Video Editor: Deepthi Ramdass
Filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj talks to The Quint about his support to the anti CAA-NRC protests going on across the country. He raises some pertinent questions about patriotism and people’s inability to agree to disagree. During the conversation Bhardwaj also takes a dig at Akshay Kumar’s Canadian nationality. Following is a select excerpt from this interview:
What made you recite a protest poem in Mumbai?
I thought it is very important that we come out and speak because the things are not stopping at one point. Every fifteen days you are getting some or the other thing. And it becomes the duty of a creative person to come out and speak. If we don’t speak now then we will be so ashamed in the eyes of the future generations.
But what do you have to say about the fault lines that have got created in this process within your industry?
I think it’s being divided now cause earlier only the other side was vocal about it. Now they are being countered and I am so happy that Deepika Padukone went to the JNU protest and stood over there. It really needs guts. And I think we need more people like Deepika to come forward and specially the male actors.
There has also been a very unsavory sort of a controversy where two big names and fantastic artists in their own rights, Anupam Kher and Naseeruddin Shah, they locked horns in a very unpleasant manner. What do you have to say to that?
See people are having fun of that. And, and so yeah whenever such a thing happens the common public tends to have a lot of fun. And I think everyone is having fun of that. And, I am not happy about it. I am actually sad about it. They both must have been friends. They both must have worked together a lot. And the problem is, I think, why can’t we agree to disagree. My problem with this current system is that, how can we become anti-national if we don’t agree with you. I mean it’s fine.
There is also this allegation that people who are dissenting against the government, they have also become really rigid and people were attacking Twinkle Khanna for staying in her marriage with Akshay Kumar because they are both on different ends of the political spectrum, it seems. At least in public. What do you have to say about this sudden intolerance at all levels?
Yeah, yeah, I think this is also like, we also should respect the other side. They have a clear mandate, a mass mandate of 300 odd seats. He’s our Prime Minister. BJP is the ruling party. So, we should also, I mean, accept the mandate of the masses. Actually when I asked myself that the fabric of my country changed completely, maybe yes. Two months back, I was thinking that the fabric of this country changed but with these protests, I am not sure whether the fabric has changed. Because, it is still very alive and very textured. But yeah, this Twinkle and Akshay thing, yeah, that really surprises me. That two people, you know, live under the same roof, two different ideologies is really commendable... with two different nationalities. One is a Canadian citizen and one is an Indian citizen and it’s remarkable what they both are doing!
Mid-Interview, Vishal Became the Interviewer to Pull Akshay Kumar’s Leg
But, why do you think he left the Indian citizenship? Do you have any idea?
I don’t think he has spoken about it in public but the idea is, I think, when he was unable to find decent work in India which is why he went to Canada for a career prospect?
Which year was that? When did he not get the good work? I think for the past 20-25-30 years he has been ruling the box-office. So, one should really know about it. Because he is interviewing, a Canadian citizen is interviewing the premiere of this country. So the country really has the right to know when did he leave his citizenship. If his ‘ghar-wapsi’ is happening.
I think it is happening.
“I am saying this because there is a personal reason in this. I have a godson. His name is Aalaap Majgavkar and he was the editor of my film Rangoon. So, one year back he decided to shift to Canada. And I was very upset. I am still very upset. But, he had his personal reasons that wanted to and he said that India is not the place to be in anymore. I was like why should I leave my country. And I was very upset that he was going to the same country Canada. So, I used to play the Canadian anthem to him saying that now you must learn the Canadian anthem.”
If there is one film of yours that you would want our Prime Minister to watch, which one would that be?
Umm… Makdi. Yes. Makdi is a children’s movie with a very nice message. It is all about discrediting superstition that there are no ghosts and spirits. Totally non-political.
I don’t think that it is very non-political. Because we know that people like Dhabolkar and Gauri Lankesh, they were part of that rationalist group that actually talked about superstitions are not good and that Hindu society needs to reform and they paid a price, with their lives.
