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EXCLUSIVE: Madhur Bhandarkar talks about Babli Bouncer; SLAMS the idea of workshops; opens up on possible collaboration with Shah Rukh Khan

en Bollywood News EXCLUSIVE: Madhur Bhandarkar talks about Babli Bouncer; SLAMS the idea of workshops; opens up on possible collaboration with Shah Rukh Khan

Madhur Bhandarkar is known for making realistic cinema but once in a while, he has attempted light-hearted entertainers as well. His upcoming film, Babli Bouncer, is miles away from the hard-hitting fares he is known for. In an exclusive interview to Bollywood Hungama, the director speaks about the film and a lot more.

EXCLUSIVE: Madhur Bhandarkar talks about Babli Bouncer; SLAMS the idea of workshops; opens up on possible collaboration with Shah Rukh Khan

EXCLUSIVE: Madhur Bhandarkar talks about Babli Bouncer; SLAMS the idea of workshops; opens up on possible collaboration with Shah Rukh Khan

Could you tell us the process of making Babli Bouncer?
The script of Babli Bouncer came to me around three years ago. It appealed to me as it was a different subject. No film has been made on a bouncer, that too on a lady bouncer. Also, no one had ever used ‘Bouncer’ in their title yet. I always try to go to unexplored areas. We started writing the script with Amit Joshi and Aradhana Sah. This was a time when I was working on multiple ideas. One of the ideas was that of an action film, Inspector Ghalib. I was toying with a dark subject too. The action film however attracted me as I had not made such a movie since Aan: Men At Work (2004).

Sadly, COVID-19 happened and things came to a standstill. It took a while for things to resume and the industry took baby steps. By then, I had begun work on a film titled India Lockdown. Things fell in place with this film and it went on floors first. Babli Bouncer’s writers penned the script of India Lockdown too. It was made on a tight budget starring Prateik Babbar, Sai Tamhankar, Shweta Basu Prasad, Prakash Belwadi and Aahana Kumra. We had an amazing cast and we shot in just 25-26 days in real locations of Mumbai and Pune.

I was contemplating what to do next and around this time, Amrita Pandey of Junglee Pictures approached me. She has been a good friend and I worked with her in Fashion and Heroine, when she was in UTV Motion Pictures. She had heard the script of Babli Bouncer and loved it. She called me and told me that Disney+ Hotstar is looking at making a Hindi original. They asked me if I’d be interested in making it for them. I first thought that they want to make a web series, which I was not keen on with this subject. However, she assured me that they want to make a film. I came on board as India Lockdown was quite serious. Hence, I wanted to make a light subject and Babli Bouncer fit the bill.

How did Tamannaah Bhatia come on board?
I narrated the full script to the Hotstar team. They loved it. They were laughing throughout the narration. We were then thinking about whom to cast. The Hotstar team suggested that we should cast Tamannaah Bhatia. Honestly, I had not seen any work of hers, except for Baahubali. Even Baahubali I didn’t remember properly as I had seen it long ago. I searched for her images and I was wondering if she’d fit in the role of Babli. The producers told me to meet her and see if I feel she can do justice.

She came to our office and we both met in this very room. My writer and I narrated the script and she fell down the chair laughing. She told me, “I am a huge fan of your work. You are known for making serious cinema. I can’t believe you are going to make this movie!” Though she had seen Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji (2011), she felt this was ahead of that in terms of humour. She also said that she could see herself as Babli. I was not sure how to trust her. I told her that I’d not like to see any work of hers and would treat her as a newcomer. I said, ‘Consider this film as your relaunch’. She even mentioned this at the trailer launch of the film.

My brief to her was that 'You just play the character the way I tell you to.’ She’s a Mumbai girl and has lived quite a lot in the South. I was apprehensive about how she’d pick up the language. She took diction classes and also kept a coach on the set. She’s hard-working and she gave her 100%. She knew that she was working with a director who had extracted some of the finest performances from her actresses.

We shot most of the film in Chandigarh. Things moved quickly. I went on floors on February 14 and now on September 23, it is being released.

