey. He has garnered much praise for his depiction of women in his films. Be it the strong-willed Nimmi based on Lady Macbeth in Maqbool, who is at once both seductive and menacing, or the beautiful Dolly inspired by Desdemona in Omkara, his women are not one dimensional but come with many layers.
Bhardwaj is also a successful producer, and has mentored the likes of Abhishek Chaubey with whom he collaborated on Ishqiya and Dedh Ishqiya. His other projects as a producer include Ek Thi Daayan and Talvar, which he also wrote. His upcoming film Pataakha, an adaptation of a short story by Hindi writer Charan Singh Pathik, is a tale of two warring sisters.