IN CONVERSATION: Shoojit Sircar, Director, ‘Madras Café’, The Man Who Loves Making Films

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From giving last minute interviews, clearing the air about controversies surrounding ‘Madras Café’, travelling across the country, Shoojit Sircar has been a busy man. It isn’t a light day for him ahead of the film’s release. But the director of ‘Madras Café’ spares some time for an exclusive interaction with Business Of Cinema.
From giving last minute interviews, clearing the air about controversies surrounding ‘Madras Café’, travelling across the country, Shoojit Sircar has been a busy man. It isn’t a light day for him ahead of the film’s release. But the director of ‘Madras Café’ spares some time for an exclusive interaction with Business Of Cinema.

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MUMBAI: From giving last minute interviews, clearing the air about the controversies surrounding ‘Madras Café’, travelling for the promotional activities, Shoojit Sircar and John Abraham have been quite busy. It wasn’t a light day ahead of the film’s release and Sunny Studios was buzzing with activity. Shoojit and John have been busy giving interviews and do not have a single minute to spare. While John Abraham heads for a quick lunch (home-packed!), Shoojit Sircar kindly manages to spare some time for an exclusive conversation with Business Of Cinema ahead of the film’s release. 

BOC: Madras Café is made with a lot of heart and effort but there are Tamil groups who are objecting to the film. What exactly are the anti-Tamil sentiments that are being talked about?

Shoojit: I exactly don’t know what exactly their (Tamil groups) objection is. I can say on record that this film does not take sides or is biased and hurts the sentiments of Tamil people or brothers and sisters. I have my best friends who are Tamilians, my writers are Tamilians so it’s not right. Once you watch the film, I am sure you will have no objection.

BOC: Your first ‘Yahaan’ was with Jimmy Shergill, ‘Vicky Donor’ with Ayushmann and now ‘Madras Café’ with John Abraham. While ‘Yahaan’ was critically acclaimed it didn’t taste as much box-office success as Vicky Donor. And in ‘Madras Café’ you are working with John Abraham who has tasted sweet success in Bollywood. So how important do you think a star value makes a difference to a film?

Shoojit: If a star comes in, say for example someone like John (Abraham), I definitely get a little more budget to make the film. But how a star affects the people watching the film that business I am really clueless. I only know how to make a film. Obviously it involves Economics. So I have been given a certain budget and I make on that budget.

BOC: With big stars come big budgets. Your views.

Shoojit: Of course I don’t get Hollywood budgets (jokingly) and I would love one day if I get really big budgets and no pressure of actors. I’ll be really happy! Somewhere down the line, the industry people tell me that star matters but I have not faced it till now. I am just two films old.

BOC: There are commercial potboilers one on side and an intelligent political thrillers like ‘Madras Café’ on the other. So how receptive you think audiences are to a film like ‘Madras Café’?

Shoojit: I think my responsibility is just to make films. I love making films. Commercial films will always work. We have grown up watching those films. But there is a section of the audience who love political cinema, will love to watch a film which is realistic. This film was purely made with the intention that I wanted to tell a story. And unless I cater my film to the audience, how do I know?

But I know this much that the difference between the potboilers and the films I make; the gap between the mainstreams cinemas can also be bridged by the kind of films I make. Last year was an example like Paan Singh Tomar, Vicky Donor and Barfi.

There is an audience who want to watch good cinema. I don’t mean good cinema is not entertaining. But I will be happy if you are walking out of the theatre and taking home something with you. Then I think my job is done.

BOC: Coming to the casting. Nargis Fakhri received a lot of flak for her acting in ‘Rockstar’. Do you see ‘Madras Café’ resurrecting her career?

Shoojit: I think so. I am very particular about my casting. I am very particular about my performances in all my films. So it will be a new Nargis Fakhri that one will see, it’s a re-launch. It’s a responsible role that she is playing of a war correspondent. So you know what kind of dangers a war correspondent goes through, how unbiased she has to be. So it made her automatically perform better because she got the weight of the character. Every actor deserves a second chance.

BOC: A film like ‘Madras Café’ set in the civil war era requires a lot of research. What was the main research that went into a film like this?

Shoojit: Frankly if I tell you, with a click of button you can get everything online. There is no rocket-science. There is everything available if you dig some sites. That was our main research. Rest were some books, some government reports, some Supreme Court files. (Smiles) But majorly, a lot was just on the click of a button.

BOC: You made a war film, a comedy and now a thriller in ‘Madras Café’. Will we see Shoojit make an out-and-out romantic film?

Shoojit: (Chuckles) Yes. I actually want to make a romantic film, an out-and-out romantic film and I am working on it. I would like to break some genres and keep testing myself and keep checking myself as to which is the genre I can work and challenge and say mazza aaye!

‘Madras Café’ was there with me even before ‘Vicky Donor’. But then suddenly ‘Vicky Donor’ came in so I did that. Then I started doing this film. I presume any story, which touches your hearts, bothers you somewhere in your mind; I would like to do it.

BOC: What different works can we see from you in the coming years?

Shoojit: I have a project lined up where I have to write. I haven’t written for Mr.Bachchan (Amitabh). He is a legend and one of the best actors we have. So immediately after ‘Madras Café’, Juhi (writer ‘Vicky Donor’) and I are sitting and finishing the script that we have promised him. That’s the first.

Then I am doing a film with Ayushmann and then I have a few projects lined up with John as well.

BOC: Do you see John Abraham (JA Entertainment) and you collaborating on future projects and films?

Shoojit: Between John (JA Entertainment) and us (Rising Sun Films) till now we have no conflicts. So our departments are quite clear. Most of the time the trouble in a partnership is the money. We are quite clear about our sharing ratios and till now have been quite transparent about our work. We have understood each other and would definitely like to continue.

BOC: John as an actor and John as a producer, you have worked with both in ‘Madras Café’. So how has the experience been?

Shoojit: It’s been good. In ‘Madras Café’, John first comes purely as an actor and then as a producer. But he has been a very good producer. We have divided our jobs and don’t interfere in each other’s jobs. I know how to make a film he knows how to market it! He knows how to keep the crew happy! And he has a complete blind faith in me, so I am really happy.