EXCLUSIVE Madhur Bhandarkar talks about Babli Bouncer; SLAMS the idea of workshops; opens up on possible collaboration with Shah Rukh Khan

Did she undergo workshops?
I don’t do workshops. I don’t believe in it. I’d prefer putting actors in front of the cameras and then instructing them. That’s my style as I like doing impromptu things. A lot of actresses have told me that they have done workshops for weeks and on the sets, everything changes! They say, “We were told something else but on the sets, something else was happening!”. Hence, their prep went to waste. My idea is, “Set pe tum aa jaaoFir main batata hoon kya karna hai”. I have worked with so many non-actors in films like Traffic Signal and Page 3. They knew nothing about acting. In Jail, I cast real inmates. Even if it’s a blink-and-miss role of a waiter, I’d ensure he looks like one. I am a pathetic actor but I have a knack for extracting good performances. But if someone tells me to act, I can’t.

But you have acted in your films!
And those were cringeworthy performances! In Calendar Girls, a director wanted to be cast. However, he was stuck in Chennai and couldn’t make it. My producer insisted that I should play the part. I tweaked the character and took a dig at myself! A character sees me and says, “Madhur Bhandarkar ab inpe bhi film banayega”!

Your cameo in Rangeela is quite memorable…
I was the associate director of that film. I had worked before with Ramu in Raat and Drohi. We were shooting in Goa. There was no suitable actor to play Gulshan Grover’s assistant director. Ramu was being Ramu and also he was my boss. He ordered me to play the role. I refused but he insisted I play it. He said, ‘You are basically playing yourself, an assistant to a director. It’s not like you are playing a doctor or engineer’! W B Rao, the cinematographer, was playing the cinematographer. Urmila Matondkar and Jackie Shroff’s make-up men were playing themselves. So, he told me to act. Then, Jackie Shroff came and said, ‘Chal bhidu, aa ja camera ke saamne. Kya sharma raha hai tu?’! I had no option and hence, I acted. Now, what happened was that whichever scene featured Gulshan Grover, I was also a part of it. Throughout the film, if you see, I am there!

Even today, on social media, people keep putting up my clips! Moreover, it was mentioned on Wikipedia that Madhur Bhandarkar debuted as an actor in Rangeela. Many people thought I was a failed actor and hence, I became a director! Had I wanted to become an actor, I would have as I had got a lot of offers. A lot of actresses have asked me why I don't act in films. Sadly, in these 25 years, I never got the guts to become an actor. I have only done cameos where I have played myself. I won’t play Rahul or Raj or Vijay. It’ll look very odd!

Your first film Trishakti (1999) flopped but Chandni Bar (2001) changed the tide for you. In an interview, you mentioned, “I had cast an actor in Trishakti, who owned a bar. He got me access. He made me sit in the bar dancers’ dressing room and told them that I am a documentary filmmaker”. Could you tell us who this actor was?
In Trishakti, there was this character who was the don of Dhobi Ghat. His real name is Jaikar Anna. He owned a bar in Andheri East. He helped me out a lot. I approached him and told him that I neither drink nor do I have the money to splurge on the bar dancers! However, I requested him to give me access to the green room. He was kind enough to accept my request. I even cast him in Chandni Bar, as the butcher. He told the bar girls that I am doing research. Slowly, I got friendly with the girls and that’s how Chandni Bar happened. I must have gone to 50-60 bars.

Your acclaimed film, Page 3 (2005) clashed with Kisna. No one expected anything from that film. However, it was not just a box office hit but also considered to be one of the best films in the last 20 years…
I go by my guts. I remember people used to laugh at me when I was making a film on such a topic. Thankfully, Satta (2003) and Chandni Bar had put me in the category of a good filmmaker. Satta might not have done great business at the box office but it was a breakeven film. Today, it is one of the top ten political films made in Indian cinema.

How did you get the idea to make Page 3?
I was a nobody. I used to gate crash parties tagging along with someone’s secretary or a wannabe actor. I slowly became the person who used to be invited to every party. I’d be approached by film personalities and politicians and they would rave about my films. Chandni Bar and Satta cemented me as a filmmaker strongly. I suddenly realized how your success changes the behaviour of people. After I made Trishakti, if I would stand with a character actor at a party, photographers would be like ‘Oye, baaju hatt’. The moment actors would see me, they’d turn around and pretend to be chatting with their friends and that they are busy.

