“My films just hold up a mirror to society’ – Madhur Bhandarkar
Traffic Signal is Madhur Bhandarkar’s third film, completing the trilogy he set out to make (Page 3 and Corporate included). Known for the rather peculiar subjects he picks for his films, he still manages to amalgamate real emotions into commercial ventures, resulting in a worthwhile visual experience.
Here Bhandarkar talks about Traffic Signal, his dreams and aspirations to Businessofcinema.com’s Sanjay Ram.
How did the concept for traffic signal come about?
The concept came to me when I was working on Corporate, wondering what to make next. As Page 3 and Corporate dealt with the subject of the elite in society, I wanted to make a contrasting film next.
While walking to the Siddhivinayak temple every Tuesday, I would see beggars and eunuchs at the signals and I would wonder about their origins and friendships. It was intriguing to see that the red signal meant employment for them. That was when I decided to make a film on them.
Why was it important to make a film like Traffic Signal?
Traffic Signal is basically the last of the three films that make up this trilogy. Page 3 focused on the social set from a journalist’s point of view, Corporate looked at life from the corporate point of view, and also how an employee falls victim to big players. After these two movies, I wanted to deliberately get into a different spectrum of cinema and hence, Traffic Signal.
Why do you term these three films your trilogy?
Each of these films relate to the three strata of society, and what happens in the society of these different worlds. Since there is a common undercurrent to all three, they can be termed as a trilogy of sorts.
Would it be fair to call it an expose?
Why? My movies are not exposes, maybe they just hold up a mirror to society. My movies are not judgmental; I just show what happens in our society, sometimes there could be a solution and sometimes there may be none. Life goes on.
What should viewers expect from Traffic Signal?
Traffic Signal is new, original and innovative. I think I have made a decent film and if you have liked Page 3 and Corporate, then I am sure you will like this film.
Were the actors featured in the film your first preferences?
(Smiling) No. As a matter of fact, when I was writing the script, there were two – three stars I was talking to who liked the concept. But the minute the script developed, I felt a big star will bring his own baggage or an existing image to the character. So we decided to take someone rather new, hence we zeroed in on Kunal Khemu; who was brilliant in Kalyug.
Why did you cast Sudhir Mishra as well?
Well, I was looking for an actor to fit the role of ‘Bhaijaan’, and while discussing the script with my friend Ashoke Pundit, he suggested that I cast Sudhir Mishra. I thought over it and then decided to ask Sudhir. He was apprehensive initially, and even said that he couldn’t act! I told him I would make him act, and that was that!
Why it is that one never sees you casting an outright mainstream actor?
This is not deliberate; a lot of people have always asked me this question. It’s just that I give importance to my script, and this script requires realistic actors. There are many stars I want to work with, and vice versa. I would definitely cast a star, if the script requires a star.
It is said that music takes a backseat in your films.
Honestly, I don’t think so. Obviously, my films are not musical at all and music is given second priority in my films. But so far, the music of all my films has been successful, be it ‘Kuan Maa Doob’ and ‘Kitne Ajeeb’ from Page 3 or ‘Lamha Lamha’ and ‘O Sikandar’ from Corporate, they all have been at the top of the music charts. Now ‘Ai Ga’ has become a rage.
Do you believe Traffic Signal will spell box office success, considering it is a rather unusual subject and has never been tried before?
I am sure people will like the film; there is no reason not to like Traffic Signal.
I am not a commercial filmmaker, I cannot gauge a film’s success. I am an experimental filmmaker, experimenting with different subjects is what I do.
What is the film’s budget and how much is likely to be utilised for marketing the film?
The budget of Traffic Signal is roughly Rs 45 million (Rs 4.5 crore). We plan to spend approximately a little over Rs 10 million (Rs one crore) on marketing the movie. The traditional marketing has already begun, including the television promos and outdoor billboards.
Do you believe this film can win you another National Award?
I have never planned a film hoping to bag a National Award. Awards are an appreciation. I never thought that I would get one for Chandni Bar and Page 3. I think the film is strong in content and people will like the film. If awards come our way, it will certainly boost our morale.
Is it true that a sequel to Chandni Bar is in the pipeline?
(Laughing) Yes, Chandni Bar is something I wanted to make. You see, all my films are open ended, but Chandni Bar provided me with two options, either to continue the film from where it ended or a completely new subject addressing what happened to the bar girls once the dance bars shut down. I am toying with the idea, but I will start only when I am satisfied with the script.
Has the ground work for Fashion begun and has anyone been finalised as yet?
Oh absolutely, the work has begun. I have been attending all the fashion weeks; have been meeting various fashion designers, models and organisers. No one has been finalised. Once the script is ready, I will begin casting, but as of now, the script is what is most important.
What is your remuneration agreement with Percept Picture Company like?
It’s a three film deal. Technically, the remuneration is based on the film’s success, but I share a great rapport with the company and Shailendra Singh.
What about UTV? Do you have a deal with the company?
Definitely, I am working on Fashion with UTV. I am a person who does my homework well before a new film so I am not in a hurry to make five films at one time; I am not in the rat race.
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