While Prakash Jha’s Damul (1985) created a lot of buzz in art house circles, it did not secure a theatrical release. Which, of course, didn’t stop Deepti Naval from hosting his ‘Premier’, at their home, along with his (then) wife and friends.
Obviously everyone was appreciating this wonderfully made film on feudalism, which subtly explains the exodus of agricultural laborers in Bihar at that time. After her friends leave, Jha asks her housekeeper, who was dressed similarly for the occasion, what she feels about Damul. She said, “It was good. But next time banana, toh film banana (was good, but next time make a proper film)!”
Like all National Award winning pictures, Damul starred in Doordarshan’s Sunday time slot, but at Jha’s insistence, for the first time, against a grant of Rs 12 lakh to the filmmaker—which was in Jha’s debt for the film. . Apparently, the same grant amount, and time slot, has remained on DD ever since!
It also dates from the time when the state-run National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) independently funded independent cinema. With the NFDC itself discredited after liberalisation, many independent voices also became irrelevant. However, Jha still remembered the advice of his housekeeper.
Which explains the death penalty (1997). It originally starred Pallavi Joshi, and was eventually written differently from the way it turned out. On Subhash Ghai’s recco, Jha went to Madhuri Dixit, between shots, to narrate the script to her while she was shooting for Choli Ke Peche Kya Hai.
The point is, at the Goa (ad) festival, Jha told me in front of a live audience, who mainly come down to discuss his hugely popular MX Player web-show Ashram, “Cinema’s language for a general audience. differs for. The death penalty was an attempt to use their language, to tell my story! It was a different country for me, my friend… but to say so is my own thing (but you have to have your say).
After the death penalty, Jha shifted his center between self-expression/arts and public/commerce with Gangaajal (2003), Abduction (2005), Politics (2010), Aarakshan (2011), Chakravyuh (2012), Satyagraha (2013). had got. ), in addition to several films as a producer. While this encounter between Sandesh and the public has been common, therefore, as a deeply political filmmaker, Jha is a pioneer in the mainstream.
The idea he is currently working with is to prove how democracy is in danger, because the cunning common man has become corrupt – a new system must evolve, which is not based solely on majority rule. “Whoever is in power will be unjust.” This is why, as a writer-director, he regards himself as a “steady opposition (permanently opposed)”.
The difference that you have noticed in his filmography is in fact, as he actively entered electoral politics as a Lok Sabha candidate thrice; In second place, every time. Few artists have this level of practical exposure to grassroots society. For business, he also runs some malls in Bihar (Patna) and Jharkhand (Jamshedpur).
Or even look at the work he did before becoming a documentary filmmaker (for three years with the BBC in London) and the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII). Dropping out of Delhi University, before that – living in Bombay, teaching English to Gujaratis in Kalbadevi, accounting for a construction firm, working in a restaurant, where he also learned to cook… he essentially went to Sir JJ School Came to Bombay to enter the Art of Art. and become a painter.
Of all the parts he is certainly good at, what amazes me the most is when he plays the pitch-perfect, shrewd cop, BN Singh, soaked in subtle swag, as “Madam sir, madam sir,” Priyanka Chopra. goes to Jai. Gangajal (2016).
Frickin’ eh! If he’s naturally good in front of the camera, what kept him behind it for 34 years, I ask him. He first defines filmmaking as a holistic art/craft, and that why isn’t he “camera operations, sound departments, lighting, and therefore acting?” equally interested in
But then he adds, “To reveal to you, over the years, I have quietly enrolled myself in tons of acting workshops with the best teachers in the world—Paris, Vienna, Amsterdam, New York, LA. Shakespeare, Brecht, etc. – crossing that line, when you are naked; but both magician and object.”
“Al Pacino, De Niro, even now, go back to school. I hate the actors here—no one ever asked me when the scene is [set in]How is the weather [outside]Where exactly is the location… They just say, ‘Yeah, what to do? Well!”
I understand what Jha means – just seeing him as Matto in the lead role in M Ghani’s film, Matto Ki Saakil (2022). How the sweat-drenched, soft-spoken Matto merges into the background, sitting in a pot, is Mathura. I can’t see an artist in it. The film is about a physical cycle, as much as the cycle of life.
Have seen it twice. It immediately takes you into parallel cinema of the 1980s – a minimal, genuine glimpse into a state of dehumanization.
Only that Jha secured a theatrical release with Matto. And clearly, he at least deserves a National Award nomination for reasons entirely other than Damul! As an actor, 70-year-old Jha tells me, “There is much more to come. very nice.
Mayank Shekhar has tried to make sense of the people’s culture. He tweeted @mayankw14
Send your feedback to email@example.com
The views expressed in this column are those of the individual and do not represent the views of the paper