EXCLUSIVE Madhur Bhandarkar talks about Babli Bouncer; SLAMS the idea of workshops; opens up on possible collaboration with Shah Rukh Khan

Did success change you?
I come from a humble background. I had seen poverty to the core. I was never mesmerized by the world of glamour. I am still the same. Today, if I don’t have my car, I’ll hail an auto. I’d have wada pav from the roadside stalls. I have never hired Man Fridays or chamchas around me. There are periods when I have not made films. I would use this time to travel abroad and visit spiritual places and film festivals. I love to interact with people. My means are limited. I am practical and you’d never hear me say, ’10 years from now, I’ll be ruling the industry’. I don’t belong to any lobby or camp. I make films the way I want to. Some did well while some didn’t. But it still is my baby and I enjoy the process. That’s very important.

Last year, you revealed that CBFC had asked for unfair cuts in India Lockdown. What’s the current status?
It has a track set in Kamathipura. Shweta Basu Prasad plays a sex worker. So, the language used, especially the ones with sexual connotations, caused some issues. The CBFC members and I had a discussion over it. I made it clear that I don’t want to cut anything. They didn’t relent.

Hence, I approached the Revising Committee (RC). I explained to them that my film shows how sex workers survived during the pandemic and the trauma they faced. And the film also has other tracks. Prateik Babbar and Sai Tamhankar are playing migrant workers who are heading to their village. Aahana Kumra plays an air hostess who’s battling loneliness while Prakash Belawadi’s track is about a father wanting to go to Hyderabad to meet his daughter.

The RC had around 11-12 members. They saw the film and heard my point of view. They lauded the film. However, they insisted that I should mute 2-3 swear words. I agreed. Those were the only cuts made. Then they gave me an ‘A’ certificate. They realized that there’s so much realism and the members were able to relate to it.

When will India Lockdown be out?
India Lockdown will release on digital. It’ll be released in November or December. So, this year, I’ll have two releases, a first in my career!

Recently, there were reports that Shah Rukh Khan is looking for scripts after he completes Pathaan, Jawan and Dunki. Would you like to approach him once again for Inspector Ghalib? It’ll be interesting to see him as a cop in a film that deals with the sand mining mafia…
I don’t want to restrict to just Inspector Ghalib. Shah Rukh is a great guy. It’s lovely interacting with him every time. You can sit with him and have amazing conversations on any topic. He has an in-depth knowledge of worldly affairs. If I have a good script, I’ll definitely approach him. He also admires my work.

Do you plan to write a book?
I don’t know. I wonder, ‘Kya book likhni zaroori hai?’ as people know everything about me. Somebody recently asked me, ‘When are you making a biopic on yourself?’! I am not thinking along these lines. For the next 3-4 years, I just want to make movies. Then, let’s see how things unfold. For me, it’s difficult to think forward. I am a bad planner.

I am happy that our film Avijatrik (2021) got a National Award. We’ll receive it very soon. It’s my fourth National Award. It has been critically acclaimed globally. At present, I am looking forward to releasing.

Babli Bouncer and India Lockdown. Both Babli Bouncer and India Lockdown are poles apart. You are a rare filmmaker who has made serious cinema as well as light entertainers…
(Smiles) At the Cairo Film Festival, a retrospective of my film was held. This was in 2011 or 2012. When the viewers saw Chandni Bar and Traffic Signal, they were exposed to the harsh realities of India. When they saw Fashion, they were stunned. Several directors asked me, ‘Are you the same guy who also made Chandni Bar and Traffic Signal? In Fashion, India looks so rich and everyone is wearing expensive clothes’! I am sure viewers would react similarly when they’ll watch a light-hearted comedy Babli Bouncer followed by the hard-hitting India Lockdown!

Also Read: Madhur Bhandarkar reviews Kartik Aaryan-Kiara Advani starrer Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 – “Movie is full of entertainment”

More Pages: Babli Bouncer Box Office Collection , Babli Bouncer Movie Review


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