Yeah, that is a very sad chapter of our history. Dhabolkar, Pansare and to Gauri Lankesh. It’s very sad. Yeah. It makes me, you know the thought of those killings and every one knows that who has done it but nobody is doing anything. That’s very sad.
If you were the Prime Minister of the country, maybe for a month, what would be your priority at the moment?
There is a beautiful couplet by Bashir Badr Sahab, “I’ll pick up all the stars and give it away to poor people, I’ll pick up all the stars and give it away to poor people, If God were to give me one night’s rule in my hands”. Try giving me the reigns of the skies once and then see what I shall do with it.
As a filmmaker, as an entrepreneur and as an artist, what is your most pressing concern?
Pressing concern has been for the past three-four years, since the regime changed...when we criticize this government or the policies of this government, we don’t endorse Congress. My concern now is that when I think of a poem, when I think of a story now, I have to think twice. And when it goes to a money man or to a platform, they also scrutinize it that how the system will take it. We never thought about it. And whenever we made films, ‘Matru Ki Bijli Ka Mandola’ was released in Congress regime. I never thought about the fact that Rahul Gandhi’s name has been used in it. Politician Shabana Ji tells her son that look at Rahul, how well is he doing. Rahul Gandhi or Congress or Yuva Congress never gave us threats. I never even thought about it. So that is a sad thing. This is one big thing. I think they should do introspection and be broad minded and you know be big-hearted. They have mandate, they are in power, they should be big-hearted. We are also the citizens of this country. It’s not like we are foreigners. How can we be anti-nationals? Coining terms like ‘Tukde-tukde Gang’ and ‘Urban Naxals’, what the hell is this? We are also citizens of this country. Just because we don’t agree with you does not mean we are not from this country. Previously, when you didn’t agree with us, were you also not of this country? When there were riots in your state, then too you belonged to this country. Today, when you are in power, you still are from this country. We acknowledge the fact that you are the Prime Minister of this country. We do.
As a filmmaker how concerned are you about the ‘boycotts’? There is this trend of ‘cancel-culture’ in this country, right. Vishal Bhardwaj has said something which does not please us so let’s not watch his films at all. Does it concern you that your film, your art will pay the price of your views?
Now it concerns me for the financial reasons because if you know the law enforcement is not good, it’s the problem of law enforcement. The law is not willing to enforce itself. The authorities are not willing to enforce the law. That is the problem. Tomorrow, I can say something like I wouldn’t allow the biopic made on you to be released. So, just because I say it does not mean it will be enforced. The law has to come into play. The government, the governance and the state should be above this. Whatever your ideologies are, law enforcement should be not that the people who have been beaten up should have an FIR filed against them and the people who are actually beating them are being escorted by the police.
When you made Haider, there was a lot of hullaballoo about it that you are showcasing just one side of the story. Now another side of the story has come with Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s ‘Shikara’. How do you see this dialogue happening from within?
It was not a story showcasing both the sides because it was not as if both Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmiri Muslims hate each other. I chose to showcase as to how the common Kashmiris who are now living there are affected by the militancy which has been going on for 20 to 30 years. I didn’t think about Kashmiri Pandits. I personally feel that the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits has been the biggest tragedy of independent India. It is one of the most tragic parts or tragic events. When people started abusing me, I told them that Vinod Chopra of the Pandit community made ‘Mission Kashmir’ when he was at his prime. It didn’t even mention the ‘P’ of Pandits. You never questioned them? And, it’s good. It’s good. I am so happy that Vinod has made that film. I feel wherever injustice happens, it becomes the duty of the filmmaker, regardless of which community he belongs to, to speak about it. I don’t belong to any political party, neither did I love Congress nor do I love BJP nor will I fall in love with anyone else. I would always to be in a place and in a governance where if any injustice is happening, I am able to speak. I am not attached to anyone.