Director Madhur Bhandarkar was all smiles when Bollywood Hungama exclusively spoke to him about the release of India Lockdown. He also talked about his run-ins with the Censor Board and a lot more.India Lockdown EXCLUSIVE: “I don’t know what it is with me and Censor Board”, says Madhur Bhandarkar; reveals Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji was given ‘A’ certificate because of the word ‘virginity’
What feedback have you received for India Lockdown?
The feedback had started coming 10 days before the release of the film on Zee5, after it was screened at IFFI, Goa. 250 people saw the film over there. It was a packed screening and I was very happy with the kind of feedback I got over there. And then we did shows in Delhi and Kolkata. Even in these cities, the response was overwhelming. Then we had a show for the press in Mumbai and the reviews we got were largely positive. So, obviously, I am very glad. First, I tasted success with Babli Bouncer and it was followed by India Lockdown. Both were released back-to-back and were contrasting films. Babli Bouncer was a fun and light-hearted film set in North India. India Lockdown is mostly based in Mumbai. People are talking about this aspect and have told me that they feel that I can handle any kind of subject. That’s a great compliment. I have been a huge fan of filmmakers like Raj Khosla and Vijay Anand. They always made different kinds of cinema and I want to also do the same. Because of Chandni Bar (2001), it so happened that I got associated with hard-hitting, realistic and gritty cinema. India Lockdown is also in the same zone and this is another feedback I’ve got that the film reminded them of Madhur Bhandarkar of Chandni Bar and Traffic Signal (2007) days.
The year has been quite significant for you…
Yes. 2022 has been a special one for me, not just due to the two releases but also because I got my fifth National Award.
Is it true that initially, you had around 12 different ideas after you zeroed down on the four tracks? Also, the common aspect among all the characters was that no one gets infected with Covid-19. Was it a conscious decision to focus on the effects of the lockdown and not Covid-19?
Yes. The film focuses just on the first 17-18 days after the lockdown came into effect. Hence, I didn’t want to get into that zone at all. And yes, I did have 12 tracks. There was a track related to Bollywood. It was a love story between an actor and an actress and how they have been dying to meet during the lockdown period. They stayed far off and the guy wanted to go meet the girl at her house. So, the guy decides to go in disguise. It was quite a quirky story.
Did you tweak this into the track of the virgin couple, which made it into the film?
No. I didn’t go ahead with the Bollywood actor’s track. This is because I have made films in the backdrop of Bollywood like Heroine (2012), Fashion (2008) and even Calendar Girls (2015) to an extent. It would have become an obvious thing that ‘Mumbai hai toh Bollywood dikhana hai’. I wanted to avoid it.
There was also a track about frontline workers, doctors, a restaurant owner, a watchman in a mall etc. But you can’t put all these in a film.
The film had some well-thought-of symbolic aspects like showing the bird cage to symbolize the lockdown in the opening credits, and the contrast of showing banana bread and rotten bananas. The good thing is that people are noticing and understanding it…
Yes. Another thing that got noticed is the misuse of ambulances. It happened in real. I heard about it
Do you mean to say that the ambulance was taken to a red-light area by a neta, as shown in the film?
No, it was taken somewhere else.
Another memorable scene in the film is when Prakash Belawadi dances when he finds out that he’s Covid-negative. It is very relatable as we have all been through it…
It was superb. He did it impromptu. I told him to do something that goes with the scene.
A scene shows the reporter informing the viewers that a singer named Rekha Kapoor has got Covid-19. It seemed like it was inspired by the Kanika Kapoor incident…
(Laughs) So, I know someone called Rekha Kapoor. She is my dear friend. It is dedicated to her. She is a socialite. We were supposed to mention ‘socialite-cum-singer’ but we missed mentioning that.
Your film always ignites a discussion. Do you think that’ll happen with India Lockdown, considering that it’s so hard-hitting?
Absolutely. The conversation has started. Yesterday, I was standing on the premises of J W Marriott Hotel, waiting for my car. Some people walked up to me. They belonged to the privileged class. They told me that after they saw India Lockdown, they realized how lucky they were as they had everything in the house. They added they were shocked to see people eating rotten bananas and picking up food items from the garbage. Meanwhile, I went to the Hanuman temple at Khar near my house. I interact with hawkers, rickshaw and taxi drivers, and they know me. They also were moved by the film. A few of them perhaps went through it too.
I deliberately didn’t make it very gory. My idea was that people should get a recap of their lives in 2020. I didn’t want to make it look visually shocking. I guess that’s why it has connected well with all classes.
Last year, you revealed that India Lockdown was subjected to an unfair number of cuts by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC)…
The Examining Committee had asked for several cuts and even after that, they were going to give me ‘A’ certificate. I was okay with the certification and not the cuts. The Revising Committee was very progressive; they asked for just a few cuts. They just asked for the removal of abusive language uttered by Shweta Basu Prasad. That’s it.
This was not the first time you had a harrowing time with the Censors. Shockingly, your romcom Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji (2011) was given an ‘A’ rating only because it had the word ‘virginity’…
Yes. Had I removed that word, I would have gotten a U/A certificate. I don’t know what’s it with me and the Censor Board (laughs)! It’s been happening since Chandni Bar (2011) days. Even at that point, it had become a huge issue as they asked for several cuts. Then in Fashion (2008), I had to face some cuts too. They gave ‘A’ certificate to Heroine (2012) I guess due to too much smoking or drinking on screen.
During Heroine, you had knocked on the doors of the court and had got the anti-smoking ticker removed. Sadly, today, it has become a norm that the ticker should be displayed not just during smoking but even drinking scenes…
I guess we have to follow the norms. And yes, in 2012, I had to move the Delhi High Court because the Censor members said that there should be a smoking ticker as everybody in the film is smoking from Arjun Rampal to Kareena Kapoor to Lillete Dubey to Divya Dutta. I was reluctant as I believed that it would distract the audience. I won the case. The judge remarked that since the smoking ticker ordinance came later and I had shot the film much before, I was allowed to have no disclaimers in the film. I was just asked to put up a health advisory about smoking before the film in Kareena Kapoor’s voice.
Is there any update on Aan 2?
Aan 2 is a film that Firoz Nadiadwala is very keen to make. We have a concept idea but nothing has been finalized. Firoz feels that it is one of my best works in terms of action and dialogues.
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