Don’t expect ‘oh, it was great working with so and so actor’ quotes from Prakash Jha. He isn’t someone who is trapped in the world of stars. Now that sounds strange for someone who has managed to get some of the top line actors and stars in his political drama cum thriller Raajneeti. Ajay Devgn and Arjun Rampal are two contrasting actors who can set the screen ablaze. Manoj Bajpai is in the league of his own while Ranbir Kapoor and Katrina Kaif are youngsters who are clearly ready to rule for an entire decade to come. Still, Jha believes (and rightly so) that a film works due to the story which is told rather than the stars.
In a conversation with Joginder Tuteja, the man behind hard hitting films like Gangaajal and Apaharan reveals his reasons behind taking time to make films, the entertainment quotient (or the lack of it) which is thought of during the writing process and how Ajay stays on to be a constant feature in each of his newer films.
It is the story and the narrative that should engage and involve you in those 2.5 – 3 hours
It has been five years since the release of your Gangaajal. Now comes Raajneeti and there is so much gap between the two films. Why is that so? Is it intentional?
Yes, I do take time to make films and that’s because I never tell a usual tale. I get something topical, something which has not been told and then bring in a lot of ingredients to it. I concentrate a lot on getting the narrative right and also putting everything in place during the pre-production stage itself. Due to this, there is this gap which does come between two films of mine.
Some may believe that a political drama is a relatively dry subject to be told on celluloid. While working on the narrative of Raajneeti, how did you keep the entertainment quotient intact?
Kisi cheez ka aisa koyi quotient nahi hota. At the end of the day, it is the story and the narrative that should engage and involve you in those 2.5 – 3 hours. If that doesn’t engage you then whatever you may make, it won’t work for the audience. You can have the best of the locations, artists and big money but only that is not good enough to work for the film. We have seen a lot of such things happening in the past. This is why sometimes you may be making a small film but it clicks with the audience just because there was a terrific story to tell.
For example Dev D. It was a small film and an experimental one at that. Still, people liked it. It made money for all involved and also fetched quite some critical acclaim for itself. So you don’t necessarily have to aspire to make a big film with stars all around. Even that may not work after all.
Ajay is not just a great professional, he is also a very nice human being
Well, one does believe strongly that Raajneeti is all set to click with the audience. Do you see them coming from smaller cities and towns only or even metropolitan cities?
I will give an example of my own films – Gangaajal and Apaharan. Both these films worked in the interiors of UP as well as multiplexes. Similarily for Raajneeti as well, I have my target as audiences from all over.
In fact after Kites, your film is also expected to bail out the industry from the current crisis it is in.
I would say it is the wrong way of looking at things. Yes, when a film works then it benefits everybody. There are good actors in the film toh thodi expectations toh hogi hi logon mein.
You sound diplomatic. After all the name Prakash Jha also counts, isn’t it?
No, that’s not really justified. The end of the day it is all about a film and not a director. All expectations should be on a film after all. Initially people may think that it is a Prakash Jha film and come to theatres with lot of expectations. But eventually it is a film which works, nothing else.
Meanwhile, one hears that your next film would be looking at exploring a relationship based subject. As again, Ajay’s presence seems mandatory in the film. Why is it so that ever since Dil Kya Kare, he has a constant presence in your films, whether it is Gangaajal, Apaharan or Raajneeti?
(Smiles) Uske saath maza aata hai kaam karne mein. Not just is he a great professional, he is also a very nice human being. That gives him an extra edge. There is a huge understanding that both of us have for each other. He has a huge range and can do anything. No wonder, whenever I am in the process of writing a film, there is one or the other character that ends up suiting him. Issi liye Ajay ke liye meri films mein jahag apne aap hi ban jaati